What Is The Cat From 9 Lives?

The 9Lives brand of cat food was first launched in 1959 by the company Ralston Purina. It became known for its iconic cartoon cats featured in commercials, most notably Morris the Cat. Morris was introduced in 1969 and quickly became the mascot for 9Lives, appearing in dozens of TV commercials over the years. The brand and its cartoon felines were hugely popular, cementing 9Lives as a top name in cat food. Though ownership has changed hands over the decades, 9Lives and Morris remain cultural icons today.

The Origins of Morris the Cat

The 9Lives brand created Morris the Cat as their advertising mascot in 1968. It all started when the Leo Burnett ad agency was seeking a cat for a new 9Lives television commercial campaign. The ad agency put out a casting call for orange tabby cats, and a cameraman named George K. Dillard Jr. brought a kitten named Lucky to the audition. Lucky stood out among the other cats and was chosen for his bold, confident personality. He was renamed Morris the Cat and made his debut in 9Lives’ first color television commercial in 1968 at the age of 1 year old (https://www.9lives.com/morris-story).

Morris was an immediate hit as the 9Lives mascot. His popularity stemmed from his expressive face and humorous, lifelike gestures. Morris had a talent for acting indifferent, finicky, and looking directly into the camera. This comedic persona made him the perfect spokescat for 9Lives’ animated advertising campaigns. Over the next decade, the original Morris the Cat appeared in 58 television commercials and helped define the comedic advertising style that 9Lives became known for (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_the_Cat).

Morris’ Popularity

Morris the Cat first appeared as the mascot for 9Lives cat food in 1969. He was an orange tabby cat discovered by animal handler Bob Martwick in a Chicago animal shelter as a kitten in 1968 (https://www.9lives.com/morris-story). Morris quickly became popular as the 9Lives mascot and helped drive brand awareness and growth for 9Lives cat food.

By the 1970s, Morris was featured prominently on 9Lives packaging and appeared in numerous television commercials that highlighted his picky tastes. His popularity as the 9Lives mascot grew through the 1970s and 1980s as Morris appeared in over 50 commercials and helped establish 9Lives as a leading cat food brand. At his peak popularity, surveys showed that Morris had a 90% awareness rate as a brand mascot and icon.

Morris’ laidback and finicky personality in the 9Lives commercials, along with his famous “Nine Lives” tagline, resonated with cat owners and cat lovers. He quickly became one of the most iconic and recognizable mascots in advertising history. His role as the 9Lives mascot was critical for boosting brand awareness and sales for 9Lives cat food products. Morris’ sustained popularity demonstrated the power of animal mascots in building brand affinity and growth.

Later Versions of Morris

Morris’ appearance underwent some significant changes over the years as the brand’s creative team updated the cat’s look. The original 1958 Morris had a more realistic, rugged tabby cat look with noticeable fur and whiskers. In the 1970s, Morris was redesigned with a smoother, more cartoonish appearance, losing some of his lifelike qualities. According to the 9Lives website, this was “an attempt to make him more modern and stylized.”

The most drastic redesign came in the 1990s when Morris gained his famous wide-eyed, approachable look. His fur became more stylized and uniform, his eyes grew larger and rounder, and his facial features took on a cuter, more kitten-like appearance. This new Morris marked a shift towards making him more cute and endearing to cat lovers. As described on the official Facebook page, he transformed into “the cool, confident cat we all know and love.”

While Morris’ look continued to be updated over the years, he maintained his iconic status as a memorable and lovable feline mascot. The changes to his design ultimately helped him connect better with each new generation of cat-lovers and 9Lives customers.

Other 9 Lives Mascots

While Morris the Cat is by far the most famous mascot for 9Lives cat food, there have been some other lesser-known feline mascots over the years. Two of the most notable are Lucky the Cat and Sir Hiss.

Lucky was introduced in the 1970s as Morris’ hip “swingin’ pal.” He was depicted wearing sunglasses and playing the saxophone in a jazz band. Lucky appeared in print and TV ads with Morris during this time period.

Sir Hiss debuted in 2001 when Del Monte acquired 9Lives from Heinz. He was portrayed as a cartoon medieval knight complete with armor and a lance. The bold Sir Hiss often clashed with the mischievous Morris in humorous ads.

Though neither Lucky nor Sir Hiss achieved the popularity and longevity of Morris the Cat, they do represent some of the other mascots that have been part of the 9Lives brand over the decades. Morris remains the quintessential feline spokescat for 9Lives cat food.

Morris’ Legacy

Morris the Cat was a pop culture icon who revolutionized cat food branding and advertising. He was introduced in 1969 as the mascot for 9Lives cat food and quickly became one of the most recognizable feline faces in television commercials and print ads. According to the 9Lives website, Morris was known for his “witty comebacks” and “telephone sass” which helped drive sales for 9Lives cat food.

