If your child is begging to add an animal to the family but you don’t think they’re ready just yet, a toy pet might be a good compromise. “Plus, until the whole family is ready for a live animal, toy pets can help teach kids the responsibility of real pets,” says Laurie Schacht, President and Chief Toy Officer of Adventure Media.
We researched the best toy pets, considering age recommendations, battery life, and interactive elements. Our list includes a playground of monkeys, a mediation mouse, and even a digital pet you might remember from the ‘90s.
Here are the best interactive toy dogs, cats, birds, and more for kids of all ages.
Little Live Pets Chameleon
Over 30 interactive sounds
Color may fade over time
Even non-reptile fans will fall in love with Sunny, the Bright Light Chameleon who changes colors to express her mood. When Sunny turns green to express happiness, kids will soak up her joy. They can even keep the good mood going by activating party mode, which causes Sunny to light up and play music.
And if Sunny turns red from anger or blue from sadness, kids can lift her spirits by patting her head, offering food, or speaking to her in a sweet tone. She may even chat back with one of her 30 programmed sounds.
Users love this “super cute” toy, but say it can be loud and easily activated by surrounding noise. To limit the unwanted music breaks, make sure to turn off party mode when not in use. Some customers also note that the toy’s color tends to fade easily from repeated use, but that doesn’t deter from the fun.
Fisher-Price Meditation Mouse
Helps manage and regulate emotions
Volume and length of sound recordings can’t be adjusted
Although Fisher-Price’s mouse doesn’t require the care of a real pet, it does provide the comfort of one. Created with toddlers in mind, the Meditation Mouse provides physical prompts and breathing exercises to help them unwind. During the day, you can squeeze the mouse’s belly to activate three minutes of guided meditation. Then at night, activate the bedtime wind-down exercise, which provides physical and breathing prompts.
If your child just needs some soothing tunes to keep calm, turn on the sounds only mode to hear 20 minutes of sounds or music. Kids can also press the Mouse's belly to make it glow, providing a little extra comfort.
Though many customers deem Meditation Mouse a life-saver, some say it lacks certain functions, like volume control or music timer, that would make it a perfect toy pet.
My Fuzzy Friends Koala
Programmed with over 50 sounds for endless entertainment
Comes with bamboo and brush for care
Can be difficult to turn off
Since you can’t have an actual koala as a pet, this cuddly creature from Skyrocket is the next best thing. The soft plush holds and nuzzles your arm, providing some much needed comfort after a bad day. It also is programmed with over 50 sounds, so you never know how it’ll react when you pet its head, wipe its nose, or tickle its belly. However, you'll know it’s happy if its cheeks light up.
The sounds, however, can be difficult to turn off. According to the toy’s instructions, a few pats on the head should do the job. Nevertheless, some customers said they didn't have the magic touch and, instead, had to take out the batteries to quiet the koala.
Munchkinz Interactive Pet Pig
Programmed with over 30 audible responses
Easy for kids to use on their own
Batteries not included
Younger children will adore Pickles the Pig, the tiny toy swine who enjoys chomping and chatting. Kids feed Pickles his favorite foods, which he actually chews and swallows. Once he’s done eating, change his diaper—i.e. open his back—to retrieve the food for his next meal.
Pickles does more than eat: The toy pig responds to sounds and movement. With over 30 sounds, Pickles has a plethora of responses that includes giggling, burping, and even talking back.
Fisher-Price 123 Crawl with Me Puppy
Helps develop gross motor skills, balance and coordination
Programmed with more than 55 songs, sounds, and educational phrases
Not suitable for bedtime snuggling
Perfect for children as young as 6 months, Fisher-Price’s 123 Crawl not only provides pet-like entertainment, but can also assist in your child’s development. With a simple tug on the sock, Puppy scoots backwards and forwards to encourage children to crawl after him.
Puppy also has three different learning levels that can be adjusted for your child’s age. In the first level, suited for ages 6 months, Puppy sings songs and says phrases that introduce colors and numbers. The second, for 12 months and older, uses playful prompts to help children search for shapes and colors, count from one to 10, and howl the alphabet. The third level encourages imagination for children 18 months and older through silly sounds and phrases that get toddlers moving and acting like their furry friend.
Keep in mind, kids are meant to play with this toy—not cuddle with it. Although the dog’s ears and tails are soft to the touch, its body is made of durable plastic. If you’re looking for something more snuggly, this is not the toy for you.
FurReal Friends Kami My Poopin Kitty
Noise limited to playtime
Teaches pet care responsibility
Batteries not included
Kami the Kitty provides the ultimate pet-owning experience—even the less glamorous parts. In addition to feeding her treats, kids have to take Kami for walks and clean up her poop using the provided baggie. If not, Kami will show her sadness with one of her dozens of sounds.
