There is a joke that the Internet is now solely comprised of social media, selfies, and cat photos and videos. Then again, when your celebrity is furry and adorable, who can resist?
Meet “Panther,” a “meowdel” with a fast-growing Instagram (“IG” for short) following (https://www.instagram.com/panther.cat/, or @panther.cat). Fur parent Carmen Goetz Blaylock, a fashion and beauty photographer (who herself looks like a model), has always loved cats, and on an impulse, she decided to check out the kittens for sale one day in 2014. “We (Carmen and her husband Jon of the band Firefalldown) fell immediately in love with him and called the breeder up. Later in the day, we picked him up.”
The male blue doll-face Persian was named after one of her favorite childhood stuffed toys. “He doesn’t exactly look like a real panther but we thought ‘Panther’ would make a great name for him.” As he was the most playful and ‘wild’ kitten among his littermates, Carmen she snapped photo after photo of her little baby, but it was only a year later, in 2015, that Carmen thought of creating an IG account for him. “It was more like unreal wishful thinking to make him ‘famous’,” she laughs. “Since I knew already of other celebrity cats on Instagram and what were the chances of little Panther to get a big audience like theirs? So it was more a hobby in the beginning.”
She filled his account everyday with cute pictures and videos of him eating, playing, and modeling on mini set designs; Jon contributed little soundtracks he composed. It was a whimsical project for the couple—but after one of Instagram’s most popular accounts, “Cats of Instagram,” featured one of Panther’s photos, his barely months-old account suddenly had over two thousand followers. (As of this writing, it’s almost at twenty thousand!)
That’s when Carmen decided, “I’m [going] to grow his Instagram as big as possible,” and added Facebook, Snapchat, and Youtube to Panther’s social media accounts.
SECRET OF HIS SUCCESS
“Obviously, having a successful account doesn’t just entail the uploading of good content. It’s a daily commitment to be social with other accounts on Instagram,” Carmen explains when asked about how much commitment it takes for Panther’s various accounts. She describes the cat community on IG as “amazing.” “The pet owners are incredibly nice and the time invested into Panther’s account opened up a new creative outlet for me.”
These days, she spends about 5-6 hours on Panther’s IG. Does he have a template or a formula for his entries and posts? No, Carmen says. “I don’t really have a template. However, I usually do some shoots that have a theme like Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day. I like to incorporate flowers for spring and summer. If you look at my stream, I tend to post three pictures of the same theme or background. To me, it’s like a little editorial [featuring] Panther.”
Carmen shares that through IG, Panther has been able to model for brands like Petstages (a US-based toy company). Other popular cat IG accounts like “Cats of Instagram” and the official equivalent IG accounts of the German- and Spanish-speaking parts of the world. “This year, he will have one of his photos featured in the first book of ‘Cats of Instagram’. He’s already come out with a sock line that was available for a limited period of time and more merchandise is currently in the pipeline. He has also been getting a lot of freebies like cat toys and accessories from the likes of Castify, Fit Cat Toys-PH, and TrackR. There are many more exciting projects coming up that I can’t reveal just yet, so stay tuned!” his excited fur mom says.
TAKING FAME IN STRIDE
So how has fame changed Panther’s life? Jon chimes in, saying, “He is just a normal cat like any other. He loves to hop into boxes, play with all kinds of toys, play hide and seek, sleep, eat…and repeat. He’s a very affectionate cat and more often than not he sleeps on our bed with us.”
His schedule isn’t grueling, Carmen explains. “The shoots for his Instagram don’t take that much of his time. Usually, I have shoot sessions of 10 minutes at the most for a set of 3 images that will be uploaded on his Instagram. That’s roughly 20 minutes of shooting time a week. I play with or feed him while I am taking his images because it’s important to me that he finds fulfillment in his occupation and that he is fairly compensated for his passion for and dedication to the ‘meowdeling’ industry.”
And yes, he gets fan mail! “Oftentimes, they write me private messages on Instagram asking what breed he is and they also ask about grooming or his favorite food. I try to respond to all of them,” smiles Carmen. His followers tend to be mostly female (about a third, Carmen estimates), between the ages of 25-40, and are usually also followers of: @cats_of_instagram, @bestmeow, @catsofinstagram, and @insta_animal.
DO YOU WANT YOUR PUSS TO BE A CELEB TOO?
For those who want to make Instagram celebrities of their own pets, Carmen recommends the following:
- Do regular uploads, about 1 or 2 a day.
- Have sharp images if possible and focus on your pet, because your pet is the star!
- Do use hashtags of pet-featuring Instagram accounts (to raise your pet’s chances of being ‘discovered’, do your research).
- Be creative and find something that will make you stand out.
And it’s not just your pet who’s going to be in the spotlight here, Carmen points out. You will be, too. “So you have be social and nice. ‘Like’ and comment on other accounts, and respond to comments,” she says.
Which Instagram accounts, aside from Panther’s, does Carmen recommend that cat and animal lovers follow? “@cats_of_instagram, @albertbabycat, @hosico_cat, @bestmeow, and @insta_animal,” she says.
Given that Animal Scene’s My Pet’s Life just launched, Carmen’s advice is invaluable. Grab that camera, start snapping, and send in your entries now!
This appeared in Animal Scene’s September 2016 issue.