Chatty Cathy spoke one of eleven phrases at random when the "chatty ring" protruding from its upper back was pulled. The ring was attached to a string connected to a simple low-fidelity phonograph record in the doll's abdomen. The record was driven by a metal coil wound by pulling the toy's string. The doll said 11 phrases when she came on the market in 1960 such as "I love you" or "Please take me with you". Seven more phrases such as, "Let's play School" or "May I have a cookie" were added to the doll's repertoire in 1963 for a total of 18 phrases. Chatty Cathy's voice unit was designed by Jack Ryan, Mattel's head of research and development; he had also been responsible for designing the Barbie doll after a German doll called Bild Lilli in 1959.
Chatty Cathy was on the market for six years and was the second most popular doll of the 1960's after Barbie (also made by Mattel). After the success of Chatty Cathy, Mattel introduced Chatty Baby in 1962 and Tiny Chatty Baby, Tiny Chatty Brother, and Charmin' Chatty in 1963. The last doll to have the word chatty in its name in the 1960s was Singin' Chatty in 1965.
Chatty Cathy, Chatty Baby and Tiny Chatty Baby were redesigned and reissued by Mattel in 1970. These dolls were completely different in appearance from the earlier Chatty dolls. Maureen McCormick, who had appeared in Chatty Cathy television commercials with her future ' co-star Eve Plumb in the 1960s, provided the voice of the new Chatty Cathy, which was on the market for two years.