- Not to be confused with the book.
Garfield uses the popular myth of cats having nine lives to explain how he has grown into the cat he is today.
In The Beginning
God wants to create cats. He gives his staff instructions on the physical appearance of the cat. He suggests that its eyes should glow in the dark and that it should land on its feet. God plans to give cats six eyes, but the crew tell him that only two eyes are available. God's staff talk about different features on the cat's face. God congratulates them for creating "the perfect animal". His staff become surprised as God then tells them to give the cat nine lives. After the staff ask why, God tells them that it would make a good story, as the screen fades to black.
Garfield comes onto the screen, holding a bone in his hand, and tells the viewer that he formed many of his likes and dislikes in his first life. He says he disliked his rock bed while he enjoyed the size of the Pteranodon drumsticks.
A narrator tells the viewer that ten million years ago, the first cat crawled out of the sea. He also says that everything crawled out of the sea such as the first snake, chicken, crabgrass, and real estate agent. A female cave cat crawls out of the sea and attracts Cave Cat who chases her and bumps into a caveman who is then in pain.
In another scenario, a volcano makes the sound "Foom!". Cave Cat says it twice but after thinking more, he thinks of "Meyw" and repeats the sound as he walks away. The caveman from earlier approaches Cave Cat and puts a collar with a leash on him. Cave Cat starts fighting and is bashed on the head while the caveman shouts "Good Cat"; described as the first domestication of cats. The voice in the background says that Cave Cat learned to live with the cavemen and spend his time as modern day cats do. The viewer sees him chasing a mouse who goes into a hole in a rock. Cave Cat sticks his hand and is burned when the mouse was revealed to be a fire breathing mouse.
A caveman is showing the main caveman a simple trick using his thumb. After there is rumbling, the two cavemen are crushed by rocks and tell Cave Cat that "Big Bob" is coming. The cavemen run before "Big Bob" (who resembles Odie) appears. Big Bob slobbers onto Cave Cat and runs away. Cave Cat shouts and threatens Big Bob saying that he will beat him up. Big Bob returns with a tree, wanting to play fetch and drops the tree unto Cave Cat, crushing him. The life ends there.
Garfield, with a Pharaoh's crook in hand, explains that in ancient Egypt, cats were considered to be gods (due to their relationship with the cat goddess Bastet) and worshipped as such.
The story focuses on King Cat, the favored feline pet of dimwitted King Amenhotep III (or "Junior" as King Cat called him). King Cat begins the day by having his slave dogs, led by Odie, carry him on his throne to pyramids as they are being built. When the slaves see King Cat, they immediately stop to bow in reverence, forgetting the stone block they are lifting and one of them gets crushed by it as they do so.
As the slaves carry their stone block over (with King Cat sitting on it), one of them falls to the ground in exhaustion. King Cat demands he get back to work, but the slave tells him that he should be more worried about himself. He points to hieroglyphics on the pyramid which show King Cat that should Junior die, he will be buried in the pyramid with all his worldly possessions, including his cat. Between Junior's lack of smarts and his evil brother Black Bart plotting to take the throne for himself, King Cat fears for his own life and swears to protect Junior.
Riding Odie like a horse, King Cat returns in time to see Bart tricking Junior into walking through a fake door at the edge of his raised throne, which will send him falling to his death. King Cat manages to break Junior's fall, getting him crushed. A block then falls out of the throne and nearly crushes Junior until King Cat shoves him out of the way, getting crushed again. Junior blames King Cat for shoving him, which gets him angry until Odie holds him back. As Junior heads into his personal chamber, Bart drops a stick of dynamite inside it. King Cat sees it and, not knowing what it is, throws it inside where it blows and kills Junior, unwittingly sealing King Cat's fate.
