Cats has been referenced and satirised many times on screen; from the films Six Degrees of Separation and Team America: World Police, to the sketch comedy Saturday Night Live, and animated series like Family Guy, The Simpsons and BoJack Horseman, as well as live action comedies including The Golden Girls, Caroline in the City, Glee and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. An episode of the musical television series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, titled "I Need Some Balance", parodied Cats by having all the songs sung by anthropomorphic cats who "introduce [themselves] over '80s Broadway beats".
Cats are unusually dependent on a constant supply of the amino acid arginine, and a diet lacking arginine causes marked weight loss and can be rapidly fatal. Arginine is an essential additive in cat food because cats have low levels of the enzymes aminotransferase and pyrroline-5-carboxylate which are responsible for the synthesis of ornithine and citrulline in the small intestine. Citrulline would typically go on to the kidneys to make arginine, but because cats have a deficiency in the enzymes that make it, citrulline is not produced in adequate quantities to make arginine. Arginine is essential in the urea cycle in order to convert the toxic component ammonia into urea that can then be excreted in the urine. Because of its essential role, deficiency in arginine results in a buildup of toxic ammonia and leads to hyperammonemia. The symptoms of hyperammonemia include lethargy, vomiting, ataxia, hyperesthesia and can be serious enough to induce death and coma in a matter of days if a cat is being fed an arginine-free diet. The quick onset of these symptoms is due to the fact that diets devoid in arginine will typically still contain all of the other amino acids, which will continue to be catabolized by the body, producing mass amounts of ammonia that very quickly build up with no way of being excreted.
Cats debuted on Broadway on 7 October 1982 at the Winter Garden Theatre with a record-breaking $6.2 million in ticket pre-sales. Most of the original creative team remained, with Martin Levan replacing Jacob as the sound designer and Stanley Lebowsky replacing Rabinowitz as music director. The musical was co-produced by the original London production team, along with David Geffen and The Shubert Organization. It was the most expensive Broadway show ever mounted at the time with a production cost of $5.5 million, though it recouped its investment in less than 10 months. On 19 June 1997, Cats overtook A Chorus Line to become the longest-running show in Broadway history with 6,138 performances. At the time, the musical was found to have had an economic impact of $3.12 billion on New York City and had generated the most theatrical jobs of any single entity in Broadway history. A June closing date was announced in early 2000 but was subsequently pushed back after a resulting surge in ticket sales. The show closed on 10 September 2000 after a total of 13 previews and 7,485 performances. One actress, Marlene Danielle, performed in the Broadway production for its entire 18-year run. Its Broadway-run record was surpassed on 9 January 2006 by The Phantom of the Opera, and Cats remains Broadway's fourth-longest-running show of all time. Overall, the original Broadway production grossed approximately $388 million in ticket sales.
Additionally, Cats was the first Broadway and West End show to capitalise on merchandising as a major revenue stream. Stalls were set up in the theatre lobbies to sell souvenirs ranging from toys and watches to coffee mugs, all of which were emblazoned with the cat's-eyes logo. The official Cats t-shirt became the second-best-selling t-shirt in the world in the 1980s, second only to the Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt. Merchandising has since become an important source of income for the industry.
After the fight, Rum Tum Tugger calls upon the magician Mr. Mistoffelees for help ("Magical Mr. Mistoffelees"). Known as the "original conjuring cat", Mr. Mistoffelees can perform feats of magic that no other cat can do. He displays his magical powers in a dance solo and uses them to restore the lights and bring back Old Deuteronomy. Now, the Jellicle Choice can be made.