As described by 9Lives, Morris had a 50 year legacy as their mascot and was beloved by cat owners and fans. He was one of the first animal mascots to develop an actual personality which resonated with audiences. Morris’ sarcastic and sassy attitude made him a pop culture icon during the 1970s and 1980s. His famous lines like “Good luck with that” and “Obviously” became part of the cultural zeitgeist. According to Catster, Morris’ popularity was so immense that 9Lives had several backup cats to play Morris since the filming schedule was grueling.

Morris’ legacy demonstrate how an animal mascot with a distinctive personality can deeply connect with consumers and drive interest in a brand. Even today, Morris remains one of the most iconic cat food mascots of all time. His impact on cat food advertising set a precedent for creating mascots with attitude and wit.

Ownership Changes

The 9Lives brand has changed ownership several times over the decades. It was originally created by the Friskies Pet Food Company in the late 1950s. In 1970, the company was acquired by Nestlé. In 1985, Nestlé sold the Friskies brand, including 9Lives, to Carnation Company. In 1989, Nestlé reacquired Friskies and 9Lives after acquiring Carnation.

In 2002, Nestlé merged its Friskies Petcare Company, including the 9Lives brand, into Nestlé Purina PetCare. That same year, Nestlé Purina sold several pet food brands, including 9Lives, to Del Monte Foods. Del Monte owned 9Lives until 2011 when it was sold to Big Heart Pet Brands. In 2015, Big Heart Pet Brands was acquired by The J.M. Smucker Company. Most recently in 2023, 9Lives was acquired by Post Holdings as part of a $1.2 billion acquisition of pet food brands from The J.M. Smucker Company.

So over the decades, 9Lives has been owned by several major companies in the pet food industry, passing between Nestlé, Del Monte, Big Heart Pet Brands, J.M. Smucker, and now Post Holdings. The brand has endured despite these changes in corporate ownership.

The Brand Today

9Lives currently offers a variety of wet and dry cat food products. Some of their most popular offerings include their Proactive Health line which contains antioxidants and vitamins to support overall health and wellness. The Temptations line features tasty treats and snacks made with real seafood and meaty flavors cats love.

Morris the Cat continues to be featured prominently in 9Lives’ advertising and marketing. He remains the official mascot and spokesperson for the brand. Morris can be seen on 9Lives’ product packaging, in commercials, and across their social media channels. While the current Morris is the 7th generation, he continues the tradition of promoting 9Lives’ products and engaging with cat lovers and fans of the brand.

In recent marketing, Morris encourages cat owners to pamper their cats with 9Lives’ recipes made with high-quality proteins and essential nutrients. The brand’s tagline is “Spoil your cat like the champion he is.” This celebrates cats as regal pets deserving of the very best care and nutrition from 9Lives.

Cultural Significance

Morris the Cat remains a cultural icon and one of the most well-known advertising mascots decades after first appearing in commercials for 9Lives cat food in the late 1960s. Morris became popular during the peak TV era when cat food brands battled for household recognition through memorable advertising campaigns. Morris capitalized on his exaggerated finicky traits to humorously promote 9Lives as a cat food cats preferred over competitors. According to the 9Lives website, within just three years of Morris’ debut, 9Lives became the second best-selling cat food thanks to the success of the campaign.

As described in the article “‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Din-Din’: Morris the Cat’s Presidential Aspirations” https://cafe.com/article/life-liberty-and-the-pursuit-of-din-din-morris-the-cats-presidential-aspirations/, Morris gained fame not just as a mascot but a feline celebrity in his own right, appearing on talk shows, having books written about him, and receiving write-in votes during the 1988 presidential election. His slick and sophisticated persona resonated with audiences, making him one of the most enduring advertising icons of the 20th century. While multiple cats have played Morris over the years, the witty and distinguished Morris character remains synonymous with the 9Lives brand and cat food marketing for pet owners today.

The Future of Morris

Will Morris continue as a mascot? There’s no indication Morris will retire any time soon. In 2022, the iconic cat celebrated his 50th anniversary as the 9Lives mascot. To commemorate the milestone, Morris made appearances at CatCon, holding meet and greets with fans.

The 9Lives brand also sponsored the adoption village at CatCon as part of Morris’ 50th “Adopt-i-versary.” This shows the company’s commitment to keeping Morris as the face of 9Lives, while also giving back to cat adoption and welfare efforts.

Looking ahead, it’s likely Morris will continue representing 9Lives and appearing in advertising campaigns. He remains a recognizable pop culture icon even after five decades. As long as he’s able to lend his iconic likeness, it seems the beloved feline mascot will have 9 lives with the brand.

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