This is a gag trope where an animal sees something, mistakes it for another animal of its own species, and falls in love with it. The animal might catch on early on that its crush is actually an object, but then again, they may not. They may even try to mate with it.
Quite often the animal is male and mistakes the object for a female, possibly due to the stereotype that men are active but women are passive, but female animals mistaking objects for male animals isn't too rare. An animal getting a gay crush on an object, however, is quite rare, due to gay and bi characters being less common in general.
The object in question might be a toy animal or a picture of an animal, but it could also just be something not meant to be an animal at all, like a guinea pig mistaking a wig for another guinea pig. It may even be a celestial body, which could result in the animal trying to reach it. Occasionally played with by having a robot fall in love with an inanimate machine.
Sometimes invoked by deliberately making an object look like an animal, or making a dummy animal, to attract another animal of the same species.
Compare Interspecies Romance for when the love interest is not the same species but is a living, breathing creature, Cargo Ship for when characters are paired with objects in fanfiction, Companion Cube for when an inanimate object is treated like a person or pet, Imprinting for when a baby animal thinks a human is its parent (usually its mother), and Attractive Bent Species for when an animal falls for a human pretending to be an animal.
- There's a Devil May Cry manga where Dante says that he once proposed to a mop while drunk.
- A frequent gag in Peanuts is Woodstock falling in love with small objects, such as snowflakes. In the book Snoopy's Grand Slam, golfer Snoopy is annoyed that Woodstock has fallen in love with one of the head covers for his golf clubs.
- In The Croods, the eponymous cro-magnon family, plus the protagonist's crush Guy, hunt a creature by luring it with a puppet of another creature, which it flirts with.
- In Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Skipper, the leader of the penguins, falls in love with a hula girl bobblehead. He even marries it at the end of the film.
- On Minions, one of the main characters sees a yellow hydrant and, thinking it's a female minion, flirts with it. Later, he is seen with two hydrants in a hot tub.
- In The Princess and the Frog, Ray the firefly mistakes a star for another firefly named "Evangeline" and falls in love with it.
- In Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Wallace tries to catch the eponymous giant rabbit by making a puppet of a giant female rabbit in hopes that he'll fall in love with it.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame inverts this when Hugo the gargoyle falls in love with Esmeralda's pet goat, Djali.
- The "octopus bagpipes" joke. There are a couple of variants, but basically they revolve around an octopus that could play any musical instrument it was given, until it was given a set of bagpipes, which it tried to have sex with.
- In Ray Bradbury's short story "The Fog Horn", a plesiosaur-like sea monster is attracted to a lighthouse, mistaking the sound of the fog horn for a mating call. It's a decidedly non-comedic example, though, as the monster is implied to be the last of its kind and so desperate for a mate that, when it realizes its mistake, it destroys the lighthouse in its grief and rage before retreating into the sea, never to be seen again.
- In Just A Bit Of Wind, Patagonia's wig falls into the sea, where an octopus falls in love with it.
- In L. Sprague de Camp's "The Cayuse" (part of the Rivers of Time series), a Parasauropholus falls in love with an ATV that was brought back with the hunting party.
- One season of The John Larroquette Show had a Running Gag where an elephant escapes from the zoo and can be seem roaming St. Louis. During this season, John wins a writing contest and receives an electric car as a prize. In the season finale, he buys a dark grey cover for the car with a similarly colored sleeve for the recharging cord. After he covers the car with it, the elephant can be seen looking over the covered car with admiration.
- A variation occurs in an early episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where robot Tom Servo flirts with a blender.
- In Sesame Street:
- A turtle falls in love with an empty shell, thinking it's a female turtle. When he sees that "she" isn't moving or breathing, he thinks "she" is dead, but then realises it's just an empty shell.
- Sam the Robot has gotten crushes on a toaster and blender.
- There was one episode where Artoo and Threepio guest starred, and Artoo fell in love with a fire hydrant.
- Played for Drama in the Shel Silverstein poem "The Bagpipe Who Didn't Say No". The poem tells how a tired turtle found a bagpipe on the beach and fell in love with it. Of course, the bagpipe can't speak, so the "relationship" progresses through a long string of requests from the turtle until he tries cuddling the bagpipe and it says "aaooga". Taking this as a sign he's offended his "love", the turtle begs "her" to tell him that it's not over and "she" doesn't want him to leave, but of course the bagpipe can't speak.
And the turtle crept off crying and he ne'er came back no moreAnd he left the bagpipe lying on that smooth and sandy shore.
- In Lights Out, a Licensed Game of The Loud House, a tentacled creature inadvertently created by Lisa falls in love with Lola's toy octopus.
