Morris the Cat



Morris the Cat
Morris the Cat (voiced by John Irwin of Masters of the Universe ), is the advertising mascot for 9Lives brand cat food, appearing on its packaging and in many of its television commercials. A large red tabby tom, he is "the world's most finicky cat", and prefers only 9Lives brand, making this preference clear by means of humorously sardonic voice-over comments when offered other brands. Every can of 9Lives features Morris' "signature".

Morris has appeared in other media over the years. He starred in the movie Shamus with Burt Reynolds and Dyan Cannon in 1973. He also appears as a "spokescat" promoting responsible pet ownership, pet health and pet adoptions through animal shelters. To this end, he has "authored" three books: The Morris Approach, The Morris Method, and The Morris Prescription.


Over the years several cats have portrayed Morris on television. The original Morris was discovered in a Chicago animal shelter in 1968 by professional animal handler Bob Martwick. The current Morris lives in Los Angeles with his handler, Rose Ordile.


Before he was rescued, Morris the cat was 20 minutes away from execution in a suburban Chicago animal shelter. Fittingly, Morris went on to become the finicky star of the 9-Lives cat food commercials. [Morris was later assigned round-the-clock guards to protect him from kidnappers. His picture still hangs on the wall of the local pound.]




There have been three different cats who have played the famed "Morris the Cat." The first Morris was adopted from a shelter in 1968. In 1969 he landed the role of Morris the Cat in the famous 9 Lives Cat Food commercials...and was an overnight success! The first Morris died in 1978 and was subsequently replaced by two more cats who played "Morris." All three of the "Morris the Cat" cats were rescued from shelters.


Morris the cat has been the mascot of Heinz`s 9Lives pet food since 1968. He is credited with "writing" three books on cat care, Morris ran in the 1988 and 1992 presidential elections on the Finicky Party platform, campaigning for cats everywhere to enjoy a standard of nutrition - by eating 9Lives, of course.

Morris the Cat

The epitome of the spoiled, pampered pet, Morris the Cat (first appeared in 1968) was the fifteen-pound orange-striped tabby with dark green eyes and a torn eyelid who entertained cat lovers everywhere as the feline spokescat for the 9 Lives Cat Food Company. Morris' philosophy on life?: "The cat who doesn't act finicky soon loses control of his owner." However, Morris' real life was not always as luxurious as in the commercials. This cute kitty, previously named Lucky, spent part of his life in the Hinsdale Humane Society Animal Shelter in Lombard, Illinois until Bob Martwick, an employee of the Leo Burnett Advertising Agency rescued him and turned Morris into a major TV star. Combining the raw animal talent of this newly adopted waif with the haughty voice of human John Irwin, the Leo Burnett Advertising Agency created one of the most successful television ad campaigns in history.



Called "the Clark Gable of cats," Morris appeared in the movie Shamus (1972); and was even the subject of a book Morris: An Intimate Biography (1974) by Mary Daniels. In the 1980s Morris the Cat authored the books The Morris Approach: an insider's guide to cat care (1980); The Morris Method (1980), about new pet owners and The Morris Prescription (1986) about cat healthcare. Morris has also appeared on the cover of Cat Fancy's 30th Anniversary issue in 1995 and on the cover of the 1996 book Good Mousekeeping by Ilene Hochberg.

Over the years Morris became a darling of the media. In 1983, Time Magazine declared Morris "The Feline Burt Reynolds." US Magazine called Morris the "Animal Star of the Year" (1982-84). Morris has also been the recipient of a number of awards including PATSY (The Picture Animal Top Star Award) from the American Humane Society (1972 & 1973) and The Cats' Meow Award bestowed by the New York Animal Medical Center in 1992. One year earlier, Morris hosted "Morris' Salute to America's Pets," a primetime TV special sponsored by Heinz Pet Products that spotlighted great pet relationships and deeds.

The original Morris reigned as king of the kitty commercials from 1969 until he was dethroned by death in 1975. He was replaced by Harry the Cat. The current Morris the Cat lives in Los Angeles with his handler and companion, Rose Ordile, the cat's official trainer.

Morris the Cat campaigned to be elected President of the United States in 1988 and again in 1992. Although popular, with great name recognition, Morris lost his bid for the presidency. Had he won, however, I wonder would he have kept a human as the official White House pet? As for being the President, the Secret Service would have loved Morris. After all Morris had 9 lives, so if someone harmed him, Morris could use his other 8 Lives as backup and still remain the Commander in Chief of the country.

