updated 04/23/2012 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 04/23/2012 AT 6:05 PM ET
Calling the Pet Fit Club! Meet Meow, a 39-lb. cat – the equivalent of a 600-lb. human.
The approximately 2-year-old cat has been on a weight-loss plan ever since he was relinquished by his 87-year-old owner to animal control in Roswell, N.M. Shortly thereafter, he was taken in by the Santa Fe Humane Society.
When Meow first arrived in Santa Fe, the shelter staff had to process their shock. “You can’t really visualize that if you’ve never seen it before,” executive director Mary Martin tells PEOPLE. “He looked like a pillow with legs.”
Unlike most cats, Meow could not walk normally, much less play with toys or interact with other animals. “We were sad to see that, but the horrible part is that it really was almost funny,” Martin says. “But then the seriousness of the situation takes over.”
Though it’s unclear what specific circumstances led to Meow’s morbid obesity – how long it took remains a mystery – there is no doubt that overfeeding was the only cause. It has been suggested by people close to Meow’s previous owner that the cat subsisted on a diet of hot dogs, but it’s more likely that as his senior owner lost her mobility, she increasingly fed the cat more and more treats.
Since Meow was already dealing with multiple traumas – being separated from his owner, traveling across the state, going from one shelter to another – Santa Fe Humane gave him a full exam and placed him with a foster volunteer as soon as they could.
For three days, Meow has been with Carol Williams, 67, who describes her hefty new charge as “a handful.” Williams has not been able to pick the cat up yet, so she sits on the floor with Meow.
“He lays on my leg and just purrs and carries on,” she says. “He’s got the sweetest little eyes, and when they look at me, I think he’s saying, ‘I love you,’ even though he’s only known me a few days.”
All the new developments in Meow’s life have left him, ironically, without much of an appetite, and he has lost a few pounds since arriving in Santa Fe. He’ll be taking another journey Monday night to New York, where the next morning, he’ll be making an appearance on Today.
Though Santa Fe Humane has gotten calls from interested adopters as far away as New Zealand, Meow won’t be heading out to a new home until he loses 10 lbs., after which the dangers of him developing fatty liver disease will have been mitigated.
“He’s just a darling of a kitty,” Martin says. “When he gets some weight off of him, he should be a playful kitty. But he’s still very chubby.”
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