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What Happens to Pet Influencer Accounts After the Pet Passes Away?

In the wake of a pet influencer's death, owners are faced with a tough decision.
Unsplash / Victor Grabarczyk
The rise of pet influencers first began around 2007 - the same year that internet sensation Tartar Sauce (aka Grumpy Cat) overtook the memesphere with her perpetual scowl.
The boom spawned a new industry. Pet celebrities scored brand partnerships, ad campaigns, and on-screen appearances in TV shows. To cope with the influx, animal-specific celebrity management companies like The Dog Agency sprung up to help pet influencers capitalize on their so-called "careers."
In an interview with Vogue, agency CEO Loni Edwards reported that some furry celebs can earn as much as $10,000 or more per sponsored post. Unsurprisingly, these wages often become the pet owners' primary source of income.
But unlike a professional career, pets have a relatively short lifespan - sometimes as little as 5-10 years. When animal influencers pass away, owners lose more than a valued companion. They also lose their paycheck.
In the midst of grief, handlers are faced with an overwhelming decision: In the wake of their animal's death, what will be done with the pet influencer's social media accounts?

Some slip in a replacement

When the hyper-photogenic hedgehog Mr. Pokee passed away last year, owner Talitha Girnus reported feeling shocked.
"I never thought about the moment that Pokee would pass away, because in my mind, he was like a unicorn who would live forever," Girnus said during an interview with The Outline.
Shortly after the hedgehog's death, Mr Pokee's Instagram (a platform boasting 1.7 million followers) transitioned its spotlight on a new star: a replacement hog named Herbee.
With the same button nose and brown eyes, very few distinguishing factors can be found between Herbee and his predecessor. In fact, the two are largely identical. That's the whole point.
This seamless transition has allowed Mr Pokee's brand and status to live on, even long after the original hedgehog’s passing.
And while Mr Pokee's handler has chosen to be transparent regarding the swap, it does beg the curious mind to wonder: could other pet owners be purposefully concealing the death of their animal influencers in order to keep their brands alive and profitable?

Many shift to a non-profit focus

After a handler announces the death of a pet superstar, the most natural progression is for the account to transition into a memorial page - a digital space for fans to mourn the loss and share positive memories. Interestingly, these memorial pages often shift slowly to a non-profit focus.
When internet sensation Chloe Kardoggian passed away in 2017, owner Dorie Herman was faced with the question of what to do with the elderly Chihuahua’s Instagram account. Deciding that the dog’s fan base of 161k followers was an opportunity too good to leave untapped, she decided to shift its focus to a more altruistic aim.
Since Chloe's passing, Herman has used the chihuahua's account to promote adoption initiatives in the NYC area. Last year, she announced Chloe Kardoggian's Celebration of Life Fundraiser. The event sought to raise money for Foster Dogs Inc., an organization which provides "fospice" care for aging animals.

A select few continue earning after death

In most cases, endorsement deals taper off after an animal star passes away. Most handlers will keep the accounts somewhat active by sporadically posting old photos, but very few will continue to secure sponsorships or turn profits.
Even so, internet sensations like Grumpy Cat and Lil BUB have beat the odds. Both felines have kept a consistent social media presence and continued earning big bucks long after their passing.
Likely, the differentiating factor is their unmistakable appearances. Both cats rose to fame because of their unique facades. Lil BUB’s famous "permakitten" look was a side-effect of feline dwarfism and an acute underbite. Grumpy Cat's iconic mug was particularly unusual because of its perpetually annoyed expression.
Though both cats have since passed away, their brands and Instagram accounts remain alive and well. Why? Because their owners have successfully licensed the animals' likeness for merch and sponsorships.
Grumpy Cat's Instagram, especially, has remained highly profitable following the feline's death. Even postmortem, the scowling kitten rakes in around $9,100 per sponsored post - sadly proving that even some dead pet influencers make more money than you.