Electronic animals definitely seem to be a big theme in Christmas toys this year. Earlier in the week we reported on the rush to snap up a GoGo Hamster. But Mr Squiggles and Chunk aren't the only pretend pets vying for your affection this year. Technology has advanced to the extent that these toys are much more sophisticated than they used to be, and will go quite a long way to mimicking a real animal's behaviour.
Take a look at LuLu My Cuddlin' Kitty for starters. Just like a real cat, when you pet her she purrs and miaows, rolls back, moves her head and looks into your eyes. Unlike a real cat, she doesn't poop in the recycling box or attack your toes when you're reading the paper. I can see the attraction.
Alas for LuLu, she's not the most photogenic of creatures and does tend to look quite odd in pictures, though in real life she's got a lot more charm. Widely available from around £38.
But if your child wants a more exotic pet, here are some options:
Here's Zambi the Baby Elephant, who's part of Hasbro's FurReal range. He looks kind of sad, doesn't he? There are sensors on Zambi's trunk, chest and back that can be touched and tickled to make him respond - he can wiggle his ears, move his trunk up and down, and make chewing and trumpeting sounds. He'll even curl his trunk around your finger and blow you a kiss. Did I say he looked sad? That's part of his charm. That's how George Clooney works too.
And Zambi's also a charity fundraiser - 50% of international profits from sales of this toy will be given to the Chikumbuso Women's and Orphans' Project, helping children in Zambia who have lost their parents to AIDS. The children have created the pattern inside Zambi's ears and on the included charity bracelet. So whilst he's not cheap at around £40, a proportion of that is going to a good cause. And if you're quick, he's currently on a half price offer at John Lewis. I guess you could always buy it at a discount and make your own donation to charity.
But my favourite of all the animals aiming for a place in the toy menagerie are these mini cuties from WowWee. These are gorgeous little animated baby animals that behave and sound just like the real thing when stroked and played with, making seven different sounds to reflect their moods. They also come with a little bottle which can be used to feed them. WowWee Alive Minis retail around £19.99 and come in Lion, White Tiger, Panda and Leopard varieties.
And finally, if you want something more traditional, check out the range of animal puppets at Fiesta Crafts. If you've ever wanted a monkey, penguin, crow or badger, they'll sort you out.