Stuffed Animals: Not Just For Kids

Even before I realized that animal companions kept me from feeling lonely, I looked to them for comfort. At a time in my life when I wasn’t ready to commit to taking care of a pet, I found a way to have the same comfort without all the work. I learned that stuffed animals aren’t just for kids.

I’ve always been surrounded by animals. I grew up in a house full of dogs and cats, birds and gerbils. Even in college, I was lucky enough to spend time with an African gray parrot, and we had a kitten the year I lived off campus. After graduation, I got more birds.

Then we moved to Germany. My husband and I were young and therefore poor, so I didn’t even think about trying to move my birds across the Atlantic. I was without pets for two years, then returned to America where the hankering for an animal companion came back again.

We were living in an apartment and while I wanted a pet, I wasn’t quite ready to commit to one. I told myself that I didn’t want the responsiblity of caring for an animal, that I liked the freedom of not having to find a pet sitter whenever I took a trip.

But the real source of my uncertainty was the state of my marriage. I wasn’t happy and was trying to figure out what to do. I knew my husband wouldn’t want the responsiblities or the mess that went with an animal in the house. So instead of getting a live pet, I made myself a kitten out of fabric.

Alessandro, a soft sculpture by Kit Dunsmore.

While he isn’t very realistic visually, this little cat has features that made him more real to me. One of the things I love about cats is how you can feel the edge of their jawbone when you rub under their chin. So when I made the armature for my kitten, I included a wire jaw I would be able to feel through the fabric.

I named my kitten Alessandro after Botticelli and I took him all around the house with me. He sat in my lap while I worked on the computer and on the counter when I cooked dinner. I enjoyed petting him. I didn’t realize at the time that he was keeping me company as I struggled to understand what was happening to my marriage.

He didn’t purr and he wasn’t warm, but I didn’t have to worry about feeding him or cleaning a litter box. There were no vet bills. He would never run away, get hit by a car, or die. He was always there.

Alessandro taught me an important lesson, so important that I bought a stuffed horse to take to the hospital with me when I went in for surgery in 2011. I had never had an operation before and Shasta gave me something to hold on to throughout the process.

Shasta, my surgery buddy

I suppose I looked silly, a woman in her 40s hugging a stuffed toy, but I didn’t care. The comfort I’ve gotten from stuffed animals far outweighs any judgments someone else might throw at me.

Have you ever found comfort in a stuffed animal as an adult?

24 thoughts on “Stuffed Animals: Not Just For Kids

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  1. When I was about 4 or 5 I was given a stuffed bear. This bear was everything to me. I brought it with me when I went in for my first surgery at 5 years old and it has been with me through surgery’s, hospital stays, has gone to school with, travelled to college with me, and is still with me today. I keep him in my bedroom where I can hold him if needed. My kids love cuddling him. I will never be able to part with him. He’s been such a comfort. I understand what you are saying about your stuffed animals. They are great company. I do have real animals but I enjoy my stuffed one too.

    1. It’s surprising that something so simple (fabric and stuffing) can be such a big help and so important to us.

      1. It really is. My 3 year old has the same connection to a Winnie the Pooh blanket that he has had since he came home from the hospital. He takes it everywhere with him. I did fear at first that it wasn’t healthy for him to have this kind of connection but then I realized that I have the same connection and I am able to function normally. So I no longer have any fears. He doesn’t have an unhealthy connection either because he allows me to wash it and will go places without it. He just likes having it there.

      2. Sweet! It’s frustrating that simple thing that are healthy get looked at as childish or wrong. It sounds like your son has a totally healthy connection with his blanket and of course it’s comforting to having something loved and familiar around. The trick is being able to let go when you need to.

      3. Yes but I know it won’t be a problem for him. He’s only 3 so he has plenty of time to “grow up” as some say. I won’t mind if he keeps it his whole life as long as he’s not 18 and throws a temper tantrum if it gets left behind lol

  2. We collect stuffed puppies, and I love them all. My husband even talks to them. Some are “bed puppies”, others live in the guest room, some in the living room, some are on “guard duty” at various places. When I was hospitalized for a week a couple years ago, my husband made sure to bring “Woof-Woof” to stay with me. We also have a stuffed cow named “Nada Dawg”, and two daughters have given us stuffed cats — just because “if you have all those dogs, you need a cat, too.” We’re getting close to 3 dozen stuffed dogs, and to us, each one has a unique personality. Stuffed animals are awesome!

    1. How cool! I love that you have a house full of furry friends and that they all have names and stories. We can’t all own a zoo’s worth of pets, so this seems like a good compromise.

      1. My husband often lists the benefits of stuffed pets: no fleas, they don’t eat much, no shedding, no poopy messes to clean up. He’s got a point 🙂

      2. He definitely does. Although I’m surprised to hear you have stuffed animals that eat things… 😉

      3. Well, you know… Woof-Woof has suddenly developed a love of chocolate chip cookies. He had to come to the living room to watch the KC Chiefs in the playoff game. He thought that was such fun. Or maybe he just liked the snacks. 🙂 As you can no doubt tell, our puppies are quite real to us.

      4. Good thing Woof-Woof isn’t a real dog or that chocolate wouldn’t be good for him! 😉

      5. We have a new stuffed puppy! His name is Chili Dawg, and he’s adorable. Long story on the name. It was a very, very chilly day when he jumped into my shopping cart. Earlier my sister and I had been talking about chili and chili dogs, and then when I got home I noticed the clerk had put the stuffed puppy in a bag with the chili sauce I’d bought. It was obvious this puppy was supposed to be named Chili. He’s now at home in the recliner with a blanket.

      6. Adorable name and fun story. I love the fact that on cold (chilly) days, we often make chili! The paradox amuse me. Give your new friend a pet from me!

      7. Will do! Little Chili Dog is quite at home here. He’s staked out “his place” — in the recliner — with his own blanket. He seems to really enjoy sitting there and watching television with my husband. 🙂 Oh, we also have a new puppy, too. For Valentine’s Day, my husband brought home “Snuggly”. Press his paw and he sings “I’m snuggly and I know it.” The grandkids have gone crazy over the puppy!

      8. Today we went to the zoo with two grandsons. Before we left, my husband went back in the house and grabbed “Little Spots Cupcake” to go along. 🙂 The grandsons even buckled him in to a seatbelt. 🙂

      9. Is it just me, or do you have enough cute stuffed animal stories for a whole blog?

      10. LOL… you’ve only heard a few of the stories. Yes, I probably could devote an entire blog to our stuffed animals. 🙂

    1. I’ve taken Shasta on trips with me. It’s much easier to sleep in a hotel if I have my buddy along…

  3. I slept with Comfort, a green squishable dinosaur -who-dreamed-of-being-a-dragon, tucked under my arm for two years of separation and divorce proceedings. A Christmas present from my mom, she got her name from the “comfort and joy” lyric in God Rest Year Merry Gentlemen”. There were times I forgot she wasn’t a dragon, she was so convincing.

    1. A dinosaur with dragon-tendencies sounds like a perfect comfort companion. She knows how to dream! And separation and divorce are both times when comfort is really needed.

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