From homeless to famous, these two social media cats are using their “voices” to raise awareness for pet adoption and FIV – and they sure look cute doing it!
With nearly 4 million followers across their social media platforms, Cole and Marmalade are nothing short of legendary. These two felines and their humans, Chris and Jess Poole, spend their days creating adorable photos and binge-worthy videos to share on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds – and the world is obsessed with the result.
But while their creative content draws people in, it’s passion for animal advocacy that keeps them coming back. They’re using their platforms to promote pet adoption and break down stigmas surrounding black and FIV+ cats, and the impact they’ve made to date is outstanding. To learn more about their life and goals, we sat down with Chris to ask him a few questions!
AW: How did it all begin? Tell us Cole and Marmalade’s adoption story!
CP: Back in 2012 I was working at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida as the Videographer. Me and my wife Jess were both living on the property in a trailer when Jess’s friend texted us that she’d found a black kitten. Somehow she managed to see the kitten in her rear view mirror, pulled over and scooped him up. He was all on his own and she contacted us because she knew we were “crazy cat people”. We saw his pic and picked him up the next day and that’s how it all began!
Cole was only around 5–6 weeks old when we adopted him, and because he was so young he bonded with us very closely. He also got to look at leopards out the window as he grew up!
AW: How many years later did you get Marmalade?
CP: In 2013, a year later, a friend of a friend who owned Marmalade’s Mom was trying to find a home for baby Marmalade. He was the only surviving kitten of his litter. His two siblings had died and our friend was either going to take Marmalade to the humane society or release him outside with a local feral colony. When we received the text message and pic from them, we couldn’t say no… we had been thinking about adopting a friend for Cole for a while and ginger kitties kept getting my attention! So we saw this as a sign from the cat gods and picked him up the next day!
AW: When and why did you decide to start an Instagram account for them?
CP: The first account we started was YouTube. I just used my personal account and began to upload Cole vids. Then a friend of ours told us that black cats have a harder time getting adopted and are most likely to be euthanized because of overcrowding at animal shelters. That’s the reason I started making more cat videos. I grew up with a black cat as a kid and they’ve always been my favorites, so when I learned that people still think they’re bad luck and choose cats with fancier markings and colors at shelters I decided to make it my new hobby to show people how cool Cole was and why they’d be LUCKY to be owned by a black cