6 Ways Your Pet Can Earn a Paycheck

We pet parents love our fur-babies, often to the detriment of our budgets. Does my dog Jaxon need a fancy Christmas sweater? Of course not — but is it appropriate for him to visit Santa naked? Also no. If you're a pet parent, I know you feel me on this.

But what if I told you that instead of costing you money, your pet(s) could make you some? It's true! And here are six ways how.

1. Turn your pet into a social media star

I'm usually looking at three things on Instagram: beautiful food, hot bods, and cute pets. And if you're the parent of an adorable animal, you can turn that gush-inducing face into a source of income using the image-based social media platform.

Take Grumpy Cat, for instance, who became world famous via Instagram. This led to many lucrative merchandising deals, including clothing, toys, iced coffee (that one's a bit of a head-scratcher), and a TV movie. There are plenty of other furry-famous stars, too — like Doug the Pug and Wally the Bunny, who are cute enough to end wars, but instead bring home the bacon.

Jeff Moriarty details how he and his wife got one of their cats into the Instagram game. He says they only spend about one hour a month total on the project, but have experienced local success.

"One cat food brand asked if they could use her photo, and provided us with quite a few bags of cat food in exchange," he says. "Since then we have tagged some of her photos with other brands of cat toys, food, and furniture, and have been given products from those brands in exchange for the use of her photos. While it's not exactly a paycheck, it's products we would normally have to pay for, so she's definitely paying her share for living in our home rent-free."

To try your hand at making your fur-baby Insta-famous, you should aim to make two to three high-quality posts per day so you can build interest and consistency. A unique hashtag using your pet's name can also help grow their popularity. (See also: How to Turn Your Instagram Account Into a Paying Gig)

2. Consider more traditional media, like modeling and acting

If you're not savvy enough to make your pet a star on Instagram, there are modeling and acting opportunities out there if your pet has the "look" and/or the talent.

Ashley Rossiter of MirrorMePR, which represents horses and canines, says there are a few specialist agencies who have animals on their books. Depending on how well-behaved your pet is, you might have a chance of getting on those books as well, and getting your pet into photographic, film, and TV work.

"We look for animals that are well-behaved, confident in themselves, and of course, are photogenic," she explains.

3. Upload stock images of your pet

(Photo: Brooke Jacobs)

If you're handy with a camera and take nice photos, you may be able to sell images of your pet on stock photo sites like Shutterstock. A friend of mine does this. She offers free prints to pet parents she finds on Craigslist for allowing her to photograph the animal for greeting cards, stock images, and more. My own dog was featured on Martha Stewart's website as a result, and I was given several great photos of the shoot that I proudly hang in my home.

4. Sell your chicken's eggs

(Photo: Matt Bowen)

Raising backyard chickens is becoming increasingly popular — I have a couple friends who do this — and it's more than it's cracked up to be. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) My pals Matt and Tim started raising chickens last year, and from 20 birds, they've netted $300 in additional income by selling farm-fresh eggs at their workplaces and to family and friends for $4 per dozen. They have a sizable piece of land, but anybody can raise chickens. Check your local laws and do some research before committing. (See also: How to Turn Your Backyard Into a Moneymaker)

5. Offer your alpaca's wool to garment makers

Alpaca fiber is a hot commodity these days, used by garment makers to create all sorts of items from blankets to couture gowns. My friend Celeste Malvar-Stewart, a fashion designer in Columbus, Ohio, engages in the latter — buying fleece from a local farm to turn out incredible dresses and other pieces, like soft, one-of-a-kind scarves.

Alpacas range in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, and they yield between five and 13 pounds of fiber annually, depending on the size of the animal.

6. Charge people to cuddle with your pets

There are a lot of animal lovers out there, some of whom will pay you to spend time with your pet. I know it sounds off the wall, but if you live in a big city where pet ownership is often restricted by landlords, you can try to make a go of it.

When I lived in Manhattan, I had the bright idea to sell cuddle time with my dog Jaxon as a way to make money, but also to provide him with company while I was at work all day. It wasn't a million-dollar idea, but I did find a few people online (mostly through a Craigslist ad) who were willing to pay $20–$25 for a few hours of play time or just relaxing on the couch together.

People get lonely, and pets can help alleviate that, so it makes sense. I vetted the people who came to hang out with Jaxon to avoid putting him in danger, and once I felt comfortable enough, he and his new cuddle buddy had a mutually beneficial relationship. Certainly not for everyone, but if you know what you're doing, you can make this work. (See also: How to Make $400+ a Week as a Pet Sitter)

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