Junior's body is sealed into a sarcophagus and placed inside the completed pyramid, and King Cat is thrown in with him before Bart seals the door shut. Fortunately, Odie finds a loose block that allows him to get inside and rescue King Cat, and King Cat tells Odie that he will do anything to repay the favor. The story ends with Odie being worshipped as Bart's new favorite pet, and slave cats led by King Cat are pulling his throne as they head off to the pyramids.
In The Garden
Garfield considers his third life to be his favorite, since he never grew up.
In a surreal garden, with butterflies and an orange morning sky, Chloe and an Orange Kitten rest on grass as the Orange Kitten eats marshmallows off of flowers. Chloe states that these are the mornings she and the cat liked best. Chloe then sways a butterfly toward the kitten's way and he chases after it until slamming into a paint bucket, giving him a blue ring around his face. Uncle Todd then grabs the kitten and cleans his face as Chloe explains that it will always feel like summer in the garden. Uncle Todd built the garden during a very intense period of fun, something he was known for. He dances and plays on the concertina as the concertina turns into various things at once. Chloe then states that he and The Sun laughed a lot. One spring day, he decided to join the circus and gave the will of the garden to Chloe and the kitten, saddening them.
Then, his apparition, a hot air balloon with flowers, plays the concertina as it looms over the sky. Chloe then states that it was not the garden that Chloe once imagined, it was inspired by the love of life and the greater love of living it. The garden had few details like plants, rocks and dancing. However, it was not a normal garden because they had tubes, globes and bubble orbs of vinyl persuasion, and music played as Chloe and the Kitten romped through the fields, moving from one place to another. However, Chloe stops and calls the Kitten to come over, to which they share a rare treasure called "Friendship". They make a sandcastle and Uncle Todd's apparition showers flowers onto it.
Chloe says it was a good life, however, there was one condition they must follow: before joining the circus, Uncle Todd's apparition showed them a crystal box sitting on a checkered toadstool. He warned them to never open the crystal box under any circumstances. The duo were never used to following rules since that was new to them, and their curiosity got the better of them as they entered a fence surrounding the mushroom. They play with the box, deciding whether or not to open it. However, as Chloe decides to open the box, they leave the box and dance freely. The segment ends with the two of them romping around the garden as it starts to distort and collapse in on itself into a spiral of colors.
Garfield, holding a conductor's baton, explains that the fourth life was when he learned how to think on his feet. Despite any potential merits, he now avoids it whenever possible.
In the year 1720, George Frederick Handel (aka "Freddie"), the musician to King George I, is writing a fugue for the king's party while his cat lazes around. A Jester arrives to pester him and Freddie tells him to leave as he must finish the fugue by night or be executed. Then, the Jester tells him that the king expects a concerto for the party, which surprises Freddie. Freddy says he has no time to write a concerto to the party, to which the Jester states that if the king cannot enjoy a concerto, the Jester will have fun at Freddie's execution, which terrifies Freddie. The Jester states that the concerto better be good, for the king hates to be disappointed. Freddie relies on his cat to write the final part of the concerto, while Freddie writes the first and second movement.
At the ball, the royals are talking until the jester announces Freddie and his chambered quartet for his original concerto, to which he asks Freddie to perform. Then, his teeth turn into a guillotine and cut the apple in half, reminding Freddie of his execution. The first movement plays and the Jester annoys the musician by tearing up a picture of him and his head and squeezing the doll until its head pops out. As the first part ends, the second movement begins and the Jester watches a slideshow of the Jester's head mounted on the wall, the Jester beheading himself, the Jester at the funeral post-execution and at a pool with two women, to which he quickly goes back to the funeral picture, painfully reminding Freddie his life is on the line.
As the third movement is about to begin, Freddie finds that the sheet music is splotched with cat paws and ink blots, which makes Freddie sweat profusely and his cat's teeth chatter in fear. The Jester holds up a sign saying "See ya later, bud". The musicians begin playing a song has a jazzy, yet classical sound, which shocks King George and the Queen at first. The cat smiles as the king begins to enjoy the music. Freddie becomes happy and he dons sunglasses as he plays the piano. The king and queen dance to the song and the Jester is sorely disappointed that Freddie did not fail. After that night, Freddie's cat swore off writing the newly-invented jazz music, as it seemed like a lot of work to him.
