This Sweet Toy Encourages Kids To Love Rescue Animals, & It's A Great Lesson For All

My daughter Claire is a bona fide animal lover. Her last two birthday parties have been at the zoo and one of my greatest joys is watching her nurture our four — yes, four — rescue cats. Now that she's 3, she regularly asks me to brush, feed, and hold them. That's why I was just a teensy stoked to see that these Scruff-A-Luvs support rescue animals because my first thought was that Claire would absolutely love to have one to call her own.

The idea behind the toy is that when it arrives, it is "a sad ball of matted fur," according to Amazon. The lucky kid who receives one is then supposed to bathe, dry, brush, and — duh, love — the pet as if they were a real animal who needed a forever home.

The rescue stuffed animals include a blue or pink puppy, kitten, and bunny, but kids won't know who they received until they wash and fluff the pet. Perhaps the company did this in an effort to encourage choosing an animal because they need a home and not because of the way they look or in an effort to pick a certain breed.

According to the product description, loving and caring for the pet means that "in return, they will be your FFF (Furry Friend Forever)."

With a slogan like "Find us Scruffy, Make us Fluffy!" you can bet your Scruff-a-Luvs will come with a grooming brush, collar with a name tag, and an adoption certificate. So, yeah, everything your kid could want to care for their new pet. The best part? Scruff-a-Luvs ($20, Amazon) is also a supporter of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and its mission to save lives.

In addition to encouraging pet adoption, Scruff-a-Luvs also provide the added benefit of teaching kids the importance of caring for a pet. Heidi McBain, a Texas-based licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper in an email interview that the responsibility of having a family pet has changed as her kids have grown along with the pet.

"As my kids get older, I love that they are seeing and anticipating the needs of our dog, like when he’s hungry, thirsty, needs to go outside, or needs some attention and playtime," McBain says. "In this day and age where technology seems to play such a big part in our everyday lives, it’s nice to have the kids present and involved in the care of our family pet. The kids also feel helpful and important because they are helping to care for another living being."

If your kid is thrilled about their Scruff-a-Luvs and you want to continue the trend of encouraging pet care, then you might also want to check out Rescue Runts. The plush toys include Husky, German Shepherd, Spaniel, and Spotty breeds. Like Scruff-a-Luvs, kids are supposed to use the included grooming kit to check for fleas, clean their paws, wipe away the pup's tears, and brush their fur. The pets also arrive messy and with downturned ears, dirty paws, and a bandage, appealing to children's instinct to nurture them through rescue play.

An unexpected benefit of teaching kids about shelter pets is that it can also help you discuss various emotions your child might be experiencing. "Animals have the same range of basic emotions as we do. … Fear, happiness and calmness. ... So when a child is able to identify that in himself, then you can start to talk about how that exists in others too," Emma Seppala, science director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University School of Medicine told the Chicago Tribune.

Which, in my opinion, is all the more reason to scoop up one of these adorable toys.