Morris the Cat appeared on 9Lives’ (Cat food Brand0 packaging and in many of its television commercials since the 1970s, long before internet memes. He also appeared in a 1986 calendar titled “Morris, A Cat For Our Times,” featuring various technological devices.
Morris the Cat, a large orange tabby tomcat, is “the world’s most finicky cat,” eating only 9Lives cat food and making it clear through humorously sardonic voice-over comments when offered other brands. Every can of 9Lives features Morris’ “signature.” Three different cats have played Morris the Cat.
In 1968, Bob Martwick, a professional animal handler, discovered the original Morris at the Hinsdale Humane Society, a Chicago-area animal shelter. From 1969 to 1978, Morris appeared in 58 television commercials for Leo Burnett, where Martwick worked. John Erwin provided the Cat’s voice. PATSY Awards (an award for animal performers in film and television) were given to Morris in 1972 and 1973. Morris passed away in 1978. Almost all Morris’ cats are rescue cats from shelters or cat rescues. When Bob Martwick received multiple contacts from people claiming to be Morris’ original owner, he decided not to reveal where he obtained the second Morris. In 1979, Martwick selected the second Morris, who began appearing in commercials. Martwick’s first two cats played Morris as pets. Throughout the 1980s, Morris’ popularity continued to grow, and in 1988, Leo Burnett orchestrated a mock presidential campaign for him.
The current Morris lives with his handler, Rose Ordile, in Los Angeles. 9Lives’ corporate parent Heinz parted ways with Leo Burnett Company in 1994.