What Happened To Pillow Pets?

If you grew up in the 2000s, you definitely heard about Pillow Pets. Chances are, you either had one or really, really wanted to have one. The stuffed animals were advertised as the perfect companion. They could fold in half to become huggable plushes, or you could flatten them out to use them as a pillow. Even better, they came in all kinds of designs, from ladybugs to elephants and even unicorns.

But as quickly as Pillow Pets (and plenty of imitators) flooded the market, they seemed to disappear almost all at once. They aren't sitting on store shelves anymore, and rarely do you stumble across an ad with their slogan – "It's a pillow. It's a pet. It's a Pillow Pet!" — which used to be nearly unavoidable. So what happened to Pillow Pets? Where did they go, and why have they fallen out of popularity with kids growing up today?

How it started

The whole idea of Pillow Pets actually came from a mother of two back in 2003, according to CBS News. Jennifer Telfer had two sons, and said that after seeing one of them flatten out a stuffed animal to make a pillow, she had an idea for more practical stuffed animals (via CBS News). By making the stuffed animals unfold, they could serve two purposes — a cuddly companion and a place to rest your head.

Her family used their own money to launch the line of initial Pillow Pets, according to CBS News. That initial run was a lot smaller than the larger line the company grew to produce, with only six animal types available (via My Pillow Pet Review). From there, a company grew, and eventually, Telfer's idea had led to a huge production of the stuffed animals. The company sold almost 25 million stuffed animals in about nine years, according to CBS News.

Where are Pillow Pets now?

Pillow Pets are, in fact, still around. You can purchase one for yourself on the Pillow Pet website, and new designs are being made all the time. From traditional options like puppies and ladybugs to more exotic options like axolotl — and even a model based on the viral KFC chicken sandwich — Pillow Pets seem to be going strong, although they aren't as widespread as they used to be.

The company has even made a reputation for itself as a charitable organization. According to archival pages from its website, Pillow Pets have been used to raise funds following natural disasters and even to help kids diagnosed with cancer. It's obvious there's still a market for these foldable furry friends. But, according to Spy, the toys took off at a weird time. While millennials might remember these friendly plushies fondly, they're not exactly famous with Gen Z.

Why did they fall out of fashion?

If Pillow Pets were so popular back in the mid-2000s, why don't we hear about them anymore? There are a couple possibilities. According to Express, popularity of traditional toys like Barbie dolls and Lego playsets has been declining for the past few years as parents and kids turn to new "smart" toys. Tablets, drones, and other electronic devices are more and more common in the average household, according to Express. That's despite recommendations that kids limit screen time and play with basic toys that encourage motor skills and other types of development (via Express).

Pillow Pets have tried to keep up with the digital revolution, though it's hard to make a "smart" stuffed animal in the same way. The company has created versions of the traditional, foldable pet that light up and even some that give off scents. But even with those changes, a stuffed animal that folds in half isn't always enough to compete with a cool new drone or a phone screen.

Issues with certain products

The attempts to move Pillow Pets into the modern technological age had some other drawbacks, too. The current model of light-up toys, called Sleeptime Lites, is still in production. But another version of them, called Dream Lites, faced a lot of criticism for posing a safety risk in the early 2010s. Law firm Carr & Carr documented multiple families' reports that the toys could catch fire if they were turned on for too long. The velcro straps used to hold the pets in their folded position could be a strangulation risk for younger kids, too (per Carr & Carr).

The new models of light-up Pillow Pets don't seem to face the same issues that the originals did. In fact, KSNT recommended them as a perfect toy to buy for young kids, especially because they come in a variety of popular and recognizable characters. But it's unlikely that the initial issues helped the brand's reputation when it was already nearing the tail end of its popularity.

Pillow Pets aren't alone

Although they aren't quite as popular as they used to be, Pillow Pets are still around and kicking. The toy company is producing new products to keep up with digital and smart toys, and options include popular characters from plenty of Disney franchises and other kids shows. The toy industry is full of weird fads that pop up for a little while and then disappear — remember Bionicle and Raggedy Ann? — and Pillow Pets might just be another example of that.

But the toys still have significance to the people who grew up at the right time and had one as their own. For some, the durable nature of the Pillow Pet mean that even if they haven't bought a new one in years, they've still got one they picked up at the height of the craze (via Spy). And for everyone else, maybe eventually there will be a Pillow Pet design that makes you want to buy one yourself.