Talking with Petfinder Names, the only good Twitter account
Jea Jensen is helping “Motorboat,” “Hissy Elliot,” and “Magnificent Wreck” find their forever homes.
Before Jea Jensen, the 27-year-old creator behind Petfinder Names, introduces you to a pigeon named MR. WORLD WIDE, I wanted to send a reminder that every Saturday we publish features and interviews about living better online for our paid subscribers. This weekend, it was an interview with Minnie Bredouw, Pinterest’s creative director of core product:
“I've spent a lot of time co-creating with creators as we think about where our product is going, [and] time and time again I hear [that] at first things feel great. It's like the honeymoon phase: People are paying me all this money. I get all these bonuses. And then that isn't something that always lasts forever, or say an algorithm changes last minute, or say I need to go on vacation for three weeks, and all of a sudden I'm not as relevant or I'm not getting paid as much. It's a persistent feeling across a lot of creators I've connected with who wish they had more transparency into what the future holds. How can we be modeling the creator economy off of existing economies? There's infrastructure around that. Right now we don't have some of those infrastructures that you would have in other jobs. So that's this big question, I think, on many creators' minds. How can we really enable them to sustain this lifestyle and this career?”
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I maintain that there's no such thing as a good Twitter account ... but if there were, it would be Petfinder Names. For a few years, my only exception was Pepito The Cat, an account that tweets pictures of a French cat named Pepito leaving through his cat flap and then coming back, seemingly with a motion-detected camera that automatically sends out the images. But after careful consideration, I’ve decided Petfinder Names has taken Pepito’s crown.
Jea Jensen, a 27-year-old from Massachusetts, started the account, which posts screenshots of animals listed with particularly funny names on Petfinder. The pet adoption website allows local shelters to list their animals that are up for adoption in one centralized hub. It’s these shelters that give their pets such memorable monikers.
“I would spend a lot of time browsing the animals on Petfinder and always loved the ones with funky names,” Jensen tells me over email. “I started making my own list of funny names, and eventually thought that twitter would be a good medium to post my finds!”
Just over three months later, the account has 325,000 followers and receives between 250 and 300 submissions of peculiarly-named pets every day. Petfinder Names has identified a cat called “Maximum Destruction,” and dog named “BE NICE,” and, most in one viral post, a pigeon known as “MR. WORLDWIDE.”
The account’s rapid success has Jensen pondering their next move. At least one animal, a cat named “Skull Crusher,” was actually adopted after it went viral on Petfinder Names, and Jensen has teamed up with and artist and animator, Zeeziez, to post illustrations of some of the more popular animals (this week it’s two kittens named Felony and Misdemeanor). Next, Jensen hopes to work with Petfinder itself—whose Twitter account frequently retweets some of the funnier names—and anyone else interested in strategizing how best to use the account to encourage adoptions. (Jensen says any interested parties can email them here.)
Did the account take off immediately or was it a slow build? Was there a particular post that grew your following?
There was kind of a slow build—I’d say within the first month or so, I got around 2,000 followers. I was only posting once every other day, give or take, and it was easy to keep up with that size audience. In early May, I posted a cat named “Business Frog,” which got the most attention up to that point (around 4,000 likes). I gained some followers slowly—until I posted a pair of kittens in mid-June, named “Megan Thee Stallion” and “Doja Cat.” That post was my first super-viral one, and got around 130,000 likes. After that, most of my posts gained a good amount of traction, and that's when I started gaining followers super fast: on 6/22 I had 44,000 followers, then by 6/29 I hit 193,000. I’m at 309k as of today. [The account is now at 325,000.]
How many submissions do you get each day? How do you decide if a name is worth posting?
Great question. I have absolutely no idea. I probably check and clear the notifications once every couple hours, and each time I have about ~20 new DM requests of submissions. From 5am this morning up to now (6:30 PM), I’ve gotten 116 DM submissions—so I’d guess between 250-300 a day on average. The volume of submissions typically increases right after posting or being active.
As for choosing which is worth posting, my criterion has gotten MUCH more stringent, solely because I need to thin out the amount of content that's being dumped! My own personal sense of humor is a little offbeat, so the names that I am drawn to are usually just the ones that are more shocking or wild. I also will post or prioritize the names that are highly requested (multiple submissions) or that I know appeal to the audience as a whole!
Why do you think your posts are so successful?
I think part of it is that I got lucky with getting the posts to pick up and get noticed. However, I believe the content itself is a primary reason it's so popular. It combines humor with animals—which most people enjoy—as well as an aspect of (hopefully) helping a good cause.
What's been the most popular Petfinder name?
The most popular post in terms of engagement would be a pigeon named “Mr. World Wide” (16 million impressions, 307,000 likes) and second up was a chunky chihuahua named “Thicken Nugget” (12 million impressions, 215,000 likes).
What's your personal favorite Petfinder name?
Do you know if any of your posts have led to an adoption?
Great question! So far, I only know of one confirmed adoption who was found via my twitter account, a kitten named “Skull Crusher.” Skull Crusher’s new human also decided to keep their name, which is incredible and makes it even better! I’m not certain of any other adoptions, though I hope there have been, and this is a great idea to try and keep track of somehow.
Have you been in contact with Petfinder at all thanks to your account?
I have not formally been in contact with Petfinder (aside from interacting with their twitter account, which frequently retweets these posts!). I do plan to get in contact with them to discuss potentially some sort of partnering as well as branding and some other ideas. I’d love to work with them!
Speaking of, what are your future plans for the account?
I’m looking for ways to expand the account and idea behind it, as well as partnering with animal rescues and animal care organizations. There are several humane societies and rescues that I interact with frequently and help to boost their posts, but I’d love to do more. I do plan to sell merchandise—hopefully relatively soon! I am working on coming up with some design ideas and products that people would be interested in purchasing, and am always super open to suggestions from anyone interested.