A line of plushies created by Hallmark and Fisher-Price in the 80s, the Purr-tenders were a bunch of brightly colored cats wearing little masks and a very odd Backstory. At the Pick-A-Dilly Pet Shop, all the customers want to buy unusual, 'exotic' pets... 'exotic' pets like birds, bunnies, mice and dogs. But nobody ever wants to buy a cat, and the kitty pens are getting rather crowded...
So some of the kitties hatch a cunning plan: they make masks and ear-bands out of felt and disguise themselves as other animals, and start hanging around the other animals' pens, trying to pass themselves off as the real thing. Amazingly, this works, and soon they've all ended up in happy homes, still keeping up the charade.
...However... when they feel happy and content, they start purring. So that exposes them, while the flimsy disguises apparently hold up otherwise. Thankfully, the kids who learn their secret have already fallen in love with their new pets, so they let them keep lying and pretending to be other animals rather than getting them to accept that they're fine the way they are.
The Purr-tenders were:
- Hop-purr - A lavender cat who wore red and pink rabbit ears and a nose/muzzle with big white buck teeth. Sort of the group's default leader. Developed a taste for carrots and other vegetables.
- Flop-purr - The One Guy and The Lancer, he had black fur and disguised himself as a duck with a beak mask and orange flippers for his 'feet'. Averts the usual 'cats hate water' trait; he throws himself into learning how to swim with great gusto. Short-tempered and thought of himself as the leader, despite his abrasive personality; in fact, he was basically a Shout-Out to Daffy Duck.
- Romp-purr - A bright yellow Tomboy who sported a blue mask and pink doggy ears. A Genki Girl to the core, extremely affectionate and easily excitable.
- Chirp-purr - A pink kitty who wore a toucan beak and a few feathers for a crown, and the Girly Girl to Romp-purr's Tomboy. Thought she was a beautiful singer, but her atonal screeches had the Purr-tenders wincing and covering their ears. (The real ones, not the ear-bands.)
- Scamp-purr - The youngest of the group and a Shrinking Violet, she was white-furred and wore lavender and pink mouse-ears and a whiskered snout. While quiet and easily intimidated, whenever she managed to speak up it was usually to offer a good idea or point out something that helped.
- Teddy-purr - A pink cat pretending to be a bear, with lavender bear ears and a snout with a blue nose. A latecomer to the toy line, so she didn't get to appear in most of what little merchandising they managed to release.
They also had an enemy in Ed-grr, the shop owner's grumpy guard dog who enjoyed mocking them about how nobody wanted them because they weren't special or exotic. Ed-grr hated how their crazy plan worked, and wanted to recapture them and drag them back to Pick-A-Dilly just so he could torment them more.
Despite Hallmark's efforts, the series never gained enough steam to earn itself a cartoon series and compete with its predecessors and peers, the Pound Puppies. There was a Burger King tie-in with a few toys, including some odd doll-stocking hybrids called 'Sock-Ems', and a handful of books telling their story, but beyond that there wasn't much beyond the strange backstory and the dolls' ability to purr that made them stand out.
These toys provide examples of:
- Animal Stereotypes: Romp-purr fits the usual dog stereotype particularly well.
- Ass in a Lion Skin: The cats pretending to be other animals is the whole point.
- Cute Kitten: All of the characters are cute kittens disguised as other animals. Adorable baby abimals are appropriate for toys.
- I Just Want to Be Special: The Purr-Tenders' motivation for pretending to be other animals is that they want to be loved like the so-called "exotic" pets.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: The only thing that busts the Purr-tenders' covers is whenever they purr. The disguises hold up surprisingly well otherwise.
- Pounds Are Animal Prisons: Pick-a-Dilly is Kitty Prison. Going back to the shop was treated like A Fate Worse Than Death, despite how the owner seemed nice enough, and presumably took care of all the animals' needs, including the cats.
- Pun-Based Title: Purr-Tenders comes from the word "pretenders", with the "purr" coming from the main characters being kittens.
- Punny Name: Every name is a pun. From the line itself to the names of the kitties — Scamp-purr, Hop-purr, Flop-purr — and their nasty dog nemesis, Ed-grr. Latecomer Teddy-purr was the Odd Name Out.
- Secret Keeper: The pets' owners let them keep up hiding the secret that they're not the animals they're disguised as.
- Flop-purr's personality is strikingly similar to Daffy, with the coloring to match.
- A storybook saw Hop-purr reenacting part of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, sneaking off to steal carrots from somebody's garden and getting caught — not by the owner, but by Ed-grr, who planned to take her back to Pick-a-Dilly.
- Talking Animal: Notably, while the Purr-tenders could talk, none of the other animals seemed capable of communicating with humans. Ed-grr could talk to the cats, but wasn't able to talk to his owner; otherwise he could have ended the whole charade before it started.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: The kittens have pink fur. And lavender, and bright yellow. The Golden Books showed they weren't the only ones with odd-colored fur; the cats came in all colors of the rainbow.