Meow, the 39-pound cat whose weight struggles made national headlines, died Saturday afternoon at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society. He was about 2 years old.

His considerable size and sweet demeanor warmed the hearts of television-audiences everywhere as he made appearances on both ‘Today’ and the ‘Anderson’ show, whose host was particularly taken with the feline.

On Monday, shelter executive director Mary Martin posted the following statement on Facebook,

I am devastated to share with you that the respiratory distress that Meow was experiencing last week (the reason we did not do his weigh-in) took his life at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 5… As many of you are aware, Meow began wheezing last Thursday in his foster home, Dr. Jen began trying to sort out the problem… Although four different veterinarians worked with Meow, we were unable to stop the progression of what turned out to be pulmonary failure. Meow had been doing so well in his foster home; walking up stairs and seeking affection – that it is so very hard to believe he is gone. We will forever be grateful for the attention Meow’s size brought to pet obesity and to animal shelters across the country. We are especially grateful to all of you who fell in love with this charming cat – as we did – and were so very interested in his progress and success.

Meow was initially brought into a smaller shelter in Roswell, New Mexico, when his 87-year-old owner decided that she could no longer properly care for him. He was then relocated to the Santa Fe shelter where his health could be more closely tended. The goal was to get him to lose about 10 pounds before placing him into a new family, and he was making progress in losing weight at the time that he died.

[via BuzzFeed]