For families that like a quiet home, Kamie is the ideal toy, as she only makes noise when being fed, walked, or petted. Just leave her be, and she shuts off.
Former customers rave about the hours of fun Kami provides kids. Just make sure to buy AAA batteries with the toy, as they are not included.
Training tool for future pet owners
No volume control
A great gift for kids and adults, the Tamagotchi is the ultimate trainer for future pet parents. Introduced in the ‘90s, this virtual pet requires constant care. Use a series of button combinations to feed, play, discipline, and clean up after your Tamagotchi R2-D2 pet and help them grow into one of seven adult animals.
Tamagotchi pets haven’t gotten easier to take care of since the ‘90s, so make sure the person you’re buying for has the time to tend to them. Also, make sure they don’t mind noise: these creatures can be loud and there is no volume control.
Digimon Electronic Monster Toy
Compatible with classic Digimon devices
Can battle AI opponents
Can raise two monsters at once
Short battery life
The newest evolution of the classic Digimon device, Digimon X puts kids in charge of hatching and raising their own digital monster. But feeding and training your monster doesn’t just keep them alive—it helps them survive and thrive in the ultimate monster match with others.
Unlike the original version, the Digimon X allows you to battle AI opponents of varying strengths. Another upgrade: you can raise two monsters at once. The Digimon X is also backward compatible, so kids can connect to the classic versions for some epic battles.
Customers enjoy the toy, but say the Digimon X monsters require a bit more attention than their predecessors. This might be entertaining for some kids but frustrating for others, so make sure to discuss responsibilities with your child before purchasing.
Think Gizmos Pet Rabbit
Size and fur similar to a real rabbit
Interacts physically and audibly
Not suitable for bedtime snuggles
Customers say this toy pet is well worth the slightly higher price point. In addition to being the size of a real rabbit, Think Gizmos’ toy also has the same mannerisms and sounds. Kids love that the battery-operated toy will hop around the room or cluck for attention at the press of a button. Also, the rabbit makes the most adorable chewing sounds when fed.
Though it’s not a plush pet, the furry exterior is as soft as a real rabbit. That said, you still shouldn’t snuggle with it at night as you can feel the plastic frame underneath.
Fingerlings 2 Monkey Play Set
Jungle gym adds interactive element
Perfect for travel
Older children may get bored with the toy quickly
Normally sold as individual animals, Fingerlings respond to touch and sound by babbling, blinking, and turning their heads. But with this package, you get two cute creatures and a play set that maximizes the fun. Hang them by their tails on the monkey bars, push them on the swing, or seat them at the top of the castle.
Though customers love the play set for its interactive elements, they do note that older children get bored with the toy quickly. To get the most out of your money, consider purchasing the toy for children between 5 and 8 years old.
Baby Gund’s Sleepy Eyes Owl Soother
Tranquil sounds soother children to sleep
Gentle light-up belly creates a calming atmosphere
Battery chamber lid may be loose
What the Sleepy Eyes Owl Soother lacks in interaction, it makes up for in comfort. This cute, cuddly plush has two modes to ensure a solid night’s rest: nighttime soother mode, which plays tranquil sounds for 20 minutes, and sleepy eyes where the owl plays “Rock-a-Bye Baby” as its eyes drift to sleep. The Sleep Eyes Owl also has gentle LED lights in its belly to further calm kids.
Customers rave about the soother’s soft exterior and ability to lull kids to sleep. A few, however, note that the lid to the battery chamber can be a little loose. Because of this, it may be best to place it on a dresser or shelf rather than in bed with a child.
Fisca Remote Control Robotic Dog
Self-activating power-saving mode
Plays and dances to pre-programmed music
Battery must be removed to charged
Fisca’s robotic dog is essentially a furry friend—minus the fur, of course. With the help of a remote control, kids can make their plastic pup walk, sit, speak, and even spin its head. Kids can even program a series of actions, which the dog will then perform. This may require an adult’s help, providing some great bonding time for children and caretakers. After 2 minutes of rest, Fisca’s dog will be turned off automatically to conserve battery.
Fisca’s robotic dog uses a rechargeable battery, which is great for your wallet and the planet. The downside of this, however, is that the battery must be removed and charged after 60 minutes of play.
