Can you turn your fabulous pet into a social media millionaire?

Pets with a huge online fanbase can reportedly earn hundreds of thousands of pounds, or even millions, a year. In 2014 numerous publications claimed that internet sensation Grumpy Cat, the feline with a frown from Phoenix, Arizona, earned £64m in two years from her own line of products, including books and a film and sponsorship deals.

Tabatha Bundesen, the cat’s owner, later said the figure was “inaccurate” although she refused to disclose her pet’s true income. Grumpy Cat, whose miserable expression results from the winning combination of dwarfism and an underbite, has a huge online following – 2.3 million followers on Instagram, 8.7 million on Facebook and 1.3 million on Twitter.

The sour puss’s career began when she was just a few months old when a picture was posted on Reddit, the story-sharing website, and users questioned whether it had been altered. A video was then posted on Youtube, which received more than a million views in 24 hours, according to Forbes magazine.

Grumpy Cat
Grumpy Cat is one of the highest-earning pets on social media CREDIT: VINCENT SANDOVAL

Grumpy Cat’s empire now includes a range of branded merchandise including mugs, clothing, pillows and greeting cards and she was recently cited as the most influential pet online in Forbes‘s 2017 list.

Grumpy Cat is not the only pet to achieve online success, although the earning potential for other owners who want to push their pets into the spotlight is likely to be less impressive – and hard work.

Nicole Lane’s three-year old pug, Barry, has a following of 41,000 on Instagram her earnings amount to a few hundred pounds for a Virgin Media campaign. Ms Lane, 29, started to post pictures of Barry on her own social media accounts when he was six months old but decided shortly afterwards to upload them to his own platform.

She said she saw his account as “a kind of photo diary” to which she uploaded photos on a daily basis. She said she liked the idea of looking back on them as he grew older.

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As Barry’s online following grew Ms Lane, who lives in Coventry, said she began to be contacted by companies that had found him on Instagram and offered to send her free products, such as dog treats and pet bandanas, to be included in her photos. Other firms have offered perks in return for videos of Barry that they can use in their promotional campaigns.

Ms Lane said she had turned down companies that had offered her cash to share one of their adverts with Barry’s followers.

“They have nothing to do with Barry and I don’t think direct adverts are particularly engaging. People don’t follow Barry to have adverts pop up and I don’t want to lose them,” she said.

Last year Ms Lane signed Barry up to PetLondon Models, a modelling agency, and he became the face of Virgin Media’s online adverts. He has also recently featured in a Cineworld advert to promote the new film Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Ms Lane was paid £50 expenses for the Virgin Media audition in London and when he got the part she received another £250 plus £50 to cover food and travel. The Cineworld job, which was also in London, paid £200 plus £50 expenses.

Thanks to her pet’s popularity on social media Ms Lane is now able to negotiate fees with companies that approach her. She charges £35 for a photo post, £65 for two photos and £85 for three photos or videos, figures that she calculated on the basis of Barry’s following.

Audience reach is what drives the fee. Loni Edwards, founder of The Dog Agency in New York, which manages celebrity pets, said animals with millions of followers could earn between $10,000 (£7,459) and $15,000 per post because their reach was incredibly valuable to companies.

But Ms Edwards, a former lawyer and “momager” to her own dog Chloe, a miniature French bulldog with 178,000 Instagram followers, said it could take years to build enough of an online presence before an owner could give up their day job.