Loni Edwards, whose New York-based Dog Agency represents more than 100 Instagram animal stars, from Atticus the hedgehog
(113,000 followers) to Tuna Melts My Heart the Chiweenie dog (1.9 million).
Owners of Insta-famous pets with a million followers or more can make “as much as $10,000 to
$15,000” per sponsored post, says Edwards, a Harvard law school graduate and former lawyer.
People are usually blindsided when their pets go viral, and Edwards helps turn Instagram accounts into businesses.
“These people usually have full-time jobs and don’t have time to manage their pet accounts or respond to fan mail or look at contract law,” Edwards says. “We help them grow their brand, match them with companies, get them travel permits if needed. We’re basically making sure they’re not signing all their rights away.”
Edwards says her agency doesn’t represent pets with fewer than
50,000 followers. With that social-media clout, pet celebrities start luring everything from advertisers to book and merchandising deals. A good example is Grumpy Cat, whose furry scowl launched thousands of internet memes and spawned books, mobile video games and even a Christmas movie, she says.
“The best pet accounts have something unique or eye-catching. It’s all about people tagging their friends and sharing the content, and that’s how it goes viral,” Edwards says.
Living with Diddy and Yeti Kong
Living with two monkeys can be demanding for Katia and Crown, 31, but they won’t deny having Diddy and Yeti Kong has been lucrative, helping them afford their 43rd-floor penthouse apartment overlooking Biscayne Bay in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood.
Paintings of the monkeys, mailed to the couple by Diddy and Yeti Kong’s Instagram fans, decorate their sunlit apartment. Yeti, at 2 1⁄2 inches tall, is the calmer of the two, and can usually be found snoozing inside her plush, Yeti and Diddy Kong, two Instagram-famous marmoset monkeys with a million followers. They live in a luxury penthouse apartment in MIami with their owner, Gabriella Katia, a 26-year-old professional model.
— Gabriella Katia
pink, egg-shaped pet bed. Diddy is the “crazier and wilder” one, Katia says. During a reporter’s recent visit to their home, Diddy bounded from a sofa arm to a topiary tree branch and back. Yeti, wary of new faces, lingered by Crown’s side.
“Dids! Dids!” Crown said, clucking his tongue to get Diddy Kong’s attention. The marmoset ignored him and leaped onto a sofa cushion. “They do this a lot,” Crown said with a laugh.
It was Crown, not Katia, who wanted an exotic pet. When the couple found Diddy Kong at a Fort Lauderdale animal sanctuary, he was sick with pneumonia, which had already killed his four brothers and sisters. They nursed him back to health, and started feeding him a diet of nuts and organic fruit.
“One of my favorite things to do for Diddy Kong is meal-prep for him,” Katia said, slicing into watermelon and kiwano, a spiky exotic fruit, on the kitchen counter. Diddy Kong chirped and leaped onto Katia’s shoulder.
Both marmosets awaken at 7 a.m., and then it’s constant pampering throughout the day, says Katia, who takes Diddy Kong shopping for meals at Yellow Green Farmer’s Market in Hollywood.
While Katia is no Instagram slouch with 33,300 followers, she’s no match against a pair of palm-size marmosets. “I was in Publix recently, and someone asked me if I was Diddy Kong’s mom,” she recalls with a laugh. At modeling gigs such as Miami Swim Week, Katia is often asked to walk the runways with Diddy Kong on her shoulder.
Why does Katia think
Diddy Kong has so many fans? “People love to watch pets getting pampered,” she says. “We get a lot of engagement when Diddy takes baths and eats those little organic foods I make. That’s the kind of vibe that makes him special, not just cute.”
Kiko the Little Frenchie
A 4-year-old “diva queen” with an all-pink wardrobe is how Sandi Magder describes Kiko the Little Frenchie, her French bulldog with 72,200 followers.
Magder hardly expected Kiko to go viral when she posted a video of her bulldog dashing around an Aventura park wearing a pink hoodie and denim skirt. Manny the Frenchie (1.1 million followers) and other Instagram-famous French bulldogs began sharing the post, and Kiko became an overnight hit, Magder says.
“She’s a real ham for the camera, and everyone loves to see her resting bitch face,” says Magder, 42, describing Kiko’s everpresent scowl. “She always looks like she hates what she’s wearing, especially when I get her something to eat.”
On Instagram, Kiko, the runt of a litter of French bulldogs Magder bought from a breeder in 2014, can
be spotted at Miami Marlins baseball games, costumed in pink tutus at the park and tearing into “pupcakes” — Magder’s word for dog-friendly cupcakes — with Magder’s other pets, Maaya, a 1-year-old Frenchie and Suki, a 9-year-old West Highland White Terrier.
“I call her a D-list celebrity,” says Magder, a forensic accountant who calls herself Kiko’s “momager” (or mom-manager). She frequently hosts “Frenchie meetups” on her page, which allow Kiko’s fan base to meet her in person at local parks.
Once Kiko’s Instagram followers climbed to 15,000, Magder says dog-boutique companies reached out and sent free swag to Kiko, such as harnesses and dog bones. Magder says she only accepts free products, but says her full-time job prevents her from time-consuming sponsored posts, which require contracts.
“I want the account to feel organic, and not just like Kiko’s a walking billboard,” Magder says. “Even with clothing, we won’t accept anything that isn’t pink, because that’s Kiko’s brand.”
Remix the dog
With his sunglasses, shaggy hipster beard and stylish button-down vests, Remix is like the canine equivalent of a globetrotting DJ, a hirsute pupabout-town.
That’s the miniature schnauzer’s lifestyle on Instagram, where 123,000 followers watch the roving dog ride Vespas in Israel, pose under the Brooklyn Bridge and eat doughnuts in Wynwood. Remix’s owner is 32-year-old Chris Ha, a marketing rep for a Miami rum company who travels “everywhere” for his job and describes his dog as a “grumpy old-man hipster.”
Ha adopted Remix in Toronto and couldn’t help posting photos of the canine wearing multicolored shirts. Fashion magazines reached out after a photo of Remix dressed as a DJ in a blue hoodie and sunglasses went viral, and soon after, Remix appeared in Elle, Glamour and the men’s fashion magazine Mr. Porter. Remix is represented by the Dog Agency, which helps match brands with the schnauzer’s style.
“I just imagine him as my weird roommate living the Miami life, and he just happens to be a snappy dresser with sunglasses and cheesy flirty lines,” Ha, 32, says with a laugh.
The runt of the litter, Remix is prone to the occasional grumpy streak, but remains a social butterfly at heart, Ha says. Over the past six months, Remix has appeared in 15 sponsored posts on Instagram. There he is at Brimstone in Doral, posing with a cocktail brunch. For his fifth birthday, he got a Shake Shackbranded dog bone. Oceana Bal Harbour even hired Remix as a paid model for its new luxury condos on A1A.
And his eye-catching outfits and accessories? Dog boutiques ship him free apparel, no questions asked, in the hope Remix will wear it and crack a pick-up line (“gurl, are you Netflix? Cuz I could watch you for hours”).
“When you get to [Remix’s follower] size, you have to pay attention to it as a business,” says Ha, who says he is paid about $1,000 to $2,000 per sponsored post.
“If he didn’t love humans more than dogs, I probably wouldn’t be doing this as much,” Ha says. “But he’s so lovable and feeds off everyone’s attention.”
“People love to watch pets getting pampered. We get a lot of engagement when Diddy takes baths and eats those little organic foods I make. That’s the kind of vibe that makes him special, not just cute.”