Pets are becoming social media managers to inspire pet lovers to adopt.

They're doing their part to find homes for shelter pets across America.

Three years ago, I decided to adopt a cat from a shelter, and it changed my life completely.

I had debated doing it for years before actually walking the two-and-a-half blocks over to my local shelter, and now I wish I hadn't waited so long.

I stepped into the crowded pet viewing room and almost immediately locked eyes with not one, but two tiny tiger kittens, one gray and one orange, sitting quietly in the same cage.


I couldn't believe how steadily they held my gaze, and when I asked to pick them up, one climbed up my arm and perched on my shoulder, while the other snuggled under my chin.

That was it.

I went into the shelter with the intention of taking home one cat — and left with two.

Oh lord, what have I done? Photo via Ally Hirschlag.

Today, because I was open to it, I am the proud parent of two gorgeous cat siblings named Bill and Vespa, who fill every day with joy and laughter.  

Hug or chokehold? Tough call.

Bill and Vespa found their family, but there are millions of other pets who are still waiting at shelters and rescue groups for theirs.

And at the same time, there are an average of 29 million prospective pet parents looking to acquire a cat or dog each year. If fewer than 10% of them choose to adopt a pet, all the dogs and cats currently in shelters and rescue groups will find homes.

"We only need to find homes for fewer than 2 million pets each year — that's just a small fraction of the total number of pets who will be acquired in that same year," Mary Ippoliti-Smith, spokesperson for the pet rescue group Maddie's Fund®, a family foundation created to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals, writes in an email. "We're almost there, and every adoption gets us closer."

So how can we help reduce this number even further? Shelter pets themselves might be the answer.

What if shelter pets could use social media to showcase their friends to pet-seekers and help these amazing dogs and cats get adopted?

"Tell me more." Photo by Rex Sorgatz/Flickr.

That's the brilliant idea behind the Social Paws initiative — a brainchild of The Ad Council, The Humane Society of the United States, Maddie's Fund, and J. Walter Thompson New York.

These three organizations established The Shelter Pet Project in 2009 to make shelters and rescue groups the first choice and preferred method for those looking to acquire a pet. With the Social Paws initiative, dogs and cats from shelters and rescue groups act as social media managers, creating cute, funny posts for The Shelter Pet Project’s social media channels. With these posts, dogs and cats are demonstrating how amazing shelter pets are and encouraging people to adopt.

Here's how it works:

Thanks to social media-savvy pets like the ones above, adopted pets everywhere have a voice. Sometimes all it takes is a look to know they're meant to be yours.

When you choose to adopt a pet, you're not only making their life infinitely better, you're making your life better too.

Just look at these happy customers:

Rescue animals often do well together, unless of course you neglect Lucy the Princess cat.

Nighttimes are always better with a fluffy cuddle buddy.

Happy #flashbackfriday everyone! We were tagged by @dashandvinnie for the #selfiewithmyhooman challenge and our pawrents think we're cuter than them (I mean DUH, just look at us! 😹) so we don't have a ton of selfies with them but this is my favorite picture of my momma and I right after they adopted me! Look at my belly floof!! I allowed snuggles and kissies for 0.7 seconds before I jumped away to play with dad. #toocuteformyowngood #cutestillgetsmeoutoftrouble #exceptwithsisfur😹😹 . #fbf #tabby #tabbycat #tabbycatsrule #tabbysofinstagram #tabbycatsofinstagram #catsofminneapolis #catsoninstagram #catsofinstagram #catstagram #rescue #rescuecat #rescuesofinstagram #rescueismyfavoritebreed #tabbykitten

A post shared by Gunnar 💙 & Benelli ❤️ (@originalsasshole) on

Adorable or adorably guilty?

A cat makes the best yoga companion.

This is what best friends look like.

Who says your baby has to be human?

#dogbaby #rescuedog

A post shared by Bowmaning (@keldabowman) on

Super Cat!

Take your dog to work day.

Giving Cutler a break from shelter life for #takeyourdogtoworkday 🐶 #dogs #dogsofinstagram #rescuedog #senior #adoptabledogs

A post shared by Rebecca Williams (@rebeccajwilliams90) on

This pet owns his human as much as his human owns him.

Louie hangin' out 😻😻 #Louie #furbaby #rescuecat #rhondastreasures #ragdollx

A post shared by Jessica Stanford (@honey_139) on

And it's not just about the happiness that endless snuggles can bring. Adopting a pet can have many other significant benefits too.

"Sharing our lives with pets has been shown to reduce allergies, lower blood pressure, help people get more exercise, feel more connected, and even contributes to shorter recovery times from surgery and illness," Ippoliti-Smith explains. "Add that to the joy of giving a second chance to a pet who needs one, and it's probably the best decision any of us will ever make."

The pets also get the opportunity to become the best version of themselves. Their personalities blossom when they're with a human family who loves them. You can see that clearly in all the personal adoption stories on The Shelter Pet Project's website.

If you've been thinking about adopting a furry friend, don't get cold feet.

Take it from a fellow shelter pet owner — the leap of faith will be worth it.

My husband, Mark, and our cat children. Photo by Ally Hirschlag.

For anyone who wants to start looking, you can search your local shelters using this helpful tool from The Shelter Pet Project. And if you have questions or concerns, you can always reach out to the organization from which you're interested in adopting.

Together we can easily empty out the shelters and rescue groups across the country. All it takes is a few simple steps to meet your new best friend.

*This article was written by Upworthy contributor Ally Hirschlag.

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Ad Council + The Shelter Pet Project

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

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Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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