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Good boys and good girls across the world have the internet to thank for soaring pet-adoption rates.

You may be convinced you love your pet more deeply than everyone else in the world loves theirs, but by taking a quick scan of social media, it is clear that you may have some competition. All over the internet, whether on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook or Twitter, pet parents are celebrating their good boy or girl and doing everything possible to ensure their pet gets the chance to live their best life.

The 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey has indicated that 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet. This surge of appreciation for pets, ranging from dogs to pigs, is not coincidental. Pets decorate the internet every day, and their human friends are to blame for the contagious, beautiful trend of giving them forever homes.

Instagram profiles not only feature humans these days, but furry friends as well. The ability to follow a dog or cat’s every move makes people feel more connected to them, and once they get that oxytocin going, they can’t help themselves but to want to get a pet of their own to love. Instagram users can’t seem to get enough of the animals that owners have shared pictures of, and their lists of followers grows every day.

One popular Instagram profile is Grumpy Cat, who now has over 2 million followers, a trademark next to her name, a website and countless memes. Grumpy Cat, or Tardar Sauce, received almost instant fame after her owner’s brother, Bryan Bundesen, posted her picture on Reddit in September 2012.

Tardar Sauce’s owner, Tabatha Bundesen, then posted videos of her on YouTube because people did not believe she was an actual cat. Upon seeing her eternally grumpy face, the internet was convinced that Bundesen was altering photos of her cat using Photoshop. In reality, the photos are unedited, and Tardar Sauce’s famous grumpy expression is actually because she has a form of dwarfism and an underbite. Nowadays, to cope with her cat’s massive popularity, Bundesen has left her day job to manage her Grumpy Cat’s fan base, a high-profile position given that the feline sensation has an estimated net worth of between $1 million – $100 million.

Before social media took over the world, pets were not in the limelight the way they are now. After Grumpy Cat became popular 2012, a number of pets began making their way onto Instagram and crawling into people’s hearts forever. Joining Grumpy Cat on social media outlets today are Doug the Pug, Marnie the Dog, Lil Bub and Hamlet the Pig, to name a few. Each account has accumulated millions of followers, a result of the animals’ marketability, their owners’ attentiveness and the intimacy the internet affords.

The animals that have gotten the most attention are those who stand out from the rest. These animals, like Grumpy Cat, generally have disabilities. Marnie the Dog, whose Instagram boasts 2 million followers, has a permanent head-tilt and her tongue eternally droops on the side of her mouth.

Marnie is the product of a tumultuous upbringing. She was found by Animal Services at the age of 10 when she was near-blind, had a terrible odor and 14 infected teeth that desperately needed extracting. Thankfully, after spending four months in a shelter and receiving the rather unfortunate name of Stinky, she met her owner, Shirley, or as she refers to herself on the website she operates for Marnie, her “bae.”

At the age of 17, Marnie the Dog is still living her best life, and it certainly seems the best times have yet to come. On her website, Shirley says that Marnie’s favorite activities are “partying” and “eating watermelon,” both quite understandable. The website also boasts that she is the internet’s most popular rescue dog.

Like Grumpy Cat, Marnie’s strong presence on social media is not only a victory for Marnie herself, but a victory for the underdogs, the deserving dogs who patiently wait for loving families in shelters for a wide variety of time periods.

Aspiring pet owners have some work to do to help the cause of abandoned pets like Marnie. Certainly, the support fans give to pets who traditionally would have been dumped in a shelter reduces the saddening cycle. However, the Humane Society of the United States reports that 80 percent of the 3 million cats and dogs euthanized in shelters every year are actually treatable and healthy.

Aside from the alluring, humanlike Instagram accounts pets now have that their adoring owners operate, people use other social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, as platforms to advocate for animals, which is truly what they need.

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Me on Mondays.

A post shared by Hamlet (@hamlet_the_piggy) on

Animal rights groups, like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), take advantage of the opportunities they now have to publicize their messages through a variety of avenues. If an injustice toward animals occurs, the organization can tweet about the act and describe the support they need from people. One user retweets it, and within a few seconds there is a firestorm of sharing, educating millions of people within minutes.

Social media has created a culture of respect for animals, a culture that moves rapidly from one person to the next. Because of the simplicity of recording videos and taking pictures, and the ease with which they can spread across the internet, a pet owner mistreating their pet can go viral in no time. Gone are the days when animals are left on the side of the road with no repercussions for the owners, their suffering — and in many cases, deaths — in vain.

Now, because of social media, animal lovers can band together to find the perpetrator. Once a post is public, the options for finding the person are nearly endless.

Animals get more respect and love than they ever have gotten before. In many ways, owners of today treat pets as they would humans, as social media indicates with every dog who has a birthday party or “shares their thoughts” through Facebook or Instagram.

If the future continues in a direction similar to today’s trends, life for American pets will only improve. In many cases, they have the advocates and “pet parents” that they have deserved for centuries, and that should put a smile on the faces of everyone who loves animals. Pets give their people pure love that we probably never will be deserving of, and so, loving them in every way possible is not only understandable, but a necessity.

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