"I will do whatever it takes," said Sherri Pfefer, the mother of two boys, who last year waited in line for several hours to buy Microsoft's Xbox. This year, she searched for more than three weeks before finding ZipZap's $19 tiny radio controlled cars.
Other popular items this year include Chicken Dance Elmo, Kasey the Kinderbot, Yu-i-Oh! trading cards and Beyblades, a line of spinning tops.
The toys are scarce because retailers were conservative in their holiday merchandise orders, hoping to avoid piles of leftovers on Dec. 26. Aggressive discounting over the Thanksgiving weekend also helped deplete inventories.
While some toys are hot, there is no runaway best-seller this season.
"You are not seeing parents camping out by the stores, or fighting in the aisles because there is no one toy that people feel they must have in order to have a good Christmas," said Chris Byrne, an independent toy consultant.
The surprise hit - although not nearly at the same level as Furby or Tickle Me Elmo in past years - is Hasbro's FurReal cat, which is priced at $34.99 and is almost sold out in toy stores nationwide.
Some parents have turned to Internet auction sites. EBay had 8,450 FurReal listings on Monday afternoon, selling for as much as $80.
"We blew through them," said Alan Marcus, a spokesman at FAO Schwarz. The toy retailer also sold out of its small inventory of Bratz dolls, made by MGA Entertainment.
K-B Toys Inc. acknowledged it should have ordered more of Fisher-Price's Chicken Dance Elmos and the FurReal cats. Even Toys "R" Us, which made an effort to stock up on top toys, sold out of Kasey the Kinderbot, another Fisher-Price product.
Toy makers are trying to meet demand.
Hasbro hopes to deliver FurReal's new entry - a $20 kitten - to customers this month, not January or February as was planned. It also sped up production of the FurReal cat, but not in time for Dec. 25.
Neil Friedman, president of Fisher-Price, said the company boosted production of Chicken Dance Elmo more than two months ago and MGA Entertainment decided last week to ship 100,000 units of Bratz dolls, which cater to the preteen set, to various retailers.
MGA Entertainment has more than doubled production of the Bratz dolls for next year. It has also pushed up the launch of Lil' Bratz, an offshoot, aimed at the 5-year-old, to be in stores at the end of this month, instead of spring.
By Anne D'Innocenzio