He is a domesticated house pet with similar mannerisms to a cat, most notably his "meow" sound, as snails are the underwater equivalent to cats in the show. It has been suggested that SpongeBob has had Gary ever since he was a young boy. The episode "Treats!" reveals that Gary was adopted by SpongeBob. In "Plankton's Pet" SpongeBob reveals to have bought Gary at the animal shelter.
Gary was created as a minor joke character that would appear in the background of SpongeBob's bedroom, just like SpongeBob's pet scallop Shelley. However, as the series progressed, Gary developed a personality of his own beyond just saying "meow." He was eventually added to the show's Main Model Pack and became one of the ten main characters.
Gary was the only child of Sluggo Star and an unrevealed mother.
At one point, he was adopted by SpongeBob at the local animal shelter. In "Treats!" a picture is shown of the moment SpongeBob picked him out, showing that Gary spent his early childhood at the pound with three other snails. However, this is later retconned, as another source claims that SpongeBob met Gary at Camp Coral.
One day, Gary betrayed SpongeBob in exchange for Patrick, though this was only done to retrieve a cookie from Patrick's pocket, and Gary subsequently returned to his original owner.
However, at some point, Gary moved out of Bikini Bottom and into Bass Vegas in response to SpongeBob's unintentional negligence. He was thereafter taken in and sheltered by an elderly woman named Granny, who mistook him for one of her snails.
Once Gary discovered SpongeBob was looking for him and finding out Granny’s motive, he escaped her house and returned to Bikini Bottom to reunite with SpongeBob.
One day, SpongeBob received a chatterbox translation collar in the mail for Gary which the latter used as a means of communicating with his peers without meowing. It eventually got stolen by Squidward, thus ending his own with it.
At various points, Gary has worked for the Krusty Krab, typically as a waiter or as a fry cook in "A Pal for Gary" and "Gary's Got Legs." At one point, he was hired to get rid of all the ick contamination on everyone. At another point, he was hired as the restaurant's bouncer.
When SpongeBob made his restaurant called SpongeBob's Place, Gary was hired as the cashier.
Gary is a sea snail with a pink shell with purplish-blue spots and a red spiral. He has eye antennas that hold together his scarlet-green eyes with orange-red pupils. The sides of his body are light blue and his belly is green. He is known to create trails of slime when crawling. Even though he is typically seen without legs, "Your Shoe's Untied" reveals that he has legs and wears shoes. He is shown with legs again in "SpongeBob's Last Stand," and this eventually becomes a plot point of "Gary's Got Legs."
Being a snail, which is to Bikini Bottom what cats are to the real world, Gary is only able to communicate by saying "Meow."
In many episodes, Gary has exhibited great intelligence to the point of anthropomorphism. In "The Secret Box," Gary responds to SpongeBob's question with "Meow-no." SpongeBob does not think much of it and brushes off his remarks on account of Gary just being a snail, implying Gary spoke to him before. In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, the Bikini Bottomites are chanting "All hail Plankton," while Gary monotonously chants, "Meow, Plankton." His intelligence is best exhibited in "Sleepy Time" where his dream counterpart is revealed to own a library and has an extremely intellectual mindset, having the ability to cite literature. His wise demeanor is also shown in "Chatterbox Gary" where he exercises his sophisticated vocabulary to describe his owner and peers. In "Jellyfish Hunter," it is revealed that he pays the electric bill.
Gary is usually voiced by Tom Kenny, but in two episodes, he was voiced by different voice actors:
In "Gary Takes a Bath," Gary snatches a ladder away from the tree that SpongeBob is stuck in, eliminating his option to escape safely. However, this did not cause any true harm to SpongeBob, who simply fell in the mud.
In "Once Bitten," he becomes aggressive and bites several of the Bottomites as a result of the pain that a splinter is inflicting. Even after said splinter is removed, Gary bites Mr. Krabs. However, this was done completely out of pain.
In "The Thing," Gary viciously attacks Squidward despite him having done nothing wrong. However, this is common for pets to do.
In "Grooming Gary," Gary joins the other pets in rioting against their respective owners for fancying his personality, which he did not want in the first place. However, this was done out of respect for himself and the other pets, who were being mistreated and shown off against their wills.
