?Meow,? The Infamous 39-Pound Fat Cat, Dies From Pulmonary Failure [PHOTOS]

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Meow, the infamous 39-pound fat cat up for adoption at a Santa Fe animal shelter who was thrust into the spotlight for his weight, died over the weekend. He was two-years-old.

I am devastated to share with you that the respiratory distress that Meow was experiencing last week (the reason we did not do his weigh-in) took his life at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 5, a statement from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society read. The Shelter staff - along with all those who met Meow during his short time with us - mourn his passing.

According to the Facebook announcement, the orange and white tabby cat began wheezing last Thursday and died of pulmonary failure.

Dr. Jen [Dr. Jennifer Steketee] began trying to sort out the problem, at first considering the possibility of asthma associated with his weight, the statement read. She started treatment immediately to ease his breathing and, when Meow didn't improve, she sought additional help for him from our emergency specialty hospital and an additional private veterinary hospital.

Mary Martin, who wrote the post on Facebook, said that Meow was looked at by four veterinarians who could not help the 39-pound cat.

It is so very hard to believe he is gone, Martin said. We will forever be grateful for the attention Meow's size brought to pet obesity and to animal shelters across the country. We are especially grateful to all of you who fell in love with this charming cat - as we did - and were so very interested in his progress and success.

Meow made his television debut on the Today Show in April to promote his quest for weight loss with Dr. Jennifer Steketee. According to Steketee, Meow's previous owner was an elderly woman who could no longer care for him and fed him too much.

Clearly he was not fed a healthy diet, and way too much of it, and lacks a certain amount of willpower, Dr. Steketee said on the Today Show.

Steketee said Meow wound up at Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society after a stint in a shelter in Roswell, N.M. She immediately put him on a strict high-protein, low-carb diet and he successfully lost two pounds before appearing on the Today Show.

We were in a race against time to get the weight off Meow before he developed complications from his obesity, and we lost, Martin told MSNBC.

Dr. Steketee said while Meow did not die from being obese, his obesity ultimately led to other complications.

His extreme obesity may have set off a string of events that ultimately ended his life, Steketee told MSNBC.

However, Mary Martin is happy that Meow has raised awareness about animal obesity.

We 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.

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