Since 1968, he’s been the purr-fect icon for 9Lives Cat Food, an orange tabby plucked from obscurity to become one of the most recognizable felines around. But what do we really know about “the world’s most finicky cat” anyway? We’re letting the cat out of the bag and spilling all — or at least nine of our favorite trivia tidbits — on this four-legged friend’s humble beginnings to his glamorous life in the spotlight for TV and film.
1. In the 1960s, the creative team at Leo Burnett worked alongside their client 9Lives to develop a series of new commercials for the cat food brand. Bob Martwick, a professional animal trainer, headed out on assignment from the ad agency in 1968 to find a cat to fill in the role of Morris.
Staff members at the Hinsdale, IL Humane Society believed that one of their residents, a tabby named Lucky, fit the bill for what Martwick was looking for. Lucky was charismatic and charming — so much so that at his own casting call, Martwick recalls Lucky jumping up on the table, walking over to the art director, and giving him a friendly head bump.
“He’s the Clark Gable of cats!” The art director gushed. Lucky got the part and a star was born.
2. Morris swiftly rose to prominence with the public, starring in 58 commercials from 1969 to 1978.
3. Being in one of the most successful ad campaigns in TV history means acquiring a huge fan base! During this time, Morris was receiving so much fan mail that he had a personal secretary to help him answer it all.
4. The vocals behind Morris belong to John Erwin, who also famously voiced He-Man.
5. Lights, camera, action! Morris hit the silver screen in 1973, with his acting (meowing?) debut in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye and later alongside Burt Reynolds in Shamus. It’s a missed opportunity, not giving him his own paw print square on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
6. You can also add author and Presidential candidate to his list of career accomplishments. Morris has “written” three books and ran for President twice, once in 1988 and again in 2012.
7. While the original Morris passed away in 1978 at the age of 17, all of his successors have been rescue cats just like him. An advocate for kindness to animals, Morris led the Morris’ Million Cat Rescue adoption campaign in 2006 to find felines everywhere a home to call their own.
8. In 2015, Morris was one of the 10 brand mascots honored at “A Salute to Advertising’s Greatest Icons” at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago. He joined the ranks alongside characters like the Green Giant, Ronald McDonald, Mr. Clean, and many more.
9. What’s Morris up to these days? He’s putting his paws all over social media with tweets @MorrisApproved on Twitter, a Facebook page, and his Cat’s Eye View, the ultimate interactive experience with “the choosiest cat video on the Internet.”