Monday, April 23, 2018

The Purrfect 10: Fun Facts About Morris the 9Lives Cat

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MorrisKnowsBest #CollectiveBias

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As a cat-obsessed little girl growing up in the 1980's, Morris the cat was one of my heroes. These were the days before celebrity cats took over the internet, and since Morris looked very much like Patch (my own cat at the time), who loved 9Lives® cat food, he was very special to me. I still have my Morris plush toy, his Christmas ornaments are on my tree every single year, and while combing through the basement recently I found a pair of old 9Lives treat canisters with Morris's handsome face on them that my parents had stuck on a shelf to hold nails! (Every now and then I'm thankful that I come from a long line of pack rats!) I dumped the nails, cleaned out the canisters, and they now sit in my kitchen. It's something most people would have just thrown away, but I cherish them and love looking at them every single day.

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While brainstorming topics for our Purrfect 10 series, Morris was always at the top of my list, and today we're incredibly excited to present 10 fun facts about one of advertising's greatest icons...

1) The very first Morris (originally known as Lucky) was adopted in 1968 for only $5, a mere 20 minutes from being put to sleep, by professional animal handler Bob Martwick from the Hinsdale Humane Society, a Chicago-area animal shelter. That Morris died in July of 1978 at age 17 and was laid to rest near Mr. Martwick's home. His obituary appeared in newspapers worldwide. Since then, three different cats have gone on to play Morris, and in honor of the original all were rescued from shelters. Morris II, also discovered by Martwick somewhere in New England, retired after 15 years on the job and died in 1997. Morris III sadly only lived for a few years and was replaced by Morris IV, who currently lives with his trainer, Rose Ordile, in Los Angeles.

2) After making his debut in a mattress commercial, Martwick took the rescue cat to an audition for a 9Lives commercial in 1969. Morris was so charming that the art director exclaimed, "He's the Clark Gable of cats." "He jumped on the table ... and he walked right up to the art director, the big cheese, and bumped him in the head. And then Morris just sat back," Martwick said according to his 2001 obituary in the Los Angeles Times. The ad campaign was an overnight success and Morris became the face of 9Lives, starring in 58 commercials.

The very first Morris commercial, circa 1969!

3) Dubbed "the world's most finicky cat", Morris eats only 9Lives, and makes this preference clear with humorous voice-over comments by John Erwin when offered other brands. His fame became so great that he required a personal secretary to answer his fan mail and around-the-clock guards to protect him from kidnappers. His handsome face graced t-shirts, tote bags, coffee mugs and glass tumblers, plush toys, watches, buttons, calendars and Christmas ornaments.

4) A cat with Morris's talent and charisma couldn't be limited to the small screen. In 1973 he landed roles in the Robert Altman film "The Long Goodbye" with Elliott Gould, and in the movie "Shamus" with Burt Reynolds and Dyan Cannon.

5) The next medium for Morris to conquer was print, and he went on to author 3 books on cat care: The Morris Approach, The Morris Method and The Morris Prescription, and was the subject of another, Morris: An Intimate Biography published in 1974. He 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.

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6) Through the years Morris has become a media darling. In 1983, Time Magazine declared him "The Feline Burt Reynolds." US Magazine named him the "Animal Star of the Year" for 3 years in a row, from 1982-84. Morris has also been the recipient of a number of awards including a PATSY from the American Humane Society (the animal equivalent of the Oscar award) in 1973 and The Cats' Meow Award from the New York Animal Medical Center in 1992. One year earlier, he hosted "Morris' Salute to America's Pets," a primetime TV special sponsored by Heinz Pet Products that spotlighted amazing and heroic pets. He appeared on “Good Morning America,” “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

7) Morris ran in the 1988 and 1992 presidential elections on the Finicky Party platform, but lost both bids. He announced his candidacy once again in 2012, extending an offer to the well-known Mayor of Talkeenta, Alaska, Stubbs the Cat, to be his running mate. Morris pledged to give back to cats in need for the duration of their campaign, contributing one bowl of 9Lives cat food to Pets Are Wonderful Support, San Francisco (PAWS San Francisco) for every share of his campaign poster on Facebook.

