TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – The family that adopted the state’s most famous stray cat, an enormous white tabby named Prince Chunk, wants to make sure that pet owners who are struggling financially aren’t forced to give up their beloved animals.

Prince Chunk skyrocketed to feline fame after being found last August wandering around the south Jersey town of Voorhees after his owner lost her home to foreclosure.

The cat initially was called Princess Chunk by the Camden County Animal Shelter, which took him in when he was reported to weigh a whopping 44 pounds, just shy of a world record.

He garnered national headlines and made the rounds of several television talk shows and the New York tabloid covers.

It was soon discovered that Princess was a Prince, and the Damiani family, chosen from 500 applicants to adopt him, said Chunk weighed only about 22 pounds on the scale at its Washington Township home.

The Damianis have been caring for the cat since August, but they signed his adoption papers Feb. 17, said the family’s 18-year-old son, Vincent Damiani.

“He’s basically a victim of the economy,” Damiani said of Prince Chunk. “He lost his home due to foreclosure, and in the current economic situation, I think it’s important for people to know that they are not alone. We’ll do everything we can to help them.”

Damiani says the family plans to help by establishing the Prince Chunk Foundation, which it hopes to have registered by the spring or summer.

It hopes to raise money that will be used to provide temporary assistance to financially struggling pet owners so they’re not forced to give up their animals.

“The unemployment rate is about 8 percent right now, and people have to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their animals, and that shouldn’t be the case,” Damiani said.

Damiani said the family is grateful to the shelter and for the many supportive calls, letters and inquiries about Prince Chunk it has received from across the country.

As for New Jersey’s most famous fat cat, Damiani said his family cherishes the cuddly, affectionate pet, who has “a great personality.”

The family has built him a litter box shaped like a castle and says a strict vet-supervised diet has helped the portly feline shed more than 2 pounds since August. Damiani says the vet has assured him the cat is perfectly healthy, just unnaturally large.

Prince Chunk also is fond of his new adoptive animal siblings, according to Damiani, who says he gets along great with the family’s kitten, Tito, and its three dogs: a terrier named Romeo, a Pomeranian named Marla and a Chihuahua called Noel.

The only family pet bigger than Chunk, Damiani says, is Romeo, who tips the scales at about 80 pounds.

AP-ES-03-15-09 1749EDT

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