Garfield laments over how his fifth life as a stunt double was short as the director, orders him to the set.
Seen in the style of a black-and-white silent movie, Ignatz the mouse is about to drop a giant load of bricks on Krazy Kat before the director, revealed to be Officer Bull Pupp, calls Stunt Cat over. Stunt Cat is made to stand in Krazy Kat's place and the bricks are dropped on him, ending the life as quickly as it began.
Garfield considers his sixth life to be his luckiest since it was when he fell in love with music and with his owner, a girl, who played the piano just for him.
It begins with a woman in a rocking chair with a kitten named Patches wanting to tell him a story about her 8th birthday, one of the most memorable moments in her life, because she got a new kitten and took her first piano lesson. The story begins at the kitchen table where she and her family were having breakfast when her mother came in, and gave Sara a fluffy white kitten, to which she started hugging. Sara's mother suggested naming her kitten "Diana", after the Roman goddess of the hunt of the same name. Then, Sara's mother had another surprise for her, a woman named Mrs. Underwood to give Sara piano lessons, which Sara initially rejects in favor of the kitten. Her mother then states that Sara will thank her for this. It then shows Mrs. Underwood and Sara playing on the piano and Diana swatting a fly bothering her before she fell onto the strings, becoming angry. For the next few months, Sara worked hard on her piano lessons, and every time she played, Diana would place her paw on her foot. Sara would pick her up and places her on top of the piano because she was too small to get up on her own. Sara then wanted to become a better piano player because Diana had a sense when Sara hit a sour note. In a few years' time, she was a fairly good pianist by Diana's standards. Diana loved her music and seemed happier when Sara was playing it. Sara then reminisces that these were happy days and wished that they would never part, until the day Sara left for college, to which Sara did not know who she would miss more: her parents or Diana.
By the time Sara returned home from college graduation, the little child within her wanted to be Diana again, but this time, there were more people in Sara's life than Diana and her parents, which Diana had doubts about. Sara then announces that her boyfriend, Lee and her have decided to marry. Diana then scratches Lee's leg and Sara states that she will move out of her parents' house and take Diana with her. The piano was given as a wedding gift by her parents, although Sara did not have room for it. When Billy, Sara and Lee's baby arrived, Diana had a new friend, much to her dismay. By that time, Diana was 14 years old and was too old to make it to the top of the piano on her own, but neither could Billy since he was too young.
In the evening, Diana was not feeling well and Sara tucked Billy into bed early and played a concert's worth of songs just for Diana. By the time Sara finished, Diana refused to leave the piano. During the night, Diana got down to the piano's keyboard, laid down and peacefully passed away in her sleep, signifying her testament for her love for Sara's music. In the modern day, Sara, now an adult, then asks Patches if she can play something for him.
Garfield comes on screen wearing a lab coat and says that he was a lab animal his seventh life; these days, whenever he sees a test tube, he will throw up.
In Lab 6B, in a government laboratory, an experiment is taking place. An unnamed scientist asks Larry, another scientist, to hold the test cat 19-GB while he gives it an injection. 19-GB yowls in pain as he was injected with the needle. The unnamed scientist comments that this experiment is something straight out of a horror movie, to which Larry replies that if the experiment goes bad, he will put plenty of space between him and the lab. Larry puts the cat back into the cage, and the latter's eyes swirl before blacking out.
The cat wakes up knowing that he will be dissected to see if he has experienced any preliminary organ modification. 19-GB then cowers into a corner and then attacks Larry, and jumps and shatters a window. Lights flash on him as a soldier tries to capture him. 19-GB then runs onto a helicopter preparing to take flight and gets on it. He then jumps on top of a cliff's edge, where he climbs up. He wanders through a forest until a search dog chases him up a tree. However, one of the branches snaps on 19-GB, causing him to fall into the water below.