FurReal Cubby The Curious Bear
Programmed with over 100 sound-and-motion combinations
Nighttime mode helps lull children to sleep
Batteries not included
Cubby the Curious Bear is the ultimate interactive toy. During the day, the expressive plush gives hugs, plays peek-a-boo, and talks back when spoken to. He even dances, thanks to more than 100 pre-programmed sound-and-motion combinations. He also enjoys being fed from his bottle or given a treat and will show his gratitude with sweet noises. Come nighttime, Cubby closes his eyes, makes sleepy sounds, and plays soft music to help kids sleep.
All of these features do come at a cost, with Cubby being one of the more expensive toy pets on the market. You will also need to purchase the batteries separately.
Accessories ensure continued fun after baby has hatched
More responses revealed the more that HatchiBaby is played with
With most Hatchimals, the excitement ends once the egg has hatched. But with HatchiBabies, the fun keeps going. Inside each egg is a set of glittery accessories that allows kids to care for their HatchiBaby: a crystal rattle, a hairbrush, a bottle, and a mini Hatchimal doll. When kids use these items to care for their HatchiBaby, the toy responds by rocking, moving its beak, or changing its eye color. The more kids care for and play with their HatchiBaby, the more responses they’ll unlock.
These fun features come with a high price tag, but hundreds of rave reviews argue that the HatchiBabies are worth it.
Little Live Pets Slap Bracelets
Doubles as an accessory
Responds to vocal and physical interactions
Short battery life
Wrapples are the furry friend you can take anywhere—no carrier required. The tail of these toy pets is actually a slap band that wraps around your wrist, with a velcro strip to double down on security.
But the Wrapple is more than an accessory: You have to care for it by petting its head, tickling its side, and rocking it to sleep. If not, its eyes go from green to red. You can also talk to your Wrapple, who will happily talk back, or meet up with another Wrapple to hear the due chat and sing.
Despite a high-pitched voice, customers agree it’s not that noisy or annoying to hear. Several did note that the battery has a short life, so make sure to stock up when purchasing your Wrapple.
What to Look for in Toy Pets
As with any toy, Schacht emphasizes looking at the age on the box. “[The age on the package] is there for a few reasons, and the most important is safety,” she says. Schacht explains that if the package says 3+, chances are there are small parts, which can pose a choking hazard to children younger than that age bracket. "The age recommendation also ensures the toy won’t be too challenging or boring for the age of the child you are purchasing for," she explains.
Material is less about the longevity of the toy and more about the comfort aspect. If you are purchasing for a younger child, for example, Schacht suggests looking for a toy pet that is “soft and tactile, as often these best friends are also bedtime companions.” For older children who may be more interested in the technical element, a robot-like toy may be more appropriate.
Toy pets often fall into one of two categories: virtual and physical. The former, according to Schacht, are typically small and require constant care. The latter can also require care, though it’s minimal. These types of toy pets are more focused on entertainment, as Schacht explains these can respond to your voice, be trained to do tricks, or light up their whole body so you know how they are feeling. It’s important to determine what your child wants out of their toy pet before purchasing.
Can you buy a robot dog?
In short, yes. There are several robot toy dogs on the market such as Fisca’s Remote Control Robotic Dog, RACPNEL’s Remote Control Robot Dog, and yiman’s Remote Control Robot Dog, to name a few. These types of toys can range in price from $30 to $150. But if you’re looking for an actual robot dog, that will cost you a bit more. Chinese firm Unitree Robotics sells Unitree Go1, a robust-looking four-legged bot, for $2,700.
What was the first robotic pet?
The first robotic pet, according to Guinness World Records, was the Furby. Introduced in 1998, these furry, Gremlin-like creatures had to be fed and pet in order to thrive. If, however, you are looking for the first robotic version of an actual pet, that would be the AIBO robotic dog. Released by SONY in 1999, Slate reports that the $2,000 toy could do normal dog things, like bark and perform a few tricks. Both robotic pets have been updated and re-released since their initial debut.
What is a Tamagotchi pet?
Tamagotchi is a virtual pet game that surged to popularity in the late ‘90s. First released in Japan by the company Bandai, Tamagotchi requires “owners” to take care of their pets using three buttons on the device. Through various combos, owners can feed, play, discipline, and clean up after their pet. The goal is to keep your pet alive as long as possible. Various blogs report that the longest living Tamagotchi pet was 145 “years” old. One day in human life is equivalent to one year in Tamagotchi life—but most pets live seven to 14 “years.”
Although many refer to the pet as a Tamagotchi, the name actually refers to the shape of the device, as Tamagotchi translates into “small egg.”
Why Trust The Spruce?
For this article, Leah Rocketto, a writer who has spent years covering parenting content with a focus on kids’ toys, performed hours of research on products and consulted Laurie Schacht, the President and Chief Toy Officer of Adventure Media. Schacht has spent more than 20 years evaluating and selecting the top toys on the market.