The Tom and Jerry series is very popular due to its violent and comedic fight between a common pair of enemies, the common house cat and mouse. The plots of each short usually center on Tom's numerous attempts to capture Jerry and the mayhem and destruction that ensues. Since Tom rarely attempts to eat Jerry and because the pair actually seem to get along in some cartoon shorts, it is unclear why Tom chases Jerry so much. Some reasons given may include normal feline/murine enmity, duty according to his owner, Jerry's attempt at ruining a task that Tom is entrusted with, Jerry eating Tom's master's food which Tom has been entrusted with safeguarding, revenge, Jerry saving other potential prey (such as ducks, canaries, or goldfish) from being eaten by Tom, competition with another cat, and Jerry ruining Tom's attempts to seduce feline femme fatales of which Jerry does either out of disgust or jealousy, among other reasons.
Tom rarely succeeds in catching Jerry, mainly because of Jerry's cleverness, cunning abilities, and luck. Interestingly enough, many of the title cards show Tom and Jerry smiling at each other which seems to depict a love-hate relationship rather than the extreme annoyance each displays towards the other in each cartoon. There are also several instances within the cartoons where they display genuine friendship ("Springtime for Thomas") and concern for each other's well-being (such as in "Jerry and the Lion" where Jerry in one instance tricks Tom into thinking he has shot Jerry, and Tom comes running with the first aid kit).
The short episodes are famous for some of the most violent gags ever devised in theatrical animation: Jerry slicing Tom in half, shutting his head in a window or a door, Tom using everything from axes, pistols, explosives, traps and poison to try to murder Jerry, Jerry stuffing Tom's tail in a waffle iron and a mangle, kicking him into a refrigerator, plugging his tail into an electric socket, pounding him with a mace, club or mallet, causing a tree or an electric pole to drive him into the ground, sticking matches into his feet and lighting them, and so on. Despite all its popularity, Tom and Jerry has often been criticized as excessively violent. Despite the frequent violence, there is no blood or gore in any scenes in the original cartoons that made the pair a household name. However, in a very rare instance, when Tom gets sliced into pieces in the opening credits of Tom and Jerry:The Movie, blood is clearly visible. A recurring gag involves Jerry hitting Tom when he's preoccupied, with Tom initially oblivious to the pain”and only feeling the effects moments later, and vice versa; and another involves Jerry stopping Tom in midchase (as if calling for a time-out), before he does something, usually putting the hurt on Tom.