Meowth was first seen in the Blue version (equivilent to the Japanese Green version) of the Pokemon game franchise. In the first two games, you could only capture Meowth in the blue version and trade to the red if you wanted to capture all 151 Pokemon. Meowth was found in the wild and inheritently knew attacks such as "Scratch", "Growl", and "Payday" a move that makes Meowth a wanted creature. It's true that Meowth's defense is rather low, and even though you can boost its HP, it's not very resiliant, making people choose to evolve their Meowths into Persians when they reach a certain level. Attaching an Everstone will keep it from evolving.
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Meowth is also available in all later versions and in various spin-off titles. It is a frequently occurring monster that has become popular because of his appearance in the anime. Though he is portrayed as a villain, most Meowths are loyal pets and are kept around the house and will bring their owners loose change as they wander around at night. Meowth is a normal type pokemon, and its type allows it to be taught various attacks that could not be used on other pokemon. Because it's normal, it is able to learn moves such as "Thunderbolt", "Waterpulse", and even moves like "Confusion". It's weak against fighting types and normal doesn't have too many strengths above other Pokemon. However, if you teach your Meowth just the right moves, it will be a steadfast fighter in your party.
Aside from the Gameboy games, Meowth is also in the trading card game. Many people choose not to use Meowth in building a deck because they frequently have low HP and attack, though they have card drawing abilities that come in useful.
Alternative forms for some Classic Pokemon were introduced in Generation Seven Pokemon Sun and Moon. When the first few forms were revealed I had hoped to goodness that my favorite Pokemon would get a little bit of love, and it did. I was happy to see that Meowth was given an alternate form: Alolan Meowth. Not only does Meowth look different but it is a different type and evolves in a different method. This Meowth also has somewhat altered base stats and makes it a good addition to your team in the beginning of the game.
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The region of Alola is based off of the Hawaiian Islands (the name is a corruption of the word "Aloha") and much like the true history of cats, Meowth was introduced to the islands by travellers. (Cats were first introduced to Hawaii by Europeans.) These Meowths have changed over time and are a dark type variant of other Meowth. And just like cats in Hawaii, many of these Meowth have gone feral and are considered an invasive species. Being a dark type, they are weak to fighting, bug, and fairy types but resistant to ghost and dark and immune to psychic types.
The Alolan Persian has some similarities to the other cat-type Pokemon, Purugly, as they are both fat, spoiled Pokemon. Personally, I feel that this was a missed opportunity to create a very majestic and cool-looking design for a strong cat-type - as we already have fat cat Pokemon.