PHOENIX -- There's a new heavyweight champion in the feline category at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. His name is Meatball and he weighs a stunning 36 pounds. That's heavier than many toddlers.
Healthy weights for cats vary by breed, but most domestic cats should weigh somewhere between 8 and 10 pounds, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Persians generally run between 7 and 12 pounds while Siamese cats run the gamut from 5 to 10 pounds. Maine coons are usually big cats, weighing 10 to 25 pounds.
But Meatball is not a Maine coon.
According to MCACC, Meatball was shuffled from home to home before being surrendered at East Valley Animal Care Center in Mesa. Vets believe he's about 4 years old and say with the exception of the weight, he appears to be in pretty good condition.
"Considering his size he actually looks really good," said MCACC spokeswoman Melissa Gable. "His hair is good. He's able to groom himself. He walks, not very far, but he does walk."
Too big to live comfortably in a standard cat kennel, Meatball is couch surfing -- make that floor surfing -- in one of the administrative offices at West Valley Animal Care Center in Phoenix.
MCACC staff say he's a sweet boy.
"He is an extremely friendly cat and can walk despite his weight but the shelter's veterinary team is carefully monitoring his health," Gable said in a news release. She said Meatball, who weighs at least three times what he should, is the biggest cat she's ever seen.
He does have an issue with his eye that veterinarians think is glaucoma.
Right now he's getting prescription diet wet food and dry food.
While there's no doubt that Meatball is a huge cat, he's not the biggest feline in the world. He's one good-size cat (10+ pounds) away from the record.
According to Guinness World Records, the largest cat on record -- Himmy -- weighed 46.8 pounds and lived in Cairns, Queensland. Himmy, who died of respiratory failure when he was 10, is the last record holder because Guinness no longer accepts nominations for heaviest cat. The organization did not want to encourage owners to overfeed their animals.
This is not the first time MCACC has cared for a morbidly obese cat.
In August, a neutered and declawed 28-pounder -- obviously somebody's pet -- was surrendered as a stray to MCACC. The staff at MCACC named that cat Albert. Vets immediately put him on a diet and exercise program, and he eventually was adopted by a Flagstaff woman.
Until Meatball, Albert was the biggest cat to waddle through MCACC.
Because Meatball needs specialized care, particularly in the immediately future, he isn't available for general adoption. The folks at MCACC actually are looking for a place that can help him get down to an appropriate weight.
"MCACC staff is working to secure a spot for Meatball with a rescue organization that specializes in overweight cats," Gable said. "He is at risk for severe health issues and will need regular monitoring by a veterinarian and a prescribed diet."
Like humans, it's easy for cats to pack on the pounds. Too much food, too many treats and not enough playtime make for a bad combination. Also like humans, taking off that extra weight is a slow process when done properly. If Meatball loses too much weight too fast, it could cause liver damage.
The woman who surrendered Meatball to MCACC said he used to belong to her daughter's boyfriend. She said he was that big when she first started caring for him about six months ago. With no history from previous owners, there's no real way to tell when Meatball started packing on the pounds or how long he's been obese.
MCACC is a full-service animal welfare agency with shelter, adoptions, field services, licensing and education programs and a mission to promote and protect the health, safety, and welfare of people and pets in Maricopa County.
(By the way, that's catnip Brown is holding for Meatball. Not a treat.)