“Felicity the Chiweenie” on Instagram all started as a joke. Countless family, friends and even strangers had consistently remarked about how photogenic she was. “Her expressions are so funny,” they’d say. “She’d could be on TV,” another would mention. Every time someone suggested I put her on Instagram or get her an agent, I would simply shake my head and counter, “No way. I cannot be THAT person.” But one late October evening, on the C train heading from the Upper West Side to the 33rd St. PATH station, I found myself bored and jokingly created @FelicitytheChiweenie. I had become that person.
Within a few hours, Miss Felicity had gained just shy of a hundred followers and I found myself staring down the rabbit hole of a pet social media account. Do I make the plunge or do I slowly back away, delete the profile, and pretend this never happened? A little over half a year later and I find myself a full-fledged, badge wearing, proud-as-can-be member of the pet influencer community. Since the end of October, Felicity has booked a few modeling gigs, hosted a meet-up, was hired as the “pet contributor” for her favorite local celebrity, helped raise money for her local pet charities, and been immersed in this beautiful world of pets on social media.
Whether we love it or hate it, pets on social media have made a pawfound (yeah I went there) impact on our lives. On May 14th, when Grumpy Cat passed away, we were all shook. Ms. Grumpy Cat’s passing was all over the news and social media sources, demonstrating how far her reach had extended. Many other pet celebrities have become household names as well: Doug the Pug, Crusoe the Dachshund, and Jiff Pom have an Instagram following all of us could only dream of.
But why? Why is this even a thing? What is the point of creating social media accounts for PETS? For one thing, I can tell you that the pet Instagram world is a happy, friendly place which rains doggy rainbows and cat butterflies. After spending time trolling around on Felicity’s page, it is hard to go back to reality. The positive and innocent world of the pet social media universe offers a much needed respite from political mudslinging, body shaming, and immature and petty arguments that people are only brave enough to have behind the safety of their own keypad.
Simply said- Petfluencers make people happy.
It isn’t all kibble and peanut butter treats, though. Maintaining and growing a pet social media account is hard work. Back when Felicity’s account was thriving and growing by the hundreds, I was spending hours each day crafting photographs, engaging on other accounts, and researching hashtags. In periods when life takes over, her account stagnates. Anyone who has ever said that life as a content creator is easy breezy living, has never tried to live life as a content creator.
Additionally, not everyone is into them. A lot of people think they’re trivial, boring, and mildly psychotic. Why waste countless hours a day personifying a pet by dressing it in clothes, quoting false dialogue, and engaging in “conversations” with other pets?
When I asked Instagram their real thoughts on these accounts, some of you were very blunt. One user responded, “Hate them!” When I probed further, this is what she had to say:
“I’m totally about ‘top of mind awareness’ when you have a business page/blog/providing a service, but in my personal opinion, a page that has JUST 1 style of content with the same dog that posts non-stop looks…they have way too much time on their hands/need a hobby. I have 5 pets. When they’re doing something cute or if I find a great photo op, I’m guilty of being a stage pet mom, but I’m not posting every step they take throughout the day. It makes the content tired after the 3rd post of the day to the point of people being sick of looking at it and draw them to the unfollow button.” -@taylorbunnyy
Will Ferman, the talent behind the local hot pet photography company PuparazziNYC, has made an entire side career because of the rise of pet social media accounts. In all reality, he’s become THE unofficial dog party promoter of Hoboken and Jersey City. If you can book him to shoot or host your event/meetup, you’re pretty much guaranteed a great turnout. The owner of the dog walking company Furever Friends became the pet contributor for Hoboken Girl Blog and quickly realized there was something there with taking photographs of dogs.
“Last year, I started my dog media project Puparazzi. The first year, I hosted a lot of free dog events and did a lot of non-profit work. This year, I’ve started to book corporate work with companies in the dog industry. I’m also working on dog themed apparel for dogs and their humans. It’s quite exciting.”
When I asked Will what he thought of the pet influencer craze, he was quick to laugh at the humor in dogs in clothes and on vacations eating better food than he does. Through these pet social media accounts, he has learned how important socializing is for building a business within the community.
“Social media has allowed for like minded pet owners to convene. There are so many niche dog cultures. Thanks to Instagram and Facebook, people who might have had a problem finding dog friends and dog people can easily find their niche,” Ferman says.
In addition to our local pet social media guru, animals online continue to contribute to building an entire industry. Pet supply stores take into account their clothing supply and Instagrammable brands, which might get them a tag in a local account. Pet photography continues to boom and local businesses are working hard to create pet focused or friendly events for our community.
Love them or leave them, we cannot imagine pet social media disappearing anytime soon. So why not embrace them for the innocent, carefree break from the real world they can provide? Have a Jersey City pet influencer? Message us @Felicitythechiweenie and we will be sure to feature them! In the meantime, check out all of our local cuteness and dog accounts @JerseyCityDogs.