Thanks to several Ebay auctions and insider information, we know that while OLC was slowly realizing it had a phenomenon on it's hand with Duffy, Disney in the United States was still attempting to figure out how to make "Disney Bear" sell, and maybe introducing a friend might help. I don't know if the two teams (the Japanese "Duffy team" and the American "Disney Bear team") were communicating with each other about this at all. It's possible it was coincidence that both teams developed a friend for the bear.
When it was announced that Duffy (in Japan) would have a new friend, the fans speculated who and what it might be. Many different animals were talked about, and whether it would be a boy or a girl. We know now that it was a girl bear who looked very much like Duffy and was a light shade of pink. I don't know if the Japanese Duffy team had actually thought about using different animals or not, because that information is not public. We only have the final product, and she's an adorable one.
Now, at some point while they were doing that, the American merchandise team was testing various designs for a companion for the bear. I'll show you one of them, and you can see what "might have been". This is a prototype plush, created just to see what it would look like as an actual product. To see what kinds of fur to use, what colors worked best, etc. This version of Disney Bear's friend was a cat. A very...pink cat.
She's got the "Mickey Marks" like Duffy and Disney Bear, except she's got a heart nose...kind of like a Care Bear. You can see her Mickey paw marks too, and the "birthmark" on her behind. Also, the fur is polka dotted. I wonder if they were planning to have her be Minnie Mouse's cat? She looks very "Minnie-like".
There was a second prototype made that was very similar to this one, except the fur was a different material. Both were girls, and cats. They had bows on their heads and at the ends of their tails. And, a little skirt, a bit like Minnie Mouse wears. Here is the alternate version.
So, as you can see, Disney was thinking of someone like Shellie May for a while, and it's possible that she could have been a cat at one point. This version never made it to market, and was only a prototype, but it gives an interesting peek at the design process. What do you think of a bright pink kitty friend for Duffy? Do you like Shellie May as a bear better?