IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

A drama-free life for Prince Chunk the cat

Prince Chunk, the  pudgy feline who captivated a nation, is settling into a happy, drama-free life. The family who adopted him is planning to start the Prince Chunk Foundation to help struggling pet owners so they won’t be forced to give up their animals.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Oh, to be a cat. Especially this cat.

Prince Chunk of Washington Township, N.J., is officially settling into the good life. He’s sleeping a lot, enjoying a healthy-yet-yummy diet, savoring plenty of belly rubs and meowing his demands to any human who will listen to him.

Best of all, he’s delighting in the security and the predictability of his routine in his new “forever home.”

That’s right: The portly cat who captivated a nation has been formally adopted by the Damiani family of New Jersey, and now his life is nice and boring. No more whirlwind media tours and paparazzi blitz for this kitty. No more wandering the streets in uncertainty after his former owner lost her home to foreclosure. No more disputes over the terms of his adoption contract.

In short, no more drama. And Prince Chunk seems just fine with that.

“We’re just happy to have him get adjusted, to relax in a house,” said Vincent Damiani, 18, a member of Prince Chunk’s new human family. “Cats get a lot more stressed out than dogs, and he’s really been through a lot.”

44 pounds! Or ... wait a minute ...
The drama began last July when the generously proportioned feline was discovered roaming the streets of South Jersey after his owner lost her home to foreclosure.

Shortly after the Camden County Animal Shelter took him in, two big misconceptions took hold about the cat. One had to do with his gender. (Early on, the shelter staff called him “Princess Chunk.”) The other involved his size. He weighed in on an apparently faulty scale at 44 pounds, just shy of a world record.

The news that one of the biggest house cats on the planet had lost his home in the economic downturn set off a media firestorm. He made national headlines and went on several television talk shows.

It didn’t take long to discover that Princess Chunk was a Prince. The next revelation? His weight was a tad bit less than advertised.

The Damiani family, chosen from 500 applicants to adopt him, never questioned the idea of the cat’s whopping weight when they took him into their care last August. One day, though, they started to wonder.

“We began to think he didn’t look like a 44-pound cat,” Damiani said. “We have an 80-pound dog, right? And he just didn’t look that big .... So we weighed him, and he was only 23 pounds. We were happy because that meant he’d live longer.”

The Damiani family has continued to concentrate on helping the still-large Prince Chunk trim down. He’s now down to a fighting weight of 20.2 pounds.

“He’s lost about 3 pounds with us,” Damiani said. “He’s losing it very gradually. He’s being monitored by the vet.”

Contract for a celebrity
The next controversy to surface in the life of Prince Chunk involved the particulars of his adoption contract. Initially the animal shelter wanted the now-famous feline to be obligated to make a certain number of media appearances a year to draw attention to animal causes. The Damiani family wanted all of that to stop so Chunk could just chill out.

Shelter officials ultimately agreed with the Damianis, and they recently allowed the family to sign a standard adoption contract.

“We feel that cats don’t really do well at busy events like that,” shelter director Niki Dawson recently told ZooToo Pet News. “We thought it was better to just wish him well and let him stay at home with his family.”

Karen Merlino, the shelter’s business manager, told ZooToo Pet News that shelter employees still think of Prince Chunk often and smile.

“He was fabulous,” Merlino said. “I only saw him lying down, but he had this little head and this enormous body. God, was he cute. I’m telling you.”

Help for other pet owners
Now that life is settling into a nice routine for Prince Chunk, Damiani said his family wants to help other financially stressed pet owners by establishing the Prince Chunk Foundation, which it hopes to have up and running by the summer. The goal of the foundation will be to provide temporary assistance to struggling pet owners so they won’t be forced to give up their animals.

The help would come in the form of vouchers for pet food and coverage of emergency veterinary bills. No cash would exchange hands between the foundation and individual pet owners.

“The unemployment rate is about 8 percent right now, and people have to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their animals, and that shouldn’t be the case,” said Damiani, who wants to become a veterinarian when he finishes college.

Prince Chunk is “basically a victim of the economy,” Damiani said. “He lost his home due to foreclosure, and in the current economic situation, I think it’s important for people to know that they are not alone. We’ll do everything we can to help them.”

Damiani said his family is grateful to the shelter and for the many supportive calls, letters and inquiries about Prince Chunk it has received from animal lovers across the country. He added that the family is crazy about the cuddly, affectionate pet, who has “a great personality.”

They’ve built him a litter box shaped like a castle, and they indulge most of his whims.

“He’s very vocal when he wants something, and he won’t stop until he gets it,” Damiani said. “He always likes to be with you. Always likes to be by your side.”

Damiani says the vet has assured him the cat is perfectly healthy, just unnaturally large. The cat’s estimated age is 7.

Prince Chunk gets along great with the family’s kitten, Tito, and its three dogs: a terrier named Romeo, a Pomeranian named Marla and a Chihuahua called Noel.

The only family pet bigger than Chunk, Damiani says, is Romeo the dog, who tips the scales at about 80 pounds.

-The Associated Press contributed to this report.