- World of Warcraft: A Horde outpost in Tiragarde Sound's Waning Glacier area features a penguin making hearts at a decorative fake flamingo put up by one of the goblins there.
- An angry squirrel in Toonstruck can be distracted from his pile of nuts with a pink stuffed cat dressed up as a female squirrel.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In the episode "Partying Is Such Sweet Soiree," Coco (a airplane-tree-bird thing) falls in love with a lamp after a Bait-and-Switch with Chick Cluckers (an imaginary chicken friend).
- In one episode of The Garfield Show, Odie, not being very smart, falls in love with a dog brush. Garfield gets tired of this, so he steals the brush and throws it in the garbage bin, which deeply saddens Odie.
- Looney Tunes
- In the Bugs Bunny cartoon "The Greyhounded Hare", Bugs attends a dog race and falls in love with the mechanical rabbit, which is designed as a female. Seeing the dogs chase after "her", Bugs turns chivalrous and attacks them. After that, he gets electrocuted trying to kiss "her".
- The Wartime Cartoon "Ding Dong Daddy" is about a dog falling in love with a statue of a greyhound named Daisy. Every time he tries to kiss her, the statue gets struck by lightning, which makes him think she's a great kisser. When the statue gets smelted to make ammunitions, the dog wanders the factory until he finds the shell that Daisy got turned into. He gives the shell a kiss and it explodes. "She hasn't changed a bit!"
- The Loud House:
- In "A Pimple Plan", Luan puts a unicorn mask on to cover her pimple. A horse thinks it's another horse and develops a crush on the mask, causing Luan to run away and get stuck in a hollow tree.
- In "Love Birds", Walt the canary has a crush on his neighbour Mr. Grouse's plastic flamingo. When he realises it's fake, he goes into a funk, so his friends try to find him a proper girlfriend.
- Martha Speaks: In "TD and Martha Gopher Broke", TD and Martha are trying to repel a gopher who keeps eating TD's uncle's crops. Martha suggests dressing a potato up like a lady gopher so he would fall in love with it and be lured out, but TD points out that he'd probably just eat it.
- PAW Patrol: In "Pups Save a Cuckoo Clock", Mayor Goodway's handbag chicken Chickaletta falls for the model cuckoo in Jake's antique cuckoo clock, and gets trapped inside the clock when she tries to get closer to it.
- Zigzagged in The Penguins of Madagascar, where one of the eponymous penguins is in love with a doll named "Ms. Perky". It'd be pretty odd if he thought she/it was another penguin, but he doesn't seem to think she/it is a human as the penguins are usually prejudiced against humans. He doesn't seem to realize it's a doll either, though.
- One episode of Rocko's Modern Life sees Spunky falling in love with a mop. It's unclear if this is because Spunky thinks the mop is another dog, or because Spunky just very, very stupid.
- A Humboldt penguin named Grape-kun (1996 - 2017) at the Tobu Zoo grew affectionate towards a cutout of Hululu, an anthropomorphic girl based on his species. He would fight ferociously whenever zookeepers tried to remove the cutout and when they were forced to temporarily take it away during a storm for fear it would be destroyed or blow away, he became visibly stressed, forcing them to return it once the weather improved. He even took up a courtship stance near it at one point and was visited by Hululu's voice actress for a meet-and-greet.
- There are orchid species which draw pollinating insects by having parts of the flower shaped like that insect's females.
- There are reported incidents of male beetles trying to mate with discarded beer bottles. Researchers investigating these incidents claim that the bottles reflect light similarly to a female beetle's carapace.
- Nigel "No Mates" was an Australasian gannet who arrived on Mana Island in New Zealand, lured there by the presence of pre-recorded gannet mating calls and approximately 80 decoy gannets made of concrete (placed there as an effort to attract gannets and establish a breeding colony). Nigel was reported to have attempted interaction with many of the decoys, but he selected one in particular as his mate, spending three years trying to woo her by building her a nest, performing mating rituals, and even trying to groom her. Three other gannets briefly stopped by Mana Island in early 2018, but they didn't express any interest in Nigel or vice versa, and they eventually moved on. A few weeks later, in February of 2018, Nigel was found dead of apparent natural causes; his body was lying next to the concrete decoy he'd spent years trying to win over.
- A female black swan named Petra developed a very strong, affectionate bond- with a wooden boat. It's perhaps justified as the boat was shaped and painted to look like a swan. Petra even refused to fly south for the winter due to not wanting to leave her "mate" behind, so the two were instead moved to a zoo together.