A stray tom tabby cat is chased by a dog, and nearly gets run down by a car. He hides from the dog in a delivery truck, which drives to New York City. The tomcat hears the disembodied voice of a young girl pleading for help because something is threatening her. The cat is then captured by an employee of Quitters, Inc.
Smoker Dick Morrison is advised by a friend to join Quitters, Inc. to kick his habit. Clinic counselor Vinnie Donatti explains that the clinic has a 100% success rate due to a uniquely persuasive method: every time Dick smokes a cigarette, horrors of increasing magnitude will befall his wife and child.
Using the tomcat that Donatti's assistant Junk has caught in the street, Donatti demonstrates the first of these horrors: the cat is locked in a cage and tormented with electric shocks. Donatti explains that if his new client should be caught with a cigarette, Dick's wife Cindy will be subjected to the same shocks while he is forced to watch. For subsequent infractions, his young daughter (afflicted with Down Syndrome) will be subjected to the shocks, then his wife raped, and after the fourth infraction, they give up. Not wanting to worry them, Dick hides the looming threat from his family.
That night, Dick is angered by the methods Quitters uses and notices a pack of cigarettes in his desk. He prepares to smoke one, but notices a pair of feet in his closet, realizing Quitters Inc. is serious about their threat to ensure he is not smoking. The following day, Dick visits his daughter and gives her a doll. Donatti is also at the school, warning Dick that if he strays the only thing his daughter would understand is that someone is hurting her because her father misbehaved.
During a stressful traffic jam, Dick loses his will and smokes after finding an old forgotten pack of cigarettes in his glove box, not realizing he is being watched by Junk in a nearby car. After watching Cindy suffer in the electric cage, an enraged Dick attacks Donatti and Junk, allowing the tomcat to escape in the scuffle. After regaining the upper hand, Donatti says he understands and forgives Dick. Dick is determined never to smoke again and tells his wife everything, after which they embrace.
Time passes, and Dick is apparently smoke free at last, but has put on a little weight as a result of quitting. Dr. Donatti prescribes diet pills and sets a target weight for Dick. Dick jokingly asks what will happen if he continues to gain weight, whether a man would attack his house with a flame thrower. Donatti chuckles and says that's not what they have in mind; instead someone will cut off his wife's pinky finger. Later Dick and his wife have a dinner party with the friends who recommended Quitters, Inc., and they toast the company for a job well done. As she raises her glass, Dick discovers Donatti was not joking around: his friend's wife is missing her little finger.
The tomcat (having escaped Quitters, Inc. and left Manhattan via the Staten Island Ferry) briefly befriends a group of vagrants and travels to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where it hears the same disembodied girl's voice asking for his help. Meanwhile, gambler and former tennis pro Johnny Norris is involved with a woman whose jealous husband, Cressner, is a crime boss and casino owner. Cressner, who will bet on anything, wins a wager that the cat will successfully cross the busy road outside his casino. He takes the tomcat home.
Cressner has Norris kidnapped. As revenge, Cressner blackmails Norris into a dangerous ordeal: he must circumnavigate the narrow exterior ledge of Cressner's penthouse apartment in a skyscraper. If he can make it all the way around, Cressner will grant his wife a divorce. If Norris refuses, Cressner will call the police and have him arrested for possession of drugs, which have been planted in Norris' Mustang by a henchman named Albert.
Norris agrees. Cressner harasses Norris by startling him with a horn and turning on a fire hose at the halfway point to keep Norris from lingering. A pigeon lands beside Norris and pecks at his foot, to the point of causing it to bleed. Despite these distractions and a moment alone hanging from a dislodged neon sign, Norris makes it back to the apartment. Cressner says he honors his bet: the drugs have been removed; Norris can have a bagful of cash and "his wife", as evidenced by her severed head. Norris springs upon Cressner, while Albert is tripped by the cat and drops his gun. Norris uses the gun to shoot Ducky, then points it at Cressner. Norris forces Cressner to undergo the same ordeal on the ledge. The tomcat watches as Cressner loses his balance and falls to his death.
The Tomcat hops a freight train and travels to Wilmington, North Carolina, where it is adopted by a little girl, Amanda, who names him General. The cat runs afoul of the girl's mother, who believes he will harm their parakeet, Polly.
Despite Amanda's protests, her mother puts General out at night. As a consequence, he is unable to protect Amanda from a small, malevolent troll that he witnessed taking up residence in the house. When Amanda sleeps, the troll emerges via a retractable hole in one of the walls in Amanda's room. The troll slays the parakeet with a tiny dagger and then tries to steal Amanda's breath. General finds a way into the house and battles the troll. After wounding the cat's shoulder with his dagger, the troll quickly finds itself outmatched by an enraged General. It successfully flees, leaving Amanda and her parents to discover the death of the bird. The parents are convinced that General killed Polly, but the father discovers a wound on the Tomcat too large to have been caused by a parakeet. He starts to doubt the mother's belief that General slew the bird.
General is then taken to the animal shelter by the mother to be euthanized the next day. When night falls, the troll returns and uses a small rubber bookshelf to wedge the child's room door shut from the inside. Again it attempts to take the sleeping girl's breath. Meanwhile, at the animal shelter, General manages to escape when his last meal is brought. He rushes back to Amanda's house, which he enters by way of the chimney.
General arrives in the nick of time to save Amanda and again battles the troll, causing a great deal of noise. Knowing that he is no match for the cat, the small creature tries to flee. But General cuts off the troll's escape route by knocking down a thick hardcover storybook, covering the wall hole. Grabbing on to a bunch of foil balloons, the troll tries to float out of the furious cat's reach, landing on Amanda's record player. The quick-witted tomcat then uses the record player to hurl the troll into a box fan, slicing it to bits. The ruckus awakens Amanda's parents, who are initially prevented by the blocked door from reaching her. Once they break into her room, the girl explains to them that General saved her from the troll. The parents are at first unwilling to believe the story until parts of the troll's dismembered corpse are discovered, as well as the tiny dagger that had caused General's wound. Amanda uses the justification that General will keep her safe in case others like her first assailant appear, and General is allowed to stay inside at night to act as a protector for Amanda.
The next morning, General sneaks into the parents' bedroom (where Amanda was sleeping) and climbs onto Amanda's stomach. He then licks her face. She wakes up and (excited to see him) cuddles him.Drew Barrymore as Our Girl/Amanda/Alicia MorrisonJames Woods as Dick MorrisonCandy Clark as Sally AnnAlan King as Dr. Vinny DonattiRobert Hays as Johnny NorrisKenneth McMillan as CressnerJames Naughton as HughJames Rebhorn as Drunk BusinessmanCharles S. Dutton as DomMike Starr as DuckyFrank Welker as the voice of the cat and the troll.
Cat's Eye received positive reviews from critics, as the film currently holds a 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 26 reviews.
The film was released theatrically in the United States by MGM on April 12, 1985. It grossed $13,086,298 at the domestic box office.
The film was released on DVD by Warner Home Video in 2004.
The film was released on Blu-ray Disc by Warner Home Video on September 20, 2016.
The film was nominated for the International Fantasy Film Award for Best Film in 1987. Drew Barrymore was nominated for the Young Artist Award for Best Starring Performance by a Young Actress in a Motion Picture in 1986.