Instagram fame came quickly for Anna Mathias and her pet hedgehog, Lionel. In 2015, Mathias was a college student in South Carolina when she started a dedicated handle for Lionel, who had started to take over her personal account. A month in, she posted a photo of Lionel curled into a ball, sitting on top of a sprinkle-coated ice cream cone. “One scoop of spike cream please,” she wrote.
The next day, Mathias was at a movie when her sister called repeatedly; she hurried out, thinking there was some kind of emergency. But no: Pop singer Joe Jonas had reposted her picture for his millions of followers. Overnight, Mathias’s follower count leapt from roughly 1,000 to 8,000 and continued to snowball from there. Lionel made his way onto BuzzFeed listicles and the official Instagram account, where a photo of him sprawled in a little wooden chair has collected more than 1.4 million likes so far.
Today Lionel and Lilo, another hedgehog Mathias purchased in 2017, have 136,000 followers. That number that pales in comparison with other Instagram-famous hedgehogs (Azuki, 405,000; Mr. Pokee, 1.3 million) and “petfluencers” at large (Grumpy Cat, 2.4 million; Doug the Pug, 3.7 million; Nala Cat, 4 million). But it’s sizeable enough for Mathias, who lives in Charleston and works as a social media manager for the boutique chain Lovely Bride. Over the last four years, Mathias, Lionel, and Lilo have been tapped by brands like Wayfair, Cadbury, and Two Hat Beer to create sponsored content. West Elm, one of Mathias’s biggest partnerships to date, turned Lionel into a Christmas ornament benefitting the ASPCA.
For nearly two years, Mathias and her hedgehogs have been represented by The Dog Agency, a petfluencer talent firm that books campaigns and handles contracts for its clients. For a one-off post, Mathias typically charges at least $1,000, but she says that in the world…