This Absurd Toddler Toy Plays Music I Actually Enjoy
Picture this: Your child has a toy that emits a constant, repetitive stream of chatter that you find yourself humming as you’re driving to work or scrubbing the dishes after bedtime. For the most part, the jingles are maddening earworms that occupy precious mental real estate, but every so often you actually enjoy one of these ditties. If you haven’t found yourself grooving to one of your kids’ toys, allow me to introduce you to the, um, robot vacuum cat toy that has taken the internet my household by storm.
Fisher Price’s “Cat on a Vac” is part of the toy-maker’s “Laugh and Learn” series, which consists of toys “based on familiar, everyday stuff,” according to the product’s Amazon listing. (Other greatest hits from this range include a singing piggy bank and color-changing mixing bowl.) A cheerful ginger cat is perched atop what many cleaning enthusiasts will recognize as a robot vacuum, and gentle pressure on the feline’s head will propel the toy forward, encouraging your child to crawl after it.
While these are all pretty standard toddler toy mechanics, there’s something that sets the Cat on a Vac apart from the chorus of trinkets that line my living room floor. The suite of songs that burst forth every time you press the green button at the cat’s feet sound less like the tinny tunes wafting from your average playroom gewgaw and more like something you’d hear on the radio, with a synth-y syncopated beat, crooning autotuned vocals and lyrics infused with pathos and longing. (Kind of.)
“What it sounds closest to is Afro-pop, current West African or South African R&B with heavy Auto-Tune,” explained Ari Goldman, one half of DJ duo Beautiful Swimmers and founder of dance record label World Building. “People call this sound, broadly, ‘Afrobeats.’” It’s also similar to kwaito (“basically ’90s South African house music,” Goldman said) and amapiano, a newer iteration of the genre that’s currently exploding on TikTok.
As if these sonic emissions weren’t club-worthy enough, the sight of a smiling cat perched atop a robot vacuum adds a layer of absurdity that keeps me chuckling as I watch it roll across the floor. According to a Fisher-Price spokesperson, the Cat on a Vac takes findings from the brand’s Play Lab ― where children test-drive toys in real time ― and applied them to a “trend that was popping up on social media of cats on robotic vacuums.”
If you’re ready to add the Cat on a Vac to your repertoire, you can shop it below. I’ve included a handful of other musical toys, some of which I own, that boast silly soundtracks that don’t take themselves too seriously.
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A singing cat on a rolling robot vacuum
A tinny, tiny orchestra contained in a cube
This cube-shaped toy boasts large, finger-friendly buttons that each “play” a different instrument (including a flute, French horn, harp and piano), and a button on the top will activate the entire “orchestra.” Out of all the musical toys that have been brought into my home, this one is probably the most mellifluous, offering a kinder, classical sound in lieu of the jarring carnival tunes most toys pump out.
A talking piggy bank
Veteran parents will probably recognize this interactive piggy bank that boasts a 4.9-star rating and over 18,000 reviews on Amazon — many of which attest to the toy’s ability to keep kids busy for hours, developing their fine motor skills as they drop coins into the slot. It also spouts words of encouragement in both English and Spanish, along with 40 songs, tunes and phrases.
A handheld synthesizer in the shape of a music note
A light-up mixing bowl
This ready-to-party mixing bowl comes with six “ingredients” that activate changing colors and jaunty tunes upon contact with the vessel’s interior. My kids also have this in their collection, and my husband and I find ourselves parroting the show-tune-y version of the ABCs that it plays on a loop.
A singing, crawling crab
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