Influencer-pet owners reveal what it's like to keep the legacy alive after Lil Bub and other viral animals died
- Notable pets, like Jiff Pom and Doug the Pug, have become celebrities and well-known stars through content their owners post on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
- However, pets have significantly shorter life spans than everyday influencers, which raises a unique issue about what owners do with these accounts after their pets' deaths.
- Owners who spoke with Business Insider had a variety of responses: Some continue to post photos for the fans, others bring in another animal to carry on the account, and others leave the accounts untouched as a way to honor their pets' legacies.
- Several owners shared how having a internet-famous pet has made the grieving process a drawn-out experience, and how some are still able to earn money even after their pets' deaths.
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Cyber Monday is one of the biggest days each year for online retailers, including for the brand centered around a four-pound cat named Lil Bub.
Instead of spending the weekend before the online shopping holiday recovering from Thanksgiving dinner, Lil Bub's owner Mike Bridavsky was busy making sure his website was ready for the onslaught of traffic expected Monday. He prepared for thousands to flock to the Lil Bub online store to snatch up t-shirts, socks, and pillows bearing the cat's recognizable appearance: her small stature due to feline dwarfism, her lack of teeth, and her tongue permanently hanging out of her mouth. But he couldn't have anticipated what else his weekend had in store.
Lil Bub died that Sunday, just over 3 months ago, leaving behind a slew of adoring fans to grieve. In her 8 years of life, Lil Bub accrued millions of social media followers, served as the face for numerous animal welfare causes, and became a widely recognizable and beloved face across the internet.
"Bub had a complete lack of self awareness, this ability to overcome all the obstacles she's felt," Bridavsky told Business Insider. "She wasn't just a famous Instagram cat ... She engineered herself to look this way so she could catch people's attention and they could learn about her."
Lil Bub turned into an established social media influencer in much less time than it takes many of her human counterparts. Pets like Grumpy Cat, Marnie, and Boo have become not just household names, but full-blown celebrities. These pets have shown that influencers don't have to be human to get fans to line up for hours for meet-and-greets, or earn thousands of dollars a year from ads and sponsorships.
However, these pets' significantly shorter lifespans raise a whole set of questions about what comes after. After internet pets pass, their owners still remain. Not only are they left with a slew of social media accounts bearing the name of their pets, but also with a loyal following that, in my cases, have turned to these animals as a bright spot during the grayest of days.
"Everyone loves pets. They can say offensive things on Twitter and they can't get in trouble. They're just adorable and perfect," Loni Edwards, the CEO of pet influencer management firm The Dog Agency, told Business Insider. "Being able to touch so many people regardless of where they live or their age ... that's such a unique type of content creator."
Several owners of famous pets spoke with Business Insider about their struggles and experiences handling the online presences of their animals after they died. While some have preserved these accounts as an homage to their pets, others have continued to share photos of their animals from the massive backlog of content they've acquired. There are still others who have continued their pets' legacies by getting another who can substitute for - not replace - the original on social media.
The key point many owners factored into their decision-making has been the impact their actions have on their pets' followings and fans. Even though some owners stumbled accidentally into the world of influencing, they have nevertheless taken to heart the often significant role their pets played in the lives of their fans.
"You're a lucky man to have had this magical creature in your life, and we were especially lucky that you shared her with all of us," an Instagram user commented on a recent photo of Lil Bub. "Her magic will never be forgotten."