While social media continues to evolve every day, there’s one trend that’s here to stay: pet influencers. You know ’em, you love ’em, you’ve likely thought about buying a T-shirt with their furry faces on it.
Indeed, there are now tons of renowned, four-paw social media stars, like Noodle the pug, whose daily TikToks tell us whether it’s a “bones day” or a “no bones day” (i.e., whether it’s going to be a productive or lazy day), the late Grumpy Cat (RIP), who many millennials will recognize from those early meme days, and so many other adorable furry friends that have broken into the internet spotlight.
And with this spotlight comes money, honey. Pet influencers can earn their pawrents a living in many ways—though it’s not as simple as posting a cute photo of your cat, dog or hamster every now and again.
How to Achieve Pet Influencer Status
To turn your pet into the next household name, you’ll likely need to go beyond just creating a funny video or two. Communicating your pet’s persona and delivering it to the ’Gram or TikTok is essential. In other words, so many people have a corgi; what makes your girl special?
Think about what will help your pet stand out in a sea of pets that are all vying for our attention. Cook up a name for the brand—if it’s not just your pet’s name—and think about how to leverage their cuteness and quirks.
For example, let’s take a look at the playful and curious black cat, Manny the Halloween Cat, who has over 50,000 followers on Instagram. Nikki Hess, Manny’s mom and founder of Cat Lady Academy—a coaching site to help get your pet closer to internet stardom—says that to become a pet influencer, you need to post consistent and relevant content. Aside from that, it’s all about good old-fashioned digital networking.
“Be friendly, humble and professional,” Hess says. “Engage with other accounts and your favorite brands by commenting on, following and liking their content. To grow followers, create content that people will enjoy and want to see more of, and present yourself as someone who people will want to engage with. After you establish a solid following and a steady cadence of posts, brands will be more likely to become interested in working with you.”
How Do Pet Influencers Make Money?
If you’re a pet owner, you know there are many costs associated with pet ownership—from food and toys to leashes and litter. So wouldn’t it be nice if your pet could actually contribute to these expenses too? Well, pet influencers can make their parents money in a variety of ways, directly or indirectly.
“I earn money by selling Manny-branded merch and through the Instagram Reels bonus program,” Hess says. This program allows creators to monetize their videos on Reels and get paid based on the number of views. “I also earn through Cameo, where I do personalized videos for Manny’s fans. But our biggest source of Manny-related income comes from paid brand partnerships on social media.”
Hess emphasizes that creating a pet influencer is a long game, not an overnight deal. But getting partnerships can happen sooner than you think. Manny got a brand partnership with just 3,000 followers. Reach out to brands as soon as you feel you have a strong enough following. You never know who will bite.
How Much Money Can Pet Influencers Make?
What you can earn as a pet influencer depends on many factors. In some cases, and especially for those who are just starting out, earnings are more in the realm of free food or other items. Still saves you money, right?
Hess created a post in exchange for a $900 vacuum—which helps scoop up all that black fur from her cat—and receives $175 in cat food products every month.
“We didn’t start earning actual money from brand partnerships until we reached 20,000 followers,” Hess adds. “The most we have received for a partnership so far has been $1,700.”
Pet influencers can also earn money through discount code links. “The most common brand partnerships come with individual links to a brand’s site that are directly related to the pet influencer,” says Emma Davis, who has an Instagram account with more than 72,000 followers showcasing her rescue animals—a pig named Patrick, a Kangal dog named Brian, a mustang horse named Mikko and a zorse (an interesting cross of horse and zebra) named Pete. “The link usage is then tracked and the influencer gets a percentage of the sale—on average 10%. The brand might also use a unique discount code that is tracked and paid out in the same way.”
Another route is sponsored posts on social media or blogs: “How much you make per post depends greatly on your number of followers and engagement rate,” says Sabrina Kong, a veterinarian and a writer for WeLoveDoodles, an information website about dogs, both ethically bred and rescued. The higher the follower count, the more money you’re likely going to make.
What to Watch Out For
Creating a pet influencer account isn’t easy and isn’t something to do haphazardly. You should have the time and the passion for it—because you’ll likely be doing it for free for a long time.
“Successful influencers have a deep passion for their niche and their pet,” says Davis. “They are successful because that authenticity shines through, and it doesn’t feel like they are hustling products to make a buck. Through this, they can develop a community—and the power is really in having a community that cares.”
And, of course, your fur baby is still your fur baby and should be cared for as such. Cash cows are purely figurative—that goes without saying.
“Your pet’s health, safety and happiness should always be above money and your own desire to be ‘famous,’ so don’t try to force them to do anything they may not like or are simply not that good at,” says Kong.
Keeping these tips in mind can ensure both of you are happy and are having fun—and maybe, eventually, help earn you a buck or some goodies to enjoy down the line.
Millie content is licensed from Dotdash Meredith, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle, Investopedia, The Balance and more.
Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer and author of the blog and the book “Dear Debt,” in which she chronicles her journey out of $81,000 in student loan debt. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, VICE and Allure, among other publications.