(ANIMAL NEWS) Meow, the 39-pound cat surrendered to a New Mexico animal shelter, passed away over the weekend from complications with his weight. The charming orange-and-white tabby, who was a guest on the TODAY Show, developed sudden respiratory problems that specialists were unable to treat in time. Read on for more on the pudgy Meow, and why it is so important to take your pet’s health, and weight, seriously. — Global Animal 
Dr. Jennifer Steketee holds Meow, a 2-year-old tabby who arrived at her shelter weighing in at over 39 pounds, after his elderly owner could no longer care for the feline. Photo credit: Ben Swan / Santa Fe Animal Shelter via AP

Ecorazzi, Allyson Koerner

Animals, just like humans, can make quite an impact in a community and that’s just what Meow the cat did. Known for weighing 39-pounds, Meow suddenly died at his home of the Sante Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society over the weekend.

The orange and white tabby cat was known for his large size and made headlines as being the “nation’s most overweight cat,” the shelter reports.

“We are devastated,” said Mary Martin, the Santa Fe shelter’s executive director. “We were in a race against time to get the weight off Meow before he developed complications from his morbid obesity and we lost.”

Meow started developing symptoms, but shelter vets didn’t jump to conclusions.

“When we first heard Meow wheezing, we attributed it to possible allergies or the fact that he was moving around more in his foster home but treated it with further tests and medications,” Jennifer Steketee, shelter vet and Meow’s doctor said. “Many obese people and animals wheeze when they walk, but we didn’t want to assume anything.”

By the end of the week, Meow’s condition turned worse and went through a series of tests. He then started receiving care at an emergency pet hospital.

“His extreme obesity may have set off a string of events that ultimately ended his life,” Steketee said.

Before arriving in Sante Fe, Meow had an elderly owner, but she could no longer take care of him. He ended up in a southeastern New Mexico shelter and then was transferred to Sante Fe.

The shelter quickly dealt with his weight by putting him on a high-protein, low-carb diet, Today’s Animal Tracks page reports. Meow ended up losing two pounds.

Cats like Meow usually weigh between 8 and 12 pounds, so his weight truly was astonishing. His obesity brought to light the importance of maintaining a healthy diet for animals. Ironically, this is very similar to what we as humans need to be doing, especially with the major issue of childhood obesity.

“We mourn Meow’s death, but we also hope his fight will encourage other people to help their pets maintain the best health possible,” Martin said. “Obesity is not something to be ignored.”

More Ecorazzi: http://www.ecorazzi.com/2012/05/09/meow-the-39-pound-cat-loses-battle-with-obesity/