updated 09/01/2009 AT 10:34 AM ET
•originally published 09/01/2009 AT 12:00 PM ET
Actress Stacy Haiduk had everyone purring at the Daytime Emmy Awards Sunday night thanks to a very furry accessory, one that appeared to be a cat fashioned into a purse with a chain strap.
But die-hard fans of daytime hit The Young & the Restless knew exactly what was going on: Haiduk brought along her stuffed feline costar, Mr. Kitty.
“The ones that didn’t [know the show], they thought it was a purse and asked me how it opens up, which was a little bizarre!” Haiduk tells PEOPLE Pets. “I put a beautiful little bow on it with a chain from an old antique purse that I found. I rigged it so it could stay on me because it’s expensive!”
The actress plays Mary Jane Benson (a.k.a. Patty Williams) on the show, a mentally unstable woman who has a past involving Jack Abbott (played by Peter Bergman) and spills all her dark secrets to her stuffed cat. Since the feline is such an important part of her role, Haiduk thought it would be a kick to bring it along. People at the ceremony “thought it was the coolest thing in the world,” she says. “Then they thought it was my pet from home, that when it passed away I got [stuffed]. It got a lot of heat out there!”
A cat lover who has three felines of her own, Haiduk says the stuffed kitty, which she believes was someone’s former pet, is rented from a prop house for the role and has received tons of fan mail. “It’s pretty incredible how this [cat] has affected people,” she says.
When Haiduk went into L.A.’s Orpheum Theatre for the Daytime Emmys, Mr. Kitty sat next to her throughout the ceremony. “Literally, I gave it its own seat,” she says. “And then somebody said, ‘That’s my seat,’ and we said, ‘No, no, no, this is Mr. Kitty, he has his own seat tonight.’ People around me were just laughing. People love it, they really, really do.”
But she admits, not everyone warmed up to Mr. Kitty right away. “Some are a little intimidated because they want to touch it,” she says. “They’re like, ‘Is that thing real?’ The majority just really got excited about it.”
Would she ever consider having one of her own deceased pets stuffed? “I don’t think so,” says Haiduk. “I have ashes from my dog on my mantle, but I don’t know if I could handle having a dog in the corner just staring at me.”