⚠ Important recall information appears below.
9Lives cat food started production in 1959, and today it remains one of the bestselling cat food brands in the United States. At various times, the brand name has been stylized as “9 Lives,” “9-Lives” or “9Lives.”
In 1968, an animal talent scout adopted an orange tabby cat named Morris at a humane society in Illinois. The charming Morris became a famous “spokescat” for 9Lives. “His robust and macho appearance, coat of distinctive orange stripes and finicky demeanor won him the coveted role over thousands of other furry hopefuls,” the company says.
The original Morris died in 1978. He was believed to be 17 at the time of his death. “The oddest thing,” a public relations spokesperson told The Washington Post, “is that people have been calling and asking where to send flowers. We just tell them to make a contribution to the American Humane Society.”
“He was definitely a special cat,” the spokesperson said. “He was finicky just as portrayed, but he was also very friendly. He was a cat with charisma, there’s no doubt about it.”
Morris has since been portrayed by many other well-trained kitties, appearing in dozens of commercials over the years. The famed cat also made a cameo appearance in a movie with Burt Reynolds, and ran twice (1988 and 1992) as a scratch-in candidate for U.S. president, representing the “Finicky Party.”
Below, we share much more information about 9Lives’ long and storied history — including up-to-date cat food recall information.
9Lives Quick Facts
Brand line includes: 9Lives Meaty Paté, 9Lives Hearty Cuts, 9Lives Tender Morsels, 9Lives Plus Care, 9Lives Daily Essentials, 9Lives Long Life Formula, 9Lives Indoor Complete, 9Lives Lean & Tasty
Where to buy: [easyazon_link keywords=”9Lives cat food” locale=”US” tag=”petsadvi-20″]Latest deals on 9Lives cat food[/easyazon_link]
Company: Big Heart Pet Inc. (a subsidiary of J.M. Smucker Company)
Headquarters: One Maritime Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94111
Contact info: 888-495-4837, email, website
The Long History of 9Lives Cat Food
Many years ago, 9Lives cat food was actually a Star-Kist Foods Inc. brand. The tuna maker started producing 9Lives in 1959.
“The canned tuna part of the business was successful enough, but the jewel in the crown was the pet food side,” explains FMCG, a book chronicling some of the world’s most famous brands. “Star-Kist’s management had got into the cat food business in the mid-1950s as a way of profitably selling the byproducts of tuna processing,” the book notes.
In 1963, the H.J. Heinz Company purchased Star-Kist, and 9Lives remained a Heinz property for many years.
In 1988, Star-Kist Foods was reorganized by Heinz, with all canned seafood falling under a new group called Star-Kist Seafood Co. and the company’s pet food brands — including 9Lives — falling under a new group called Heinz Pet Products Co.
Following a 2002 merger, 9Lives became part of the Del Monte Foods portfolio of pet food brands.
It wasn’t long before the new owners planned a return of “spokescat” Morris the Cat — the famous kitty who had starred in many TV ads starting in the late 1960s but hadn’t appeared on the air in the United States since 1994.
“I’m an older fellow, so I remember Morris pretty well,” remarked Rick Wolford, CEO of Del Monte Foods, in 2004. “It’s surprising to me how many people do remember Morris and ask about his return.”
New Packaging — And the Return of Morris
9Lives underwent a “restage” in 2004–2005, which Del Monte Foods described as “an important and successful strategic investment.” Wet and dry lines were relaunched with new, livelier packaging — as well as the long-awaited return of Morris the Cat in ads on TV.
Barry Shepard, a managing director at the company, told The New York Times that it was “important to bridge the past in a relevant way” with the new Morris ads.
The Times explained that while the updated Morris was still an orange tabby, still haughty and still talkative, “he is now willing to sing for his supper, so to speak, and will perform somersaults to ensure a steady supply of reformulated versions of 9Lives wet and dry food.”
The 9Lives relaunch helped lift dry food sales to double-digit percentage growth in the months that followed.
Morris Gets Yet Another Update
In 2014, Morris yet again returned to great fanfare — and an Instagram account — with a splashy social media campaign that described him as “charmingly choosy” rather than finicky. The campaign was designed in part to promote a new cat food line called 9Lives Lean & Tasty.
That same year, Del Monte Foods renamed itself Big Heart Pet Brands, a “standalone pet products company,” following a sale of all of Del Monte’s people-food assets. And in 2015, the J.M. Smucker Company acquired all Big Heart properties in a $5.8 billion deal.
And Morris? Today, this enduring icon remains “pawsitively dedicated” to helping all cats live the good life.
Has 9Lives Ever Been Recalled?
Yes, this line of cat food has had at least 2 recalls in the past few years.
In December 2018, some 9Lives cat food was recalled because of potentially low levels of thiamine, an essential vitamin (B1) for cats.
