May 7, 2012 at 12:02 PM ET
We are sad to report that Meow, the pudgy but adorable cat who charmed TODAY talent and viewers alike when he visited the show April 23, died over the weekend after developing unexpected respiratory difficulties.
"We are devastated," said Mary Martin, executive director of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society, which was caring for the obese orange-and-white tabby. "We were in a race against time to get the weight off Meow before he developed complications from his obesity, and we lost."
"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," said Jennifer Steketee, the veterinarian who accompanied Meow to TODAY last month. But when the 2-year-old cat's symptoms worsened, he was taken to an emergency veterinary hospital. Sadly, the best efforts of several specialists were in vain.
"His extreme obesity may have set off a string of events that ultimately ended his life," Steketee said.
Meow was originally turned over to a smaller shelter in Roswell, N.M., when his owner, an elderly woman, could no longer care for him. He was transferred to Santa Fe shelter, which was better equipped to deal with his weight and put him a a high-protein, low-carb diet, hoping to bring him down by about 10 pounds before placing him in a new home. By the time Meow appeared on TODAY, he had already lost two pounds.
Meow charmed everyone during his visit to Studio 1A, including Matt Lauer, who called him "sweet," as well as Hoda Kotb and guest fourth-hour co-host Willie Geist. The whole TODAY family joins the Santa Fe Animal Shelter in mourning his passing.
But Martin hopes Meow will not have died in vain. "We hope his fight will encourage other people to help their pets maintain the best health possible," she said. "Obesity is not something to be ignored."
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