Once in a while, a surprise hit emerges that few would ever predict.

At Toy Fair New York this year, Cats Vs. Pickles showed hints of being just that, but it wasn’t until the adorable plush characters from Cepia hit stores this summer that a clear picture emerged. During a U.S. trial run at Learning Express in Lake Zurich, Illinois, Cats Vs. Pickles were flying out the door and that success paved the way for a wide release at Walmart and Amazon. These little creatures have even scored a coveted slot on the 12 Under $12 list in our 15th Annual Toy Insider Holiday Gift Guide!

So why the hype?

Cats Vs. Pickles were born from an idea presented in viral videos over the past few years: Cats are just naturally afraid of pickles. The theory is that cats might be mistaking pickles for snakes, but that wouldn’t be as fun as positing the idea that pickles just absolutely love cats and wish that the feline crowd would love them back.

Related: 10 Terrific Toy Fair Picks from an ‘Insider’

With dozens of colorful characters and a series of fun animated videos on YouTube (more than 68 million views as of this writing!), things just clicked and kids fell in love with Cats Vs. Pickles. There’s also a companion app that gamifies the experience on iOS and Android devices, but the secret sauce here is that Cats Vs. Pickles is a perfectly low-tech counterpart to a digital world.

Like Beanie Babies before them, Cats Vs. Pickles are small, bean-filled plush with a nice weight to them, and each character has a name and a distinct personality displayed on an included hangtag. Since they’re small and affordably priced at just $4.99 each, kids can collect a bunch of them without breaking the piggy bank or making a dent in grown-ups’ wallets.

With the holiday season ahead, Cats Vs. Pickles make a great stocking stuffer, so I guess there’s only one thing left to do…

Will you choose cats or pickles? I say both!

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.