Davis has written (or in some cases co-written) all of the Emmy Award-winning or nominated Garfield TV specials and was one of the producers behind the Garfield & Friends TV show which aired on CBS from 1988 to 1995. Davis is the writer and executive producer of a trilogy of C.G.-direct-to-video feature films about Garfield, as well as one of the executive producers and the creator for the new CGI-animated TV series The Garfield Show. He continues to work on the strip.
Born in Marion, Indiana, Davis grew up on a small farm in Fairmount, Indiana, with his father James William Davis, mother Anna Catherine (Carter) Davis, brother Dave and 25 cats. Davis' childhood on a farm parallels the life of Garfield's owner, Jon Arbuckle, who was also raised on a farm with his parents and a brother, Doc Boy. Jon is a cartoonist, who also celebrates his birthday on July 28. Davis attended Ball State University. While attending Ball State, he became a member of the Theta Xi fraternity.
Ironically, considering his fame as a cartoonist who draws a cat, Davis' first wife Carolyn (Altekruse) was allergic to cats although they owned a dog named Molly. They have a son, James Alexander Davis. On July 16, 2000, Davis married his current wife Jill. They have three children: James, Ashley and Christopher.
Davis resides in Albany, Indiana, where he and his staff produce Garfield under his Paws, Inc. company, launched in 1981. Paws, Inc. employs nearly 50 artists and licensing administrators, who work with agents around the world managing Garfield's vast licensing, syndication, and entertainment empire.
Davis is a former President of the Fairmount, Indiana, FFA chapter.
Prior to creating Garfield, Davis worked for a local advertising agency and in 1969 began assisting Tom Ryan's comic strip, Tumbleweeds. He then created a comic strip, Gnorm Gnat, that ran for five years in The Pendleton Times, an Indiana newspaper. Davis tried to sell it to a national comic strip syndicate, but an editor told him, "Your art is good, your gags are great, but bugs — nobody can relate to bugs!"
On June 19, 1978, Garfield started syndication in forty-one newspapers. Things were going well until the Chicago Sun-Times canceled the strip, prompting an outcry from 1,300 readers. Garfield was reinstated and the strip quickly became the fastest selling comic strip in the world. Today it is syndicated in 2,400 newspapers and is read by approximately 200,000,000 readers each day.
In the 1988-1994 cartoon series Garfield and Friends, one episode ("Mystic Manor") has a scene where Garfield slid down a fireman's pole in a haunted house, and Davis has a brief cameo as himself drawing a cartoon.
In the 1980s, Davis also made the barnyard slapstick comic strip U.S. Acres, featuring Orson the Pig. Outside the U.S., the strip was known as Orson's Farm. Davis also made a 2000-2003 strip based on the toy Mr. Potato Head with Brett Koth.
In 2005, Davis appeared in the music video "Lazy Muncie", a video inspired by the Saturday Night Live video "Lazy Sunday". Long before that, in the 1980s, he appeared on the sitcom The Ted Knight Show as himself.
Most recently, Jim Davis founded The Professor Garfield Foundation, to support children’s literacy.