Dogs, cats and even the occasional sadly departed pet are huge draws on social media, overtaking even A-listers with millions of followers, plus sponsors and Hollywood projects.
These furry friend influencers rake in millions of likes, sell merchandise, release electronic albums, mingle with A-listers, and team up on ad campaigns with major Hollywood studios. Parlaying online fandom into everything from TV shows to cross-country meet-and-greets, here's how pet owners cash in on their social media pet stars.
With 3.8 million Instagram followers (and another 6 million on Facebook), this "king of pop culture" and his owner Leslie Mosier are the undisputed champs of pet influencers, with a line of Claire's merchandise, two books, nationwide meet-and-greets and partnerships from Pizza Hut to the Kids' Choice Awards. "To meet Doug, Shakira flew us to Barcelona," says Mosier. "I still can't believe that happened!"
Lil Bub, "one of the most famous cats on the planet," says owner Mike Bridavsky, has cultivated 2.2 million Insta followers, hit no. 2 on Billboard's dance/electronic chart, starred in a Vice documentary and featured Michelle Obama on web series Lil Bub's Big Show, all while being "solicited for collaborations and promotions multiple times daily" since 2012. The duo have also raised over $650,000 for homeless pets.
Since she died May 14, Grumpy has added 400,000 to her 2.7 million Insta followers — and still has comic books, toys and animated projects in the pipeline. Says manager Ben Lashes: It's "time for Grumpy to live on the screen in a new way," including plans to reunite with Aubrey Plaza, who voiced the cat in 2014 Lifetime's Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever, which reached more than by 12.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
Over the past seven years, Tuna and owner Courtney Dasher have grown an Instagram following of 2 million, toured the country, written a book and launched a merchandise store after urging from fans. Dasher says she declines so many brand partnerships that she's "known as the 'no' person in the industry, " and has been running Tuna's account as her full-time business for the past five years.
This story first appeared in the July 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.