Famous 39-Lb. Cat Dies

updated 05/07/2012 AT 11:00 AM ET

originally published 05/07/2012 AT 12:00 PM ET

Meow, a 39-lb. cat whose extreme obesity made headlines, died Saturday afternoon at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society. He was approximately 2 years old.

His shockingly heavyset frame made for good TV, and Meow had made appearances on Today and Anderson 360 during his brief time in the spotlight. His death was announced Monday by the humane society’s executive director, Mary Martin, on Facebook.

“I am devastated to share with you that the respiratory distress that Meow was experiencing last week took his life,” Martin writes. “Although four different veterinarians worked with Meow, we were unable to stop the progression of what turned out to be pulmonary failure.”

Meow was relinquished by his 87-year-old owner in Roswell, N.M., in late April. He had been gradually losing weight while living with a foster volunteer, and was learning to become more mobile.

“Meow was one of those wonderful cats whose personality was as big as his body,” Martin tells PEOPLE. “We are completely heartbroken.”