Nearly 2 years earlier, in January 2017, several varieties of cat food, including 9Lives, were recalled for the same reason: potentially low thiamine. That recall was expanded 8 days later.
The research team at Petful spent extensive time going through recall databases and news archives spanning 40 years, and these were the only 9Lives cat food recalls we uncovered in the United States. Full details of all known 9Lives recalls appear below.
We should point out that, in August 1987, a study published in the journal Science drew attention to the fact that thousands of cats had been dying every year from dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a fatal heart condition, because of an apparent taurine deficiency in popular cat foods at the time.
In the study, Dr. Paul D. Pion, DVM, DACVIM, and others observed cats who were diagnosed with DCM and had been fed popular commercial cat foods such as:
- Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Feline
- Hill’s Prescription Diet h/d
- Hill’s Science Diet Maintenance
- Purina Cat Chow
- 9Lives Beef and Liver
- Carnation Fancy Feast Beef and Liver
- Blue Mountain Kitty O’s
Taurine deficiencies observed in the cats seemed like too much of a coincidence. Clearly, cats needed more taurine than was being provided by the foods at the time.
By the time the groundbreaking Science article was published, pet food makers like Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Ralston Purina had already begun changing their recipes to include higher levels of taurine.
No recall was ever issued, to our knowledge. However, the recipe reformulations brought about a dramatic decrease in the incidence of DCM in cats. A 1990 follow-up study using data from 2 veterinary hospitals found DCM in only 6% of cat patients, versus 28% of cats brought into the hospitals before the recipe changes went into effect.
List of 9Lives Cat Food Recalls
Cause: Low thiamine levels. Announcement: FDA announcement dated Dec. 7, 2018 (archived here). What was recalled: The following specific lots of 4-can packages of 9Lives Protein Plus cat food:
- 9Lives Protein Plus Tuna & Chicken, UPC #7910021549, 4 pack of 5.5 oz. cans, best by dates of March 27 – Nov. 14, 2020
- 9Lives Protein Plus Tuna & Liver, UPC #7910021748, 4 pack of 5.5 oz. cans, best by dates of April 17 – Sept. 14, 2020
Cause: Low thiamine levels. Announcement: FDA report updated Jan. 11, 2017. What was recalled: The following varieties and lots of 9Lives Meaty Pate:
- 9Lives Meaty Pate Seafood Platter, 4 pack, 5.5 oz. each, Lot #6356803, UPC 7910003670
- 9Lives Meaty Pate Super Supper, 4 pack, 5.5 oz. each, Lot #6357803, UPC 7910002860
- 9Lives Meaty Pate Super Supper, 13 oz., Lot #6354803, UPC 7910052229
- 9Lives Meaty Pate With Chicken and Tuna, 5.5 oz., Lot #6357803, UPC 7910000324
Cause: Low thiamine levels. Announcement: FDA report dated Jan. 3, 2017. What was recalled: The following varieties and lots of 9Lives Meaty Pate and Seafood Poultry:
- 9Lives Meaty Pate Chicken and Tuna, 13 oz., Lot #6354803, UPC 7910052228
- 9Lives Meaty Pate Seafood Platter, 24 oz., Lot #6356803, UPC 7910000402
- 9Lives Meaty Pate Seafood Platter, 4 pack, 5.5 oz. each, Lot #6355803, UPC 7910003670
- 9Lives Meaty Pate Super Supper, 5.5 oz., Lot #6358803, UPC 7910000327
- 9Lives Meaty Pate Super Supper, 4 pack, 5.5 oz. each, Lot #6358803, UPC 7910002860
- 9Lives Meaty Pate Super Supper, 13 oz., Lot #6355803, UPC 7910052229
- 9Lives Meaty Pate With Chicken and Seafood, 4 pack, 5.5 oz. each, Lot #6356803, UPC 7910003640
- 9Lives Meaty Pate With Chicken and Tuna, 5.5 oz. Lot #6356803, UPC 7910000324
- 9Lives Meaty Pate With Chicken Dinner, 5.5 oz. Lot #6356803, UPC 7910000410
- 9Lives Meaty Pate With Liver and Chicken, 4 pack, 5.5 oz. each, Lot #6355803, UPC 7910000312
- 9Lives Meaty Pate With Ocean Whitefish, 5.5 oz., Lot #6358803, UPC 7910000420
- 9Lives Seafood Poultry Variety Pack, 5.5 oz., Lot #6307803, UPC 7910053377
- 9Lives Meaty Pate With Chicken & Tuna, 4 pack, 5.5 oz. each, Lot #6357803, UPC 7910003660
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- Shales, Tom. “Death of a Salesman: Morris the Cat Always Kept the Common Touch.” Washington Post. July 13, 1978. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1978/07/13/death-of-a-salesman/45bf3fcb-2731-483e-8b6d-4834fdb54c62/.