As 19-GB gets out of the water, he walks for a bit until collapsing from exhaustion. However, a terrifying transformation occurs, which causes 19-GB to transform into a dog. As 19-GB is drinking, a group of search dogs join him. One of the soldiers calls off the search, stating that they will never be able to find the cat, not realizing that one of the dogs is 19-GB as 19-GB's eyes glow.
With a pillow in hand, Garfield says that all his past lives made him what he is in his eighth life, yet laments that it falls short of his expectations. He then proceeds to sleep on the pillow.
On June 19, 1978, at an Italian restaurant, a female cat gives birth to a young cat named Garfield. The little rambunctious kitten soon discovers the joys of eating, especially pasta. The owner gets angry at Garfield for eating him out of business, so he takes him to a pet shop, where he is taken in by a pathetic human named Jon Arbuckle.
Years later, Jon introduces Garfield to a new playmate, a rather idiotic dog named Odie, whom Garfield immediately despises.
As time moves forward, Garfield claims his rightful spot as the true head of the household, with Jon and Odie as his servants. Garfield and Odie hear the bells of the ice cream truck and run outside. Odie bites Garfield’s tail, saving him from being hit by a car. Garfield becomes eternally grateful for Odie's kind act and promises to be thankful forever.
Some years later, Garfield and Odie are now old and flabby. Garfield reminisces about that day to his grandchildren but makes it appear as if it was he who actually saved Odie, which Odie is not happy about.
Garfield states his optimism about living forever, then considers his humanity, despite being a cat. He then introduces a "sneak preview" of what will happen in life number nine.
In outer space, Space Cat is all alone in a ship, confused by his surroundings. The computer informs him that scientists are monitoring the survival instincts of a cat in his final life. Space Cat seeks guidance from his Operational Data Index Element (O.D.I.E.), but it barks prompting Space Cat to insult it. Space Cat finds himself surrounded by the "Incredibly Huge Galactic War Fleet (IHGWF)" under the leadership of Commander Mendelson. Space Cat attempts to deploy his secret weapon, only to realize he is declawed. Commander Mendelson gives him seven minutes to try and defeat the ships. Space Cat dispenses an Odie clone, but the Odie dispenses more clones. The clones disperse into attack ships, ready for action. The IHGWF's ships throw a fire hydrant using a giant slingshot, distracting the clones. Space Cat takes matters into his own hands, trying to get the ships guns to work. As he prepares to put two wires together, the IHGWF fire their laser, destroying the ship and killing Space Cat.
After the duo are killed by Commander Mendelson, a single spotlight shines on Garfield and Odie, both of whom are colorless, as a door opens, God asks for their names. After introducing themselves, Garfield points out to God that while he knew cats have nine lives and he appreciates having them, he did not think it fair for anyone to put him and Odie in the position they were in. God agrees with this and decides to give Garfield back his life, then asks which one it was. Heaven's computers were on the blink at the time and they were not able to keep track of how many lives Garfield had already spent, so Garfield tells Him that it was his first life. God then asks if Odie is a cat as well, so Odie acts like one to convince Him.
With a wave of his hand, God restores all nine lives to Garfield and Odie and the color returns to their bodies. The two friends share a happy hug as they vanish. God, in a close-up, is revealed to have cat-like eyes as he explains "We have to stick together, you know."
- In Garfield: The Movie, the way Jon acquires Odie is similar to how he does in Garfield's eighth life.
- In the ninth life, the number on Space Cat's ship is 6/19, an allusion to the date of Garfield's birthday.
- Five lives from the book appear in this special.
- The book's fourth life was made into its own television special.
- Commander Mendelson is named after Lee Mendelson.
- The shot of young Garfield eating uncooked spaghetti is later used in the second theme song of Garfield and Friends.
- Garfield's fifth life includes the main characters and art style of Krazy Kat, a comic strip by George Herriman.