Practical Cats, as the show was then called, was first presented as a song cycle at the 1980 summer Sydmonton Festival. The concert was performed by Gemma Craven, Gary Bond and Paul Nicholas. Eliot's widow and literary executor, Valerie, was in attendance and brought along various unpublished cat-themed poems by Eliot. One of these was "Grizabella the Glamour Cat" which, although rejected from Eliot's book for being "too sad for children", gave Lloyd Webber the idea for a full-blown musical. He explained:
Kittens develop very quickly from about two weeks of age until their seventh week. Their coordination and strength improves. They play-fight with their litter-mates and begin to explore the world outside the nest or den. They learn to wash themselves and others as well as play hunting and stalking games, showing their inborn ability as predators. These innate skills are developed by the kittens' mother or other adult cats, who bring live prey to the nest. Later, the adult cats demonstrate hunting techniques for the kittens to emulate. As they reach three to four weeks old, the kittens are gradually weaned and begin to eat solid food, with weaning usually complete by six to eight weeks. Kittens generally begin to lose their baby teeth around three months of age, and have a complete set of adult teeth by nine months. Kittens live primarily on solid food after weaning, but usually continue to suckle from time to time until separated from their mothers. Some mother cats will scatter their kittens as early as three months of age, while others continue to look after them until they approach sexual maturity.
Beyond the megamusical, Cats also led the Broadway trend for musicals aimed at families and tourists, which would later take the form of the Disney Theatrical Productions and jukebox musicals. The marketing campaigns for the musical targeted family audiences at a time when this demographic was not a consideration in the industry. Composer Joe Raposo said of family musicals in 1986: "Cats is a wonderful proof of what an audience is out there, untapped. People do want a theatrical experience for their children." Thanks to its easily accessible spectacle, the original Broadway production also tapped into the then-burgeoning tourist boom in New York and its audience shifted increasingly towards foreign visitors in its later years. Billington also specifically traces the rise of the jukebox musical genre back to Cats, citing the latter's disregard for dramatic text in favour of an all-encompassing theatrical experience.
The first Australian production ran from July 1985 to August 1987 at the Theatre Royal in Sydney. The original Sydney cast included Debra Byrne as Grizabella, Marina Prior as Jellylorum, Jeff Phillips as Rum Tum Tugger, David Atkins as Mistoffelees, and Anita Louise Combe as Sillabub. It then moved to Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne where it played from October 1987 to December 1988, with Femi Taylor as Bombalurina and Seán Martin Hingston as Plato/Macavity. From 1989 to 1990, the company toured the Festival Theatre in Adelaide, His Majesty's Theatre in Perth, Civic Theatre in Newcastle, Lyric Theatre in Brisbane, and the Aotea Centre in Auckland. This was followed by a second national tour from 1993 to 1996, during which Delia Hannah made her debut as Grizabella in 1994. A professional circus adaptation of Cats, titled Cats Run Away to the Circus, had a national tent tour from 1999 to 2001, with Hannah once again starring as Grizabella. Hannah reprised her role for another production that toured Australia and Asia in 2009 and 2010.
The stage production of Cats has undergone several revisions since its London opening. When the show transferred to Broadway, several cuts and rewrites were made with the intention of appealing more to an American audience. Additionally, a song entitled "Cat Morgan Introduces Himself" was cut during initial development. Lloyd Webber performed this song at the show's 6,138th Broadway performance, when it broke the record to become the longest-running Broadway show.
The musical returned to the West End in 2014 for a planned 12-week limited run at the London Palladium. Beginning on 6 December, the revival starred Nicole Scherzinger as Grizabella, and featured the original creative team, with direction from Nunn, choreography by Lynne and design by Napier. Lloyd Webber was also involved and rewrote "The Rum Tum Tugger" and "Growltiger's Last Stand" for the revival. The run was later extended through April 2015 and an additional 100,000 tickets were released, with Kerry Ellis replacing Scherzinger as Grizabella. The musical returned once again to the London Palladium for another limited run lasting from 23 October 2015 to 2 January 2016, starring Beverley Knight as Grizabella.
As of 2017, the domestic cat was the second-most popular pet in the U.S. by number of pets owned, after freshwater fish, with 95 million cats owned. As of 2017, it was ranked the third-most popular pet in the UK, after fish and dogs, with around 8 million being owned. The number of cats in the United Kingdom has nearly doubled since 1965, when the cat population was 4.1 million.