Tuesday, May 26

Pets of UCLA get extra love on social media, create community for animal lovers

The cat Roo, featured in the Instagram account @wheresroo, is one of the many UCLA pets who have accumulated a social media following. (Amy Dixon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Both pets and their owners are posing for followers and likes on their social media pages.

Many students and alumni are turning to animal-centric social media accounts – such as those focused on dogs, cats and guinea pigs – in their spare time. Photos of animals around the UCLA campus and Westwood have become a trend, said fourth-year theater student Romy Bavli. There’s a reason such accounts have become so popular: Social media users may scroll through their feed, Bavli said, and look through the pages of pets for mindless entertainment.

Bavli is the sole owner of guinea pigs Lady Marmalade and Rapunzel, who are featured in an Instagram account with over 400 followers called @pigsofucla. Missing her pets from home, she said she and her former roommate spontaneously decided to purchase the creatures and created the account as a fun hobby.

“My roommate and I essentially got them on a whim,” Bavli said. “It was kind of one of the things where we were hitting a junior slump and we were sad and bored. We just got something pretty easy to take care of and cuddly.”

Bavli hopes to continue running her pets’ social media account after she graduates, she said, or might pass off the responsibility to another UCLA student willing to manage the page. And running the account presents a few challenges – Bavli said bringing Lady Marmalade and Rapunzel is unlike bringing a dog to campus as they must be carried by a person, in a little box or a car. If the guinea pigs will be out for a while, they also have to remember to bring additional supplies like water.

Despite the transportation planning, Bavli said she hopes to bring them to school more often this academic year. Having let the creatures roam the campus grass in the past, Bavli said she has received noticeable reactions from the public.

“People (do a) double take because we’ve let them roam in the grass a few times,” Bavli said. “They are like ‘What is that, a guinea pig?’”

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While some humans have over 100,000 followers on Instagram, so does Pavlov the corgi. Graduate student Elayne-Tram Nguyen and her boyfriend, alumnus Anthony Osuna, are co-owners of Pavlov and his Instagram account @pavlovthecorgi. When the pair created their Instagram account for Pavlov in 2015, Osuna said pet social media accounts were fairly uncommon. Nguyen said they created an Instagram account for Pavlov because they felt, at the time, it was unusual to post pictures of pets on personal social media accounts.

“We thought of creating his own page instead of flooding our friends with just pictures of him,” Nguyen said. “It was a separate way for them to keep updated with our dog on another level and us on a separate account.”

Nguyen said she plans to bring Pavlov to campus this academic year during her days off school and for study breaks. Students react positively to seeing the dog on campus – they are able to de-stress and feel less sad about missing their own pets, Nguyen said. Osuna and Nguyen started bringing Pavlov to campus when he was eight weeks old, and had to be careful of the times when they chose to walk him around school, Osuna said.

“We had to stop bringing him to campus, or at least taking him on walks to campus, because we couldn’t make it anywhere because we would just get stopped,” Osuna said.

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As Pavlov, Lady Marmalade and Rapunzel wandered around campus, a cat named Roo roamed the streets of Westwood to the point of students recognizing her, said alumna Cindy Martinez. She and alumna Elizabeth Muenchow were co-owners of Roo when they were roommates at UCLA. Roo now resides with Muenchow outside Westwood while the two run the Instagram account @wheresroo.

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Roo striking a pose for international cat day

A post shared by Roo The Cat (@wheresroo) on

When running social media for pets, Martinez said some people try to take the perspective of the animal itself. Muenchow said making a social media account for a pet is a fun outlet to interact with friends from a character outside oneself. They aim to replicate Roo’s personality – because she’s an independent cat, Muenchow said they reveal that in their posts.

The pair created an Instagram account for Roo in order to post cute pictures of their pet, Martinez said, as well as to have an outlet to find the cat when she went missing. Social media users would message Roo’s account with pictures of their pet around Westwood, which allowed them to better find her, Martinez said. Students became fond of Roo when she went into their apartments, and Martinez said some would give her water and tuna.

“I think college students, a majority of us, love animals but don’t really have an outlet for that,” Muenchow said.

But Osuna said the trend of making social media accounts for pets has its trade-offs. While owning a pet can be fun, Osuna said some people may only get an animal because of its breed and not prepare in advance to take care of the pet, instead focusing solely on the social media benefits. Osuna said there may also be a potential rise in irresponsible breeding as people look at which breeds do well on social media.

“We don’t want people just getting dogs just because of Instagram,” Osuna said. “We want them to have a real (and) happy life … while taking care of them (responsibly).”

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