NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A sweet, wriggly puppy is on many children's wish lists, but parents who aren't ready to make the leap just yet are looking to pet-like toys as the next best thing. They are affordable and guaranteed to keep the sofa scratch free.
Experts at Toys "R" Us have identified play pets as the leading holiday toys of 2014. "Pet Shop" boutiques have been set up in front of Toys "R" Us stores nationwide, making it easier for gift-givers and last-minute shoppers to find lifelike pups, fluttering butterflies or chirping birds.
"Overall, the pet trend this year has been especially popular," says Toys "R" Us spokesperson Bjorn Trowery. "Children love the ability to care and nurture a pet as their own, and parents love the lack of cleanup."
According to Amazon's (AMZN) Eva Lorenz, category leader for toys and games, the online store has seen a triple-digit increase in year-to-date sales of FurReal Friends products. These are the life-like pets that many parents consider as perfect starting points for their kids who will eventually be having real pets.
"A four-year-old may someday be allowed to own a real dog, but for now, something like the FurReal Friends Go Go My Walkin' Pup is a good training toy," says Jim Silver, CEO of TTPM, a consumer review site for toys.
Pet-like toys have been around for years -- from Pet Rocks in the '70s to Pound Puppies in the '80s to virtual pets like Tamagotchi in the '90s. The Pound Puppies from Funrise are making a comeback this year, competing against Hasbro's (HAS) FurReal Friends and Moose Toys' Little Live Pets.
"Pretend pets will always have a market because in the eyes of parents, they can be considered perfect pets," says toy historian Todd Coopee. "They provide some of the entertainment value of real animals without the commitment of needing to be fed, walked or groomed."
Some toymakers have been able to offer kids the best of both worlds -- the appeal of a stuffed animal coupled with a real pet. This year, Telebrands introduced the Teddy Tank, a furry friend and fish tank rolled into one.
Click through to see this year's top holiday toys for pet-loving kids.