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39-Pound Fat Cat Needs a Diet and a Home

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UPDATE: Meow died on May 5th, just weeks after becoming a media sensation. Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society director Mary Martin announced, "I am devastated to share with you that the respiratory distress that Meow was experiencing last week took his life. Although four different veterinarians worked with Meow, we were unable to stop the progression of what turned out to be pulmonary failure."

She added, "Meow was one of those wonderful cats whose personality was as big as his body. We are completely heartbroken."


It's not the type of record we cheer, but nonetheless the world's heaviest living cat has arguably been identified in New Mexico -- and he needs a home. The two-year-old tabby named Meow was brought into a Santa Fe, N.M., animal shelter weighing a staggering 39 pounds.
Meow's 87-year-old owner dropped him off, saying she was no longer able to care for him. It's estimated that his weight translates to a human tipping the scales at 600 pounds.
How did he get that big?
“At first we heard that the old woman had fed it only hot dogs, but that wasn’t true,” said the shelter's executive director Mary Martin.  “We think she was sedentary and sat in front of her TV feeding the cat. He probably just ate everything in sight.”
Martin says that Meow's unhealthy weight makes it nearly impossible to get him in a carrier and he can't play for long or else he loses his breath. “This is definitely the biggest kitty I have ever seen in my life. He’s like the Puss in Boots cat in the 'Shrek' cartoons. He thinks he’s smaller than he is and tries to get inside things much tinier than his girth,” said Martin.
What now?
The shelter has put Meow on a high-protein diet devised by a shelter veterinarian. They don't want him to lose weight too fast and not eat, because he's at risk for developing hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver syndrome. He is living at a temporary foster home -- and because of the publicity surrounding him, there have been scores of inquiries about adoption.
Despite the readily available homes, Martin says they'd like to first get at least 10 pounds off of Meow. She warned, "He’s still a massive kitty. If he lays a certain way, he can’t breathe and his face turns blue. And that’s not good.”


Warning signs

Colleen Currigan, DVM, of the Cat Hospital of Chicago, said cats are considered overweight when:

  • Their ribs are not easily palpable with a moderate covering of fat
  • Their waist is not defined
  • Their abdomen is obviously rounded
  • They have a moderately large abdominal fat pad

She said cats are considered obese when:

  • Their ribs are not palpable under a heavy covering of fat
  • They have heavy fat deposits on the back, face, and/or limbs
  • The abdomen is distended with no waist
  • They have a large abdominal fat pad

What causes the problem?

Currigan said obesity in cats usually has multiple causes. As in people, low activity and high caloric consumption makes for a fat cat. She said a major source of the problem is when the cats have unrestricted amounts of food available, a feeding approach known as “free choice/free feeding.”

She said some cats have inherent or acquired low metabolism. “Many owners are surprised at how little food it actually takes to maintain the weight of a cat, even a larger or ‘big-boned’ cat, and especially if the activity level of the cat is low,” Currigan said. “Consequently, overfeeding is the primary cause of obesity in the pet cat population.”

The vet said that dogs have similar issues, but are more likely to exercise than indoor cats. “You can take a dog out and walk him an extra 10 minutes a day. It’s difficult sometimes to get a cat moving.”

Risks from extra weight

Cats, like people, face serious health risks from being overweight and obese. Currigan said these include diabetes mellitus, feline lower urinary tract disease, hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), arthritis, cancer, and heart and respiratory diseases. Fat cats encounter higher risks from surgery and anesthesia. “In general, their overall quality of life is compromised and their lives are often shortened,” she said. In addition, Currigan said fat cats have grooming problems, which can result in matting and dander issues.

To read about treating and preventing the fat cat epidemic, click here. To read about exercising with your cat, click here.


Video of Meow:
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