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8) In 2006 Morris led the 9Lives sponsored Morris' Million Cat Rescue adoption campaign, traveling the country in a specially outfitted bus with cats from local shelters on board to raise awareness and facilitate cat adoptions with a mission to find loving homes for one million cats. Morris kicked off the campaign by adopting Li'l Mo, a younger version of himself, from a Los Angeles shelter.

9) In 2015 Morris was included as one of the 10 brand mascots honored at “A Salute to Advertising’s Greatest Icons” at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, alongside Ronald McDonald, Mr. Clean, Tony the Tiger, Charlie the Tuna, The Keebler Elves, The Jolly Green Giant, The Raid Bugs, The Pillsbury Doughboy, and Snap, Crackle, and Pop.

10) Today Morris is a cat with his paw set firmly in the 21st century, connecting with his legions of fans via social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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One of the many things I love about Morris is that in spite of his fame he has never forgotten his humble beginnings as a rescue cat, and he won't rest until every cat finds a forever home. Now that spring is here kitten season is upon us, and animal shelters are full of hungry mouths to feed. My own local shelter recently transitioned to feeding the cats in their care a primarily wet food diet, so they're constantly in need of donations. Since 9Lives is one of the resident cats' favorite meals, I added a bunch of cans (and several packages of treats) to my shopping cart at Dollar General last weekend. Knowing how finicky cats are I selected a variety of formulas to satisfy every feline palate - 9Lives offers both Hearty Cuts with big meaty chunks, cuts, and shreds in a rich, thick gravy, and Meaty Pate with smooth ground meat, fish or poultry.

It's incredibly easy and inexpensive for all of us to help shelter cats in need simply by picking up a few extra cans of cat food each time we go shopping. Shelters depend on their local community for donations, and if each one of us did just a little bit, it would add up to a whole lot. Before heading to the store, make sure you check out to find coupons and save on 9Lives wet and dry cat food! (valid until 5/31)

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The cat you're helping to feed may not go on to be a worldwide superstar like Morris, but she will become the center of her adoptive family's world just like Mudpie became mine, and that's pretty incredible too!


Lone Star Cats said...

We LUV Morris (who duzn't luv an orange tabby) and luved learning more about him!

Summer at said...

Wow, the first Morris was a real superstar! I really look up to him, and the Morris's after him.

Unknown said...

What a fun post! I loved seeing Morris on TV when I was a kid. Somehow, I didn't realize there is a current Morris though. Off now to follow him on social media! :)

Patricia T said...

Who wouldn’t love Morris? That old commercial is purr-ecious!

The Menagerie Mom said...

I love Morris! 9Lives is usually my go-to food for donations to shelters and rescues, as well as feeding the strays and ferals outside. I love that you not only donate 9Lives to your local shelter kitties, but that you take their finicky nature into consideration and take them all sorts of variety. That shows just how much you know and love kitties! We are loving these The Purrfect 10 posts, Mudpie and Melissa!

Angel, Kirby and Max said...

That's very interesting info on Morris!

Colehaus Cats said...

Awww, we LOVE this post! Our Mom knew of some of Morris' history, and the rest was magical! Thank you!

Cathy Keisha said...

Love that you're bring food to the shelter. Faith used to eat 9 Lives and Gramps used to save the labels and send for his memorabilia. TW had a t shirt until about a decade ago when she wore it to help her BF paint the porch and got paint all over it.

pilch92 said...

Great post. I have always liked Morris.

katsrus said...

I love Morris the cat.
Sue B

Three Chatty Cats said...

Great post! I never really new about Morris. Where have I been?!?

Unknown said...

I have my Morris a fat 10+ year old stray that adopted me. I remember the Morris from the 60’s