In "House Worming," Gary kicks SpongeBob out of his own home, although this was done out of self-defense.
In "Chatterbox Gary," Gary throws a walkie-talkie in Squidward's throat in retaliation for interfering with his translation collar. However, it was Squidward's fault in the first place.
He has a passion for animal rights and not being subject to things he does not want to do.
Abilities and talents
Gary helps SpongeBob tie his shoes in "Your Shoe's Untied," revealing that he wears brown shoes on his feet that are hidden under his body.
As seen in "Gary Takes a Bath," Gary can levitate and teleport. Gary has been to many places, including the large Bass Vegas.
In the episode "Tutor Sauce," Gary is shown to be a good driver, as he can drive a boatmobile through the most dangerous road in Bikini Bottom with no issue whatsoever, except the cops stopping the boat.
Gary has had several episodes that center around him or relate to him:
"I Was a Teenage Gary": When SpongeBob has Squidward come to take care of him, Gary becomes starved and sick.
"Dumped": Gary runs away from home to be with Patrick to get the cookie out of his pocket.
"Gary Takes a Bath": Gary tries to escape SpongeBob's plans to get him to take a bath.
"The Great Snail Race": SpongeBob becomes a strict coach and is obsessed with winning the race trophy with Gary's poor body.
"Have You Seen This Snail?": Gary runs away from home after not being fed and Granny takes him in, thinking that he is a lost pet. Gary later finds out that SpongeBob is looking for him and that his new owner wants to feed him to death, so he escapes and returns to SpongeBob.
"Once Bitten": Squidward's anti-snail defense log affects Gary and he bites Bikini Bottomites, including SpongeBob, making them think that they are zombies.
"Fungus Among Us": Gary is the first one to make the solution by eating away the ick.
SpongeBob is Gary's owner and closest friend. SpongeBob often goes to Gary for advice when no else can help him. Although Gary often finds himself irritated by SpongeBob's naivety and falls victim to negligence and pressure by him at times, the two always get back on good terms in the end.
Patrick is Gary's cousin, as shown on a family tree in "Rule of Dumb." The two of them spend the whole time together in "Dumped," though it was only because Gary wanted the cookie in Patrick's pocket.
The two seem to have a good friendship, however, due to Patrick's stupidity, Gary is cruelly mistreated by him in "Pet Sitter Pat" and nearly gets killed by him when Patrick shoots a flamethrower at Gary. In "Yours, Mine and Mine" Patrick removed Gary from his friend list for being a "non-sharer"; however, Gary did not care.
Plankton and Gary have an enemy relationship. Gary hates Plankton, and sometimes attacks or tricks him while Plankton hates Gary because he does not let him get the secret formula. This is shown in "Pineapple Invasion", and "Shellback Shenanigans" when Gary fought Plankton for trying to get the secret formula. Plankton also enslaved Gary in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
Spot is Gary's best friend. It's revealed in "Gary & Spot" that they leave their homes every night to play with each other. Their favorite thing to do together is wrestling. They are shown to have good teamwork when they rescued the other animals in the shelter and gave Marvin a girlfriend made of slime after realizing he's just lonely.
Gary plays a much more major role than as a background character in The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run compared to the first two films, where he is snailnapped and it is up to SpongeBob and Patrick to go find him.
The episodes "Your Shoe's Untied" and "Earworm" show Gary having a record player under his shell.
SpongeBob sometimes nicknames Gary "Gare Bear" or just "Gare."
In "Karate Island," when SpongeBob is waxing Gary's shell, he finds his favorite novelty T-shirt that says, "I love Krabby Patties" in a pile of junk inside his shell.
Aside from his trademark "Meow," Gary can say the words "Plankton," "Yeah!," and "No!"
In the first teaser trailer for The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, Gary is shown enjoying taking a bath with SpongeBob as the latter plays with his water toys, even though Gary is shown to hate taking baths.
It is revealed in The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water that Gary hates mayonnaise.
The scene from "Help Wanted" in which SpongeBob wakes up and greets Gary originally ended with Gary taking a bite from a cactus, about garden snails' tendency to feed on succulent plants. The book Not Just Cartoons: Nicktoons! features the original storyboard of this scene.