Actress Catherine Burns originated the role of Cathy Craig from 1969 until 1970. The role was then assumed by actress Amy Levitt from 1970 through May 1971, when she was replaced by actress Jane Alice Brandon. Brandon appeared on One Life to Live from May 1971 through October 1972, when series creator Agnes Nixon recast the role again to Dorrie Kavanaugh.
Dorrie Kavanaugh played Cathy longer than any other actress in the role, from October 1972 until June 1976, until she was fired by executive producer Doris Quinlan. In late 1975, actress Robin Strasser was offered a long-term contract with the series to take up the role but declined upon the knowledge that Kavanaugh would be fired to accommodate the recast. Strasser would later go on to be the permanent replacement of Claire Mallis following a brief recast in the role of Dr. Dorian Lord.
The role of Cathy was created by series creator Agnes Nixon as one of the first feminists on American soap operas. Amy Levitt's portrayals of an increasingly drug-addled Cathy earned national coverage by media outlets who praised the show for its realistic showcase of addiction and drug rehabilitation. The last actress to play Cathy, Jennifer Harmon, earned a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1978, the first nomination in the category for the show.