Here's what the world now knows about Camden County's feline darling.

The jumbo stray who made national headlines as Princess Chunky, is, in fact, a he. His name is Powder. He had a home, but his owner, whose name has not been disclosed, says she lost her house to foreclosure.

New details of Powder's past emerged yesterday at the start of the cat's biggest day yet.

Powder - who weighs only two pounds shy of the Guinness world record - had a quick medical exam during an appearance on Live With Regis and Kelly and a vet determined the cat was a male.

"We in the media love a 44-pound cat," said cohost Kelly Ripa, stroking Powder's white fur.

It's been quite a catwalk for Powder, found wandering in a Voorhees apartment complex last Friday. He spent yesterday cruising Manhattan with media appearances and photo shoots, said Jennifer Andersch, director of the Camden County Animal Shelter, which took Powder in. Today, he's booked on Good Morning America.

Pets whose owners are feeling the effect of economic hard times are not all faring as well. Here and around the country, animal rescue groups say they are seeing a flood of homeless dogs and cats surrendered by people who are homeless themselves.

"It's a huge problem," Andersch said. "Animals are coming in who were left on porches of closed-up houses."

Pet owners can face charges of animal cruelty for abandoning their animals. Powder's owner told Andersch that she gave her cat to an animal control officer, though it's unclear how he could have ended up roaming suburban patios.

"I have a strong sense she did not abandon the animal," Andersch said.

After seeing news reports about the homeless kitty, the woman "called upset about the rumors" that she dumped Powder, Andersch said. "She misses her cat, but was happy he will find a good home."

Animal welfare organizations say the high rate of foreclosures has forced owners to part with beloved animals from hamsters to horses.

"Sixty percent of American households have pets and there are about 400,000 households in jeopardy of foreclosure," said Steven Zawistowski, executive vice president of the ASPCA. "Some portion go to live with family and take pets with them. But some have no safety net. So that means some 250,000 to half a million pets are in danger."

The tight economy has had a trickle-down effect on shelters: Less tax money means less money for facilities and animal control. Donations are declining and fewer people feel they can take on expense of owning a pet.

"They're thinking twice before adopting pets when it costs between $400 and $600 a year to provide adequate care," Zawistowski said.

"We've had a large influx of dogs and cats in the past few months because people are losing their homes and they can't afford them or can't take them with them," said Bill Smith, director of Main Line Animal Rescue in Chester Spring. "We took in a pitbull mix a few weeks ago from a New Jersey woman who was living in her car."

In January, the Pennsylvania SPCA decided to waive its "guaranteed adoption" program fee for pet owners who have lost their homes because of foreclosure.

"You don't have to worry about your pet being euthanized if you're losing your home because of foreclosure," said Howard Nelson, chief executive officer of the Philadelphia-based PSPCA.

Nelson and Smith said that, under some circumstances, they will hold pets for those in mortgage-foreclosure situations to allow owners to find a place where they can live with their animals.

The Camden County Animal Shelter, located in Blackwood, is overflowing with 100 dogs and 180 cats, Andersch said. Hundreds more are in temporary "foster care."

The Humane Society of the United States established $15,000 in seed money to provide grants for shelters to care for pets whose owners have lost their homes. In Texas, a businesswoman started No Paws Left Behind, Inc., which helps owners pay pet deposits on apartment rentals and aids shelters.

Pet owners do not have to be on the brink of bankruptcy to feel the recession's pinch. Dog groomers report as much as a 50 percent decline in business and some vets say that clients are cutting back on preventative care for their pets, such as teeth cleaning.

If clients "came, like, every six weeks [before], they come every 10 to 12 weeks now," said Chad Alexander, manager of Bobbie Lin Canine Grooming in Northeast Philadelphia. Some former customers "just can't afford it at all."

Meanwhile, New Jersey's famous feline has been put on a diet and will be greeting visitors at the PetSmart in Cherry Hill on Aug. 17. No word yet on whether Powder will be signing any paw-tographs.

Andersch says she hopes to arrive at the Camden County shelter today and see a line of adopters wrapped around the building. The shelter has fielded hundreds of calls from people who want to adopt Powder, Andersch said. She hopes some will take a look at other cats and kittens who, though not TV stars, could be equally loving companions.

"I hope people take away more than that this is just a really fat cat," said Andersch. "We are outrageously crowded and we don't want to have to euthanize more animals, but we desperately need volunteers and donations to help save them."

Tips for Pet Owners Facing Home Foreclosure

When vacating a home, never set a pet loose or leave it behind on the property - even with food and occasional supervision. You could face cruelty charges when the mortgage lender takes possession of the house. The animal may be euthanized.

Ask family and friends to temporarily care for the pet.

Ask your vet if you can receive low-cost boarding for your animal or set up a payment plan for fees.

Check www.petfinder.com for local animal shelters and rescue organizations. Some may house your pet for a period of time at little or no cost.

If you must surrender ownership, choose an agency that does not euthanize adoptable animals.

If you surrender your pet to an open-admission shelter, be aware that while they must accept all animals, adoption isn't guaranteed. If the shelter is overcrowded, the animal may be euthanized.

SOURCE: American HumaneEndText

For more on the Camden County Animal Shelter, including how to make a donation, go to www.ccasnj.org

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Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com.
Inquirer staff writer Ashwin Verghese contributed to this article.