(LATIMES) — Meow, the fat cat whose 39-pound girth helped raise awareness about obesity in pets, has died of lung failure.

The orange-and-white tabby was turned in to the Santa Fe, N.M., animal shelter last month and quickly made international headlines. At first, his story was played for laughs: The 2-year-old cat apparently favored hot dogs, and was so fat that he got stuck inside things. He barely fit into his animal carrier, and was likened to Puss in Boots from the “Shrek” movies.

But Meow’s weight underscored a growing problem: Pets in America are getting fatter — just like their owners — and all that extra weight can hasten death.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.