A rival competitor to the Morris commercials was the Meow Mix commercial entitled "Singing Cat" created by the Della Femina, Travisano & Partners in 1972. The TV spot featured a cute orange tabby singing the now classic lyrics "Meow, meow, meow, meow..." See also - "Meow Mix Cat"



Martwick and the Theogony of Morris

What most characterizes the large orange tomcat Morris is the attribute of finickiness. There are those who divide this finickiness further into snootiness and delectation. All other cats' finickiness emanates directly from Morris, and there is no finickiness outside of his.

Morris has the unique ability to select and savor the food which can counteract his own inborn finickiness. Because he is the font of finickiness, his favorite food will satisfy all cats. Morris's abilities have been demonstrated in countless television advertisements in which he has been offered Brand X and 9Lives. In every case 9Lives has been selected by Morris as the salve for finickiness. Whenever 9Lives has discovered a new and improved version of its cat food, Morris has validated the discovery.

Sages have puzzled over whether 9Lives has some sort of blessed status among cat foods, or that the competition is rigged. The answer seems to be this: The line of Morrises emanates from the Cathead, located within the 9Lives Corporation, in the lost horizon of Televisionland. Morris is destined always to select 9Lives because 9Lives is within him, and yet he is within 9Lives. Within the mystery lies a conundrum: The competition is definitely for real.

Is finickiness good or bad? Again the sages have pondered, and the answer is that finickiness is neither good nor bad, it just IS. Finickiness is the plenum, especially around dinner time, when Morris hears the can being opened. But the cat who is not possessed of finickiness will tend toward the sin of unselective gluttony; there is nothing of Morris within him and he should be extinguished unto the seventh generation, his fields sewn with salt, etc.

There can be but a single Cat who is possessed of Morrishood in any generation of cats. Morris follows upon Morris in a neverending line of Morrises, emanating Lama-like from the Cathead since 1968. And like the Lamas, Morris does not declare his own Morrishood. It is up to others to discern it within him, and then to proclaim the news, through advertisements from the empyrean 9Lives headquarters.

The first Morris (Morris I) was discovered by a devout animal trainer named Bob Martwick, in 1968. Morris I had been placed within an animal shelter in the remote sacred city of Hinsdale, IL, by former owners unknown. Because Martwick saved this avatar from the all-consuming flames, Morris I was at first known as "Lucky." His personality was described at that time as "dog-like." It is unclear whether Morris I's finickiness was undeveloped at that time, or whether Martwick was mistaken. Not even a neophyte viewer would mistake Morris I for a dog. But Morris I did recognize his own spiritual significance and was full of pride. 9Lives proclaimed him "King of Cat Food."



But what of Martwick, the mysterious kingmaker who could recognize Morris's Morrishood beneath the dingy neon of a kennel filled with yapping pups and the stench of a thousand excrements? Martwick had long been a breeder of dogs. His kennel partner's wife was a hand model for Ivory Soap commercials. With this minimal preparation, Martwick became a purveyor of animals to broadcast advertisers. By the time that 9Lives was looking for a feline spokesmodel, Martwick was known as the Man to Call.

Having selected Morris I, Martwick gave him a comfy home and lots of 9Lives, which kept the cat's coat resplendent. He traveled around the country with Morris I, logging 200,000 air miles each year to spread the news of 9Lives and to defeat finicky refusal. Two books appeared containing the wisdom and sayings of Morris.

Morris I died in 1978, age 19, and was buried with great pomp in Martwick's back yard. Soon the search was on for the next avatar. As the scriptures predicted, Morris II was found in an animal shelter, mysteriously identified only as in "New England." Again it was Martwick who found him. Morris II, slimmer than his predecessor, nevertheless had the requisite finickiness in spades and expanded Morris I's mission into the movies, appearing in Shamus, starring Burt Reynolds and Dyan Cannon. He retired after 15 years on the job and died in 1997.

Martwick's involvement with the line of Morrises ended at this point, but the line of Morrises continues. Morris III lived only a few years, and was considered ineffective. Morris IV, who took office last year, therefore has a great responsibility, and the world of feline gastronomy awaits his leadership. His introduction of shredded and flaked 9Lives dinners in new flavors is considered to be an early indication that his reign will be a boon to cats everywhere.

Martwick died at age 75, his legacy in the pantheon secure. Some sages have maintained that Martwick's work in recognizing Spuds Mackenzie as the avatar of Budweiser somehow detracts from his role in the theogony of Morris. They are heretics who must be extirpated; the fruit of their loins will be sere and withered, and boils will afflict them.