The rise of the lifelike plush pet for older (and younger) people

Aug 27, 2021
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Love is a fluffy dog to come home to, or a cat to stroke on your lap while you watch television. And now, older and younger people who are unable to enjoy the company of a real pet can have the next best thing thanks to these lifelike, cuddly and furry pets. 

There is a bell-shaped curve on the adoption of stuffed animals, with older people one of the strongest buyers of lifelike pets in recent years. It’s a trend that many don’t talk about, but comes from a need for touch and tactile sensory stimulation, which is so important in later years, when people have less physical interaction with others. 

For my best friend, the shift from real pet to plush pet for her mum became a reality when her mother sadly started showing signs of dementia at the age of 87. Her home-care helper noticed that she was not remembering to take her beloved dog Dixie outside for regular breaks, so they eventually made the tough decision to take Dixie home to their own family. 

Dixie was a fond memory for her mum, so it was a tough change to make in her life. But the way they managed the shift was to give her mum a lifelike plush dog that looked very similar. As her mum aged, she eventually had to go into aged care, but she was able to take her plush “Dixie” with her, to sit on the end of her bed. 

The innovations in lifelike plush animals have been huge in recent years. These are now so much more than just soft toys. They’re often gifted by relatives to those who are living alone and are unable to manage a pet but who have fond memories of a departed dog or cat. They are often also gifted to people in aged care, and make an amazing therapy support for those with dementia or autism. 

What’s more, the grandkids also love them! They can be a quick, inexpensive way to slow the begging for a puppy or kitten. 

The dogs and cats come in realistic, life-sized versions with lifelike fur, and are fully machine washable. They are suited for ages three and up, and make a beautiful companion. It’s a nice gift to consider in these times of Covid-19 lockdowns, when family can feel so far apart. 

We’ve profiled the seven most popular plush pets for ageing relatives below. 



Starsky is a really cute, very realistic, black-and-white stuffed plush Border Collie dog. Starsky is an excellent choice for patients with dementia or autism, helping to  reduce anxiety and increase happiness. He is a quality-made, lying-down plushie, measuring 38cm/15″ from the front paw to the end of the torso.



Woodrow is a lying Piebald cat in black and white and is a very realistic plush toy. Piebald cats are also called bicolour cats, known for their big white spots. Woodrow is a premium-quality, handmade, soft, long-haired cat, and is very cuddly. He measures 36cm/14″ in length, excluding the tail, and lays beautifully on a lap, bed or couch. 


Sheffield is a standing Chantilly cat in a solid black colour and is a realistic soft plush toy. Chantilly cats are also known as Tiffany cats or Chantilly-Tiffany cats. These cats have some of the most unique-looking yellow eyes, which stand out against the dark fur. Their tails are usually held in a curled position over their backs. Sheffield is a premium-quality, handmade, standing, long-haired cat and measures 27cm/10.5″ in height.  Or, if you’d rather a lying Chantilly cat, take a look at gorgeous Onyx.




Snuggles is a realistic plush dog toy in a lying position. This loveable, cuddly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel toy is an excellent choice for patients with dementia, helping to reduce anxiety and increase happiness. King Charles Spaniels were originally bred to warm laps in drafty castles and on chilly carriage rides. In fact, one of Snuggles’ real-life ancestors was prescribed to sit on the lap of the Queen of England to treat her cold!


Spencer is absolutely beautiful, with long silky fur that can be brushed using a regular pet brush. He is an ideal comfort toy, measuring 62cm/25″ from the tip of his nose to the back of his trunk.

Spencer the Extra Large Golden Retriever


Snowflake is a lying Persian cat in a solid white colour and is a realistic soft plush toy.  Traditional Persians are also known as Doll Face. She is a premium-quality, handmade, long-haired blue-eyed cat and is very cuddly, measuring 36cm/14.1″ in length, excluding the tail.

Snowflake the Persian cat


Noodles is a sitting Siamese cat and is a realistic soft plush toy. This Siamese is a seal point, due to the cream body and dark-brown points. It has blue, almond-shaped eyes, a triangular head shape, large ears, an elongated slender and muscular body and various forms of point colouration. 

There’s an enormous range of plush pets that you can take your pick from, here


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