How to start and maintain an Instagram account for your pet

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms on the planet – and many of the most popular accounts belong to dogs and cats! Here’s how to make your pet #instafamous.

If you’ve ever gotten sucked into row after row of beautiful images on Instagram, you understand the appeal. Scrolling this app has become a common pastime for billions of people around the globe — and many of these users are following at least one dog or cat. In fact, the most followed Instagram cat, @nala_cat, has over 3.8 million followers, while the most followed Instagram dog, @jiffpom, boasts a whopping 8.9 million.

You might not be able to gain that many followers for your own dog or cat – at least not anytime soon. But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t create an Instagram account for him! Taking and posting pictures and videos of your furry friend is a fun pastime that can help you connect with other animal parents out there, and it’s a great way to document memories that’ll last a lifetime. Here’s how to start and grow an Instagram account for your animal companion.

Step 1: Download the app

If you haven’t already, visit an app store and download Instagram. It’s free!

Step 2: Come up with a “handle”

Your “handle” is the username that will represent you (or in this case, your dog or cat) across Instagram. You’ll have to come up with a name that hasn’t already been taken by another user, so get creative!

Step 3: Create your profile

Congratulations, you’re now the proud owner of your dog or cat’s Instagram account! Now that you’ve joined over one billion other users, it’s time to create a profile that’ll help you stand out from the crowd. Hit the “edit profile” button, and input your animal’s name, your website (if applicable), and write a short bio to describe your beloved companion.

Expert tip: Ellen started an Instagram account for her dog, Nelle, to document their life together, and to inspire others. But to gain 33K followers, she had to create an account that was different than all the others out there. “Be genuine,” she says. “Be yourself. Find something that makes you and your pet unique. There are millions of dogs…what makes yours remarkable?” Ellen must have done something right, because Nelle is the cover dog of this issue of Animal Wellness! Flip to the cover to see one of Ellen’s beautiful photos.

This is also a good time to add your profile photo. This tiny image is one of the first things other users will see, and will help them decide whether or not to follow you – so pick a good one! If you don’t have any photos yet, skip to the next step!

Step 4: Take some photos

This is the fun part! You love your furry friend, so sharing his face with the world can be a very gratifying experience. But taking a good picture of a dog or cat isn’t as easy as it looks. Chances are, he’ll be squirmy and uncooperative, and simply getting him to sit still will be a tedious task! To snap a good shot, use his favorite treat to encourage him to “pose”. Make sure you’re either outdoors or in a well-lit room, and use the best camera you have at your disposal to make sure the final result is high in quality. Your phone should work just fine.

Expert tip: Thanks to positive reinforcement, Nelle has become an expert doggie model – but it isn’t always easy! “If she doesn’t want to pose, I tell her it’s okay and we walk away,” says Ellen. “I never make her do something she doesn’t want to. Another piece of advice is if you and your dog are out hiking, take photos on the way back so your dog has had some exercise and let off some steam.”

Step 5: Share your first post

Once you’ve managed to get a good shot, it’s time to post it. You can edit the photo in the app, and apply one of the available filters to make it “pop”. If you haven’t already uploaded your profile photo, you can use this one!

Next, write a caption for your photo. You’ve got space for 2,200 characters (approximately 300 words), so use it wisely! This is the time to determine any specific goals you have for your dog or cat’s account. Do you want to use it as a way to educate others, raise awareness for a cause, or showcase your photography skills? Maybe you’re just hoping to make people laugh, or keep in touch with family and friends. Whatever you decide, use your first post to let others know why you’re there.

Expert tip: Natalie and her dog, Nike, are big believers in using Instagram in a way that best serves you and your animal. “If Instagram is a place for you to keep memories of your pets, then just take and post all the photos and videos you want,” says Natalie. “If you’re using it for photography, then I recommend taking lots of photos to improve.” If you’re hoping to reach more people, she suggests reading articles on the platform, watching YouTube tutorials, and following lots of other Instagram accounts for inspiration. “But most importantly, have fun!” she adds.

Adding hashtags to your post is a great way to be found by other users. To determine which hashtags to use, look at other accounts similar to yours. You can use up to 30 hashtags in a single post, but most experts recommend anywhere between 5 and 11. Try using #dogsofinstagram or #catsofinstagram, and #petstagram to start.

Step 5: Engage with other users

The key to growth on Instagram is engagement. In a nutshell, engagement refers to your interaction with other users — your likes, comments and shares — and their interaction with your account. Engagement also applies to the number of accounts you follow. Typically, the more accounts you follow that are similar to yours, the more followers you’ll get in return.

Expert tip: Kat’s cats, Leopold and Brigand, boast almost 53K followers on Instagram. Her secret? A combination of having fun, and being dedicated to engagement. “Instagram is a social network, and the focus is being shifted more and more to the social part of it,” says Kat. “Go out and explore your feed and all the hashtags, find some accounts you love and go ‘like’ or comment on their pictures.”

Step 6: Keep it up!

Consistency is another vital ingredient when it comes to gaining followers. Several studies on social media habits have revealed that to encourage “traffic” to your page, you should be posting a photo one to three times each day.

Expert tip: As a photographer, Jane started an account for her cat, Leo, to encourage her to take photos every day. Her dedication has resulted in 95K followers. But to her, it’s important not to focus on the numbers. “Be sure to have a reason other than gaining popularity when you start,” she says. “If you don’t find joy in taking photos and videos of your pets, then Instagram will end up feeling like a chore sooner or later. And of course, be patient! Growth takes time.”

If popularity isn’t your goal, just continue posting pictures and/or videos of your companion whenever you find the time. This way, you’ll have a digital photo album to look back on in years to come!