DTC Pet Care Brands and Animal Influencers

GRIN also recommends this Quick Guide: Influencer Types: Which is best for your brand?

Woman taking a selfie with a dalmatian

A study by Statista estimated that Americans likely spent almost $110 billion on pet supplies in 2021 alone. Leading the pack of pet buyers is a growing category of animal influencers.

The direct-to-consumer (DTC) model increases the variety and quality of pet care products, and buyers want to know which products are best for their pet. And the key to growing your pet care brand lies in endorsements from animal creators online.

“We used to tune in to companies. Now, we tune in to people.”

Brandon Brown, co-founder of GRIN

The rise of DTC pet care brands

“Dog and cat owners make up the vast majority (94%) of pet-owning households in the United States. The number of households including dogs has grown 36% since 2009 to 49 million households.”

Pet Food Processing, 2020

People love pets. In the U.S., pet ownership continues to grow, and with it, pet spending. Motivations for animal adoption range from companionship to mental health and rescuing abandoned pets.

Line graph of "Pet industry expenditure in the United States from 1994 to 2021"
Image via Statista

For decades, pet owners shopped for products in stores. But technology and ecommerce make it easier for new brands to enter the market and offer customers a wider selection of high-quality products.

Today, people can purchase pet food, toys, and accessories from the palm of their hand. And pet care brands can launch an online store on a shoestring budget. As a result, the traditional mass manufacturing and distribution model is struggling to keep up with smaller, agile, more numerous DTC brands.

Why DTC pet care is so important now

The impact of COVID-19 on pet shopping

Even before the economic impact of a global pandemic forced consumers to shop less at brick-and-mortar stores, online shopping was growing dramatically. Due to the lower overhead and flexibility of online stores, more brands flooded the DTC market across all industries.

Pet and animal care products have flourished within an ecommerce environment. And even as foot traffic to storefronts slowly returns to normal, online buying is here to stay.

Pet brand knowledge about their customers

With ecommerce websites and analytics tools come more valuable consumer data. Pet care brands can engage fans on social media, track website activity, note buyer preferences (particularly among those who create online accounts), and maintain contact with prospects/customers through email and text.

With more consumer data and affordable programs to consolidate that data, even the smallest DTC brands can target niche audiences with remarkable effectiveness. This advancement allows pet care brands to scale rapidly because they have a better understanding of who their target buyers are.

Increased awareness for pet health

Over time, pet owners have leveraged online platforms and like-minded communities to better understand what it means to build a healthy quality of life for their pets. These trends lead people to search for more specific items, such as particular types of dog food or more functional leashes.

DTC brands are in a perfect position to serve these niche audiences, as well as inform pet owners about the value of buying higher-quality products specific to a pet’s breed, size, and health issues.

Rise of animal activism on social media

Social media gives voices to various marginalized groups, particularly those advocating for animal rights. Many have dedicated their personal pages or launched branded pages to rescuing unwanted animals and ending abuse.

Naturally, a growing awareness for animal activism feeds pet ownership and responsible buying. Many consumers want to know that the brands they buy from take a stand for animal rights.

Social media then becomes a vibrant word-of-mouth marketplace for animal lovers to share about their favorite brands. DTC brands are optimized for social and ecommerce, making it easier to reach like-minded customers.

The popularity of animals and pets on social media

In a study by Mars Petcare US, respondents said they often preferred social posts about animals over people. And pet owners love sharing cute images and videos of their “fur babies.”

Infographic on pets on social media
Image via I Heart Dogs

65% POST ABOUT THEIR PET ON SOCIAL MEDIA

ARE YOU ADDICTED?

2x a week

ON AVERAGE PEOPLE POST TWICE PER WEEK ABOUT THEIR PETS!

1 in 2

SAY THEIR PETS GET MORE SOCIAL ATTENTION

ON AVERAGE 25%

OF PEOPLE’S PHOTOS ARE PET RELATED

Mars found that more than half of those surveyed said they receive more likes on pet posts than they do non-pet posts. Animal content is overwhelmingly popular on social media, and that’s why pet care brands are so successful with pet and animal influencers.

Infographic on pet social media posts
Image via I Heart Dogs

POPULAR POSTS

34%

POST ABOUT THEIR PET AS OFTEN AS THEIR OWN LIFE

55%

CARE MORE FOR LIKES FROM THEIR PET POSTS RATHER THAN OTHER POSTS

ANIMAL POSTS: 55%

PERSONAL PHOTOS: 44%

FOOD POSTS: 34%

ACTIVITIES: 20%

DTC brands can tap into animal influencers to market to animal lovers around the world

Since social media is such a fertile ground for ecommerce and animal lovers, pet care brands can scale their business rapidly with the help of animal creators. You can find these creators in every country and niche; in fact, many celebrities (such as Sex Education’s Asa Butterfield) and non-animal influencers still own pets and like to feature them in between posts about their main topic, cause, or lifestyle.

animal influencer

DTC brands already succeeding in influencer marketing

My Lovely Feline is a great example of a brand that likes to partner with animal creators. Not only do they send free product to hundreds of cat influencers, but they also contract with creators to publish authentic branded content.

This strategy has resulted in more engagement on branded posts, as well as a mountain of user-generated content spreading the word among cat lovers on Instagram.