- “History of Morris: The Meteoric Rise of Morris the Cat.” 9Lives.com. Dec. 6, 2003. Archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20031206175851/http://9lives.com/pages/morrisstory/morrishistory.asp.
- “The Cat’s Out of the Bag: Morris the 9Lives Cat Is Back; Famed Icon Returns to Promote the All-New Great-Tasting 9Lives Products.” Business Wire. Aug. 27, 2004. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20040827005105/en/Cats-Bag-Morris-9Lives-Cat-Famed-Icon.
- “StarKist Company History.” StarKist Co. 2017. https://starkist.com/sites/all/themes/zen_child/assets/pdf/StarKist100year.pdf.
- Thain, Greg and John Bradley. FMCG: The Power of Fast-Moving Consumer Goods. First Edition Design Pub. 2014. 121. https://books.google.com/books?id=i8MABAAAQBAJ&pg=PA121&lpg=PA121#v=onepage&q&f=false.
- “H.J. Heinz Announces Reorganization of Star-Kist Foods.” PR Newswire. Nov. 1, 1988.
- “Q3 2004 Del Monte Foods Earnings Conference Call.” FD (Fair Disclosure) Wire. March 4, 2004.
- “Q3 2006 Del Monte Foods Earnings Conference Call.” FD (Fair Disclosure) Wire. March 2, 2006.
- “Q1 2007 Del Monte Foods Earnings Conference Call.” FD (Fair Disclosure) Wire. Aug. 31, 2006.
- Elliott, Stuart. “A Parting of Ways for Heinz and Morris the Cat’s Creator.” The New York Times. Nov. 24, 1994. https://www.nytimes.com/1994/11/24/business/a-parting-of-ways-for-heinz-and-morris-the-cat-s-creator.html.
- Elliott, Stuart. “As Marketers Revive Familiar Brand Characters, Prepare to See More of a Certain Cat and Bunny.” The New York Times. Aug. 27, 2004. https://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/27/business/media-business-advertising-marketers-revive-familiar-brand-characters-prepare.html.
- Elliott, Stuart. “Before There Was Grumpy Cat, There Was Morris, 9Lives Reminds Consumers.” The New York Times. Oct. 27, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/27/business/media/9lives-reintroduces-morris-the-cat-in-new-campaign.html.
- Fusaro, Dave. “Del Monte Foods Becomes Big Heart Pet Brands.” Food Processing. March 9, 2014. https://www.foodprocessing.com/industrynews/2014/del-monte-becomes-big-heart-pet-brands/.
- “The J.M. Smucker Company Completes Acquisition of Big Heart Pet Brands.” PR Newswire. March 23, 2015. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-j-m-smucker-company-completes-acquisition-of-big-heart-pet-brands-300054566.html.
- “Morris the Cat: From Rescue Cat to Celebri-Cat Activist.” 9Lives.com. https://www.9lives.com/morris-story.
- Maugh, Thomas H. II. “Thousands of Cat Deaths Traced to Pet Food Deficiency.” Los Angeles Times. Aug. 14, 1987. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1987-08-14-mn-805-story.html.
- Pion, Paul D., DVM, DACVIM, et al. “Myocardial Failure in Cats Associated With Low Plasma Taurine: A Reversible Cardiomyopathy.” Science 237, no. 4816 (Aug. 14, 1987): 764–768. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/237/4816/764.
- Pion, Paul D., DVM, DACVIM, et al. “Clinical Findings in Cats With Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Relationship of Findings to Taurine Deficiency.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 15, no. 201 (July 15, 1992): 267–274. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1500323/.
- Skiles, Mary L., et al. “Epidemiologic Evaluation of Taurine Deficiency and Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Cats.” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 4, no. 2 (1990).
- “The J.M. Smucker Company Issues Voluntary Recall of Specific Lots of…” U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dec. 7, 2018. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/ucm628058.pdf.
- “The J.M. Smucker Company Expands Limited Voluntary Recall on Certain Lots of Canned Cat Food Due to Low Levels of Thiamine (Vitamin B1).” FDA. Jan. 6, 2017. https://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls-market-withdrawals-safety-alerts/jm-smucker-company-expands-limited-voluntary-recall-certain-lots-canned-cat-food-due-low-levels.
- “The J.M. Smucker Company Announces a Limited Voluntary Recall on Certain Lots of Canned Cat Food Due to Low Levels of Thiamine (Vitamin B1).” FDA. Jan. 3, 2017. https://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls-market-withdrawals-safety-alerts/jm-smucker-company-announces-limited-voluntary-recall-certain-lots-canned-cat-food-due-low-levels.