When I first heard of “Meow”, a tubby tabby residing at a Santa Fe animal shelter, I wasn’t shocked when it was reported his current fighting, er lounging weight came in at a Rubenesque 39 pounds.

In a country that is has seen a 74% increase in obesity rates in the last fifteen year, it makes perfect sense that our loyal companions are being directly affected by America’s downward spiral into larger sizes of expandable waistline sweatpants.

As “Meow’s”  elderly owner reportedly fed him decidedly unhealthy meals like hot dogs, the road to shedding most of his nine lives via a diet high in un-Friskies-like fare was obviously extremely fast and furryous.

He passed away a few days ago, a direct result of his weight.

In a world of animated animal pitchmen, hawking everything from sugary cereals to confectioneries, cookies & crap, why is it that we can’t use overweight pets like “Meow” as poster critters to try pitching kids on forming habits far more beneficial than those shilled to them in Trojan Horses stuffed to the brim with high fructose corn syrup.

Sure, a hard sell indeed. Here’s some fatty food for thought:

The CDC reports that the average number of children aged 2-19 that are obese in the US is now at 17%. That is roughly 12.5 million children classified as obese by their BMI (Body Mass Index). That figure has almost tripled since 1980. In 1977, children aged 2-18 consumed an average of 1,842 calories per day. By 2006, that had climbed to 2,022.

A study funded by the CDC and released on Monday projected that by 2030, 42 % of American adults will be obese, compared to 34 % today and 11 % will be severely obese, compared to 6 percent today.

Many looked at “Meow” as a funny fat cat, imagining he ate cheese out of an aerosol can and wrapped mice in bologna or Fruit Roll ups before devouring them whole. In the majority of reporting, his plight was mostly played for laughs. If America’s Funniest Home Videos has taught this Nation anything, it’s that other than a crotch shot, there’s nothing funnier than a fat pet stuck in a dog door.

It doesn’t help that The Today Show flew his royal rotundness from New Mexico to New York for a guest appearance, relaying the wrong message by rewarding the portly puss for being a Fatty. (I like to think Al Roker wouldn’t have stood for this ten years ago.)

Would it be just as unscrupulous for educators, nutritionists and Parents to exploit “Meow’s” sad, shortness of breath life, if it meant teaching children what a bad diet can lead too?

If a cartoon bear can berate kids on the dangers of forest fires or a trash hating owl can tsk, tsk them to death over the evils of pollution, perhaps it’s high time to force a real, morbidly obese pet down the throats of our children. Maybe, just maybe, this could lead to healthier future for man & ultimately, beast alike.

Pets can’t pack on the pounds without an enabler, nor can our kids. Until Nickelodeon lets “Boots” from “Dora the Explorer” succumb to Type 2 diabetes as a direct result of an excessive diet of Bananas Foster, show me another angle to make kids care about what they eat.

Perhaps a lovable, albeit girth challenged pussy-cat from New Mexico can show Jamie Oliver how a real revolution begins.

RIP Meow. I’m sure you’re in a happier place, and Cat Jesus has you on a treadmill.

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