Tuff Muff Pets doesn’t just work with petfluencers — they also like to show off their top-of-the-line leashes among fitness and lifestyle creators. This approach allows the brand to expand their reach beyond niche audiences.

Alpha Paw makes pet food that is breed-specific and sustainable. The brand’s mission and values are highly specific, which means that they work hard to partner only with those creators who share similar values.

In addition to pet food, Alpha Paw makes a variety of pet accessories. For the 2021 holidays, the brand worked with its ambassador team to promote its new line of dog beds by offering discount codes to each of their animal creator partners.

Top 15 animal influencers brands should follow

Top 5 animal influencers on TikTok

1. @popeyethefoodie

@popeyethefoodie

I may be biased, but all of the above for me. 😉 #dogsofttiktok #ears #carride #fyp

♬ Feenin’ – Jodeci

Popeye is the “foodie dog” because his owners love to pose him next to delicious dishes. His adorable videos and images attract fans on both TikTok and Instagram.

2. @jiffpom

@jiffpom

#ad The Big🍎meets its new BIGGEST 🐶 Make your pet BIG with Clifford-Size Your Pet! #CliffordMovie #ParamountPartner In Theaters and On Paramount+ Nov 10

♬ Clifford in theaters and on Paramount Plus Nov 10 – jiffpom

No pet influencer list would be complete without Jiff Pom, a Pomeranian Guinness World Record breaker and pet celebrity. He has made appearances in movies, shows, and pop music videos and is considered by many to be the top animal influencer online today.

3. @heresyourmonkeycontent

@heresyourmonkeycontent

Georgie Boy Home Videos 😂🐵 This was in 2014 🥲 #flashback #neverbeforeseen #inmemoryofgeorge

♬ original sound – Georgie Boy

George is a capuchin who took TikTok by storm in 2020. He passed away tragically after a routine dental procedure in 2021, but his former owners continue to post memories and engage audiences on TikTok and Instagram.

4. @juniperfoxx

@juniperfoxx

✨ Hop over to our instagram page @juniperfoxx for the giveaway ✨

♬ animal crossing ~ new horizons lofi – Closed on Sunday

Juniper is one of a family of foxes born into and rescued from a life of captivity. Her rescuers delight audiences with adorable videos and inform viewers of genetic issues that arise for animals born into captivity and make them unable to survive in the wild.

  1. @nala_cat
@nala_cat

All I want for Christmas is you ❤️#WorkingAtHome #NoNuanceNovember #tiktokpets #fyp #foryoupage #foryourpage #foryou

♬ All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey

Nala the cat is the second Guinness World Record holder on our list. She is the most popular cat influencer online and is a brand ambassador for Paw CBD.

Top 5 animal influencers on Instagram

1. @hamlet_the_piggy

Hamlet is a domesticated therapy pig based in Nashville, Tennessee. Fans enjoy her personality and surprising eye for fashion. Melanie (the owner) found her as a piglet and with Hamlet’s help has been able to live a functional life despite the threat of seizures.

2. @daniel_charles_bailey

Some animal influencers aren’t pet owners in the traditional sense. Daniel Bailey, for example, is a safari guide and professional photographer who features animals in his gorgeous images and videos.

3. @realdiddykong

Diddy Kong and Yeti Kong are playmates and Instagram favorites. Their caretakers rescued them and leverage their social media to promote animal rescue efforts around the world.

4. @mensweardog

Bodhi is the “most stylish dog in the world,” according to fans. He has been featured wearing men’s outfits in GQ, Time Magazine, The New York Times, and CNN.

5. @kpunkka

Konsta Punkka hails from Finland but spends most of his time traveling and searching for wildlife. His love for animals inspired him to learn photography as a teenager, and he is now one of the top nature photographers in the world.

Top 5 animal influencers on YouTube

1. Doug the Pug

Doug the Pug has appeared in music videos and a Super Bowl commercial. He is also famous for his calendar pictures and winner of two People’s Choice Awards.

2. Tucker Budzyn

Tucker Budzyn is a golden retriever who shares his YouTube spotlight with pup son, Todd. Together they taste test, play games, react, or sport fun outfits.

3. That Little Puff

After cat owners noticed their pets wanting to join them while cooking, they decided to stage their cats as chefs. And that’s how That Little Puff was born. This team of seven cats hosts one of the most popular animal channels on YouTube.

4. Cole and Marmalade

Cole and Marmalade are rescue cats who have become close feline friends. Their playful videos generate thousands of views and engagements from fans. 

5. The Secret Life of my Hamster

Not much is known about the hamster and owner featured in The Secret Life of my Hamster. But that hasn’t stopped millions of fans from flocking to the pet’s YouTube and Facebook pages.

Conclusion

There is no better way for pet care brands to connect with their customers than to build long-term relationships with authentic animal creators. Pet influencers have an advantage over brands because they are themselves informed consumers engaging a tight-knit community of animal lovers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Animal influencers are creators who feature animals in their photos, videos, or blogs and nurture online communities around a shared love for animals. Many animal influencers are also known as petfluencers.

Top pet influencers fluctuate based on popularity and how diligent they are to post content. Many regard the current top petfluencers to be Jiff Pom, Nala the Cat, and Doug the Pug.

The current dog influencer with the largest collective reach across all channels is Jiff Pom.

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