An Instagram of Richard Kitty

Isn’t it fun to fire up Instagram and get bombarded with pet photos? That kind of cute can turn a bad day bright or a good day awesome.

From cats to dogs to hedgehogs, rabbits to pigs to chinchillas to birds and more, pets provide perfect fodder for the photo-sharing app. Some pets, with the help of their human "assistants," have catapulted to Instagram stardom, with their daily photo uploads racking up hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of followers around the world. Which made us wonder: How does anyone reach that level of exposure? Some pet superstars’ human "managers" stumbled upon their fame, while others strategically crafted their ascent. And though every path to success is a bit different, there are some things you can do to get your best friend the attention he deserves.   

We spoke with some of the human assistants/photographers behind some of the famous accounts, and here’s what we learned about what turns a pet into an Instagram star. 

1. Create a Separate Account for Your Pet

Many popular pets on Instagram were part of their owners’ accounts, until these self-aware pet owners realized that not everyone wants their feed flooded with the latest, cutest antics of pets. “I had been posting way too many Richard photos on my own personal account, which some of my friends weren’t as excited about as I was,” says Maya Tuttle, the human behind Richard Kitty, who has nearly 120,000 followers. “So I decided to give Richard his own space to shine. His account is now nearly 50 times as popular as mine — and I couldn’t be happier!”

People like Tuttle created accounts for their pets so anyone following would know precisely what they could expect. And, judging from the number of followers on some pet accounts, there are plenty of people who do prefer furry, feathered or finned accounts over those of their boring human counterparts. 

2. Use Hashtags Liberally

Hashtags are a key component of Instagram culture, because they help people find the things that interest them in a sea of photos about, well, everything else. Pet people want to find pets, so make it easy for them to find you. Popular pet-related hashtags include: #pets, #petsofinstagram, #dogs, #dogsofinstagram, #cats, #catsofinstagram, and #weeklyfluff. A good way to find the best hashtags is to take note of what popular pets are using and use those if they seem relevant to your pet, too.

An Instagram of Manny the Frenchie

3. Post Good-Quality Photos

You can’t get anywhere on Instagram with blurry, uninteresting photos. If you have some photography skills and a good camera, you can truly shine on this platform. Snoopybabe, a Persian cat with 271,000 followers, clearly has some owners who know what they’re doing. Theron Humphrey of This Wild Idea uses his professional capabilities to take incredible shots of his dog, Maddie, gaining more than 760,000 fans.

But plenty of pet parents can get exceptional shots with the cameras on their phones. Amber Chavez, the person behind French Bulldog Manny the Frenchie, for example, posts fun, compelling photos with great lighting, props and composition. That seems to work well for Manny, who has amassed more than 628,000 followers.

But even if your photographic talents are lacking, there’s still no excuse for posting bad photos. Instagram provides a choice of photo editing tools and filters that can turn mediocre pics into something truly cool.

4. Post Frequently

A key to Instagram success is to give your followers what they want — more of your pet! Nala Cat, with 1.7 million followers, also has a whopping 3,475 posts. Most popular pets on Instagram have a high number of posts as well. This means the pressure is on to take lots of great photos of your adorable furbaby. “Always be ready to take a photo,” Tuttle advises.

Chavez agrees. "Try to capture every possible moment you can via photo or video." For most pet owners, this shouldn’t be a challenge.

5. Be Friendly

An Instagram of Jamon the Pig dressed for a pool party

Like other social media channels, a lot of Instagram success is built on engagement with followers. Likes, comments and reciprocity are important aspects of building a following. When asked what surprised her most about Richard Kitty’s Instagram success, Tuttle says it was how friendly his followers are. “You can’t find a more good-natured, encouraging group of people than Internet cat fans!” she says. With a community like that, it shouldn’t be too hard to engage.

6. Showcase Your Pet’s Personality

Your “home” page on Instagram is a great place to briefly share what’s fun and unique about your pet. Then you can deliver on this promise with your pet’s cool, cute and unique photos, captions and hashtags. Chavez does a great job determining what shots Manny the Frenchie’s followers will like. He has a special look about him, which works to his advantage, but Chavez also takes care to post quality, interesting photos. "He is hilarious in his own way, of course," she says. "Be creative, find your pet’s ‘voice,’ and stick to it," she advises.

Andrea Mendes, the person behind JamonthePig, with 63,000 followers, says consistency and being yourself is critical. "Be the protagonist," she advises. And stay focused on the things you know your followers like and enjoy. "Don’t talk about everything. You need to know whom you’re speaking to."


7. Have Fun

The most common advice owners with pets on Instagram had to share was to make sure your pet is having fun and is always staying safe. "Your cat should never have to suffer for fame," Tuttle says. This means that props for photos are pet friendly, no taking photos in dangerous locations, and if you put clothes on your pet, they have to be comfortable for him and not have any buttons, threads, beads, ties or anything else that could be chewed on. And remember, if you don’t like having cameras flashing in your eyes over and over, your pet probably doesn’t either. So avoid the flash when you can — which is something professional pet photographers recommend as well. 

An Instragram of Nala Cat

Finally, what surprised some of the humans manning pet Instagram accounts was just how much happiness their animals bring other people.

Chavez says, “It’s overwhelming sometimes to hear the stories of people who’ve lost their pets and how much our posts cheer them up. It’s created this sense of responsibility now to try to make people smile with what we post.”

Jamon’s owner, Mendes, agrees. “I receive a lot of messages and emails telling me how some picture or post made people smile,” she says. “To see how many people I can make happy during the day is amazing.”

So if you’re obsessed with taking photos of your pet (and most of us are!) think about how much joy your pet brings to you and consider sharing that happiness with the world. You just might make someone’s day with your latest iPhone pic. And, if you are very fortunate, you might even make some money off your Internet star, like the owners of Bodhi, the Menswear Dog, who earn $15,000 a month with sponsorships, guest appearances and more.  

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