The one-hour long television adaptation produced in 1988 featured four different* "lives." (consequently leaving out four of the lives in the book: "The Vikings", "Babes and Bullets", the "Exterminators" and "Primal Self". "Babes and Bullets" was adapted into a television special of its own the following year: "Garfield's Babes and Bullets", which won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program of 1989.)
- "In the Beginning": Unlike the rest of the special, this prologue sequence is shot in live-action. (The scene where the angels question why God gives cats nine lives varies slightly from the storybook version; God's feline features are not seen—yet; he simply states that it might make a good jumping-off point for a good story.) This highly controversial scene was one of the many factors leading to Jim Davis' eventual spirit quest and subsequent holy book.
- "Cave Cat"*: In the Stone Age, the first cat crawls out of the sea and is domesticated. Cave Cat also dies when a giant reptilian dog (who resembles Odie and is named Big Bob) attempts to play fetch with Cave Cat, crushing him with a tree which Big Bob uses as a fetch stick. (This is probably why cats dislike dogs and why Garfield torments Odie.)
- "King Cat"*: In the ancient Egypt, the pharaoh's cat discovers what happens to him if the Pharaoh dies.
- "The Garden"*:Chloe and her orange kitten play in a garden built by her uncle Todd.When uncle Todd joined the circus,Chloe is in charge of it. But there is a chest not to open. They want to open the chest. The pair approach the chest, and after much suspence they decided not to open it, and they stay in the garden forever.
- "Court Musician"*: The king demands a concerto from the court musician, and if the king doesn't enjoy it ... Under the pressure of a deadline and the jester,who wants the musician executed for an unknown reason, "Freddie" delegates part of the work to his pet, one of Garfield's incarnations, a blue cat in this life,which apparently leads to the invention of jazz.
- "Stunt Cat"*: Garfield is (briefly) a stunt cat for Krazy Kat. As Garfield explains before it starts, this life was his shortest.
- "Diana's Piano"*: A young girl, Sara, receives a cat, Diana, who goes with her everywhere, especially to lessons. (This is the only one of Garfield's lives, in either the book or movie, where the cat is explicitly identified as female.) This story is told in flashback. The images are reminiscent of paintings. This story is closer than any of the others to reality; the cat, Diana, is just a normal cat.
- "Lab Animal"*: At a secret lab, lab specimen 19-GB got an unusual injection. Then when he hears he's going to be dissected,he makes a daring escape. After swimming across a river, the injection made him a dog. Luckily for 19-GB, he became the same species of dog the lab sent out to find him,allowing him to blend in with the other dogs.(This is probably why Garfield dislike going to the vet and he said that whenever he sees a test tube,he throws up.)
- "Garfield"*: Present day Garfield meets lasagna,Jon and Odie.
- "Space Cat"*: A "sneak preview" of his 9th life,Garfield and Odie try to retaliate when an enemy space fleet (led by "Admiral Mendelson",named after Film Roman producer Lee Mendelson)threatens to destroy them.
- Garfield and Odie are killed in the end of Space Cat, and meet God in the afterlife. Because of the "unfair position" they were in,(and because God's computers were "on the blink" and wasn't able to keep track of the number of lives) the pair were given all 9 lives back. As they vanish, the special concludes when God, with his cat-like eyes now visible,says "We have to stick together, you know."
The epilogue for this special differs in two crucial ways from the one in the original book. In the movie segment, a cloning machine ensures that Odie is present in the flesh with Garfield in his ninth life. Secondly, whereas in the book, the events of "Space Cat" were revealed to be just a highly advanced computer simulation (most likely a game,) Garfield and Odie perish in this segment; however, they are allowed to meet God. ("God" is apparently modelled on pictures on Lorenzo Music, Garfield's long time voice.) Because the odds were so unfairly stacked against them in this last life, Garfield succeeds in convincing God to restore both himself and Odie to life; also, because Heaven's computers are down at the moment, they don't have the records of how many lives Garfield has already lived, so Garfield gets his full nine lives back (at Odie's prodding, Garfield covers for Odie, who also receives nine lives.) The segment ends with God noting that 'We have to stick together,you know.' as his yellow, slitted feline eyes glow momentarily (this deliberately echoes the scene from the book's version of 'In the Beginning,' where God's features are shown briefly, to explain why God grants cats nine lives.) This implies that God grants Garfield and Odie their new chance not because of computer problems, but because of his fondness for cats. Both the book and the movie joke that cats,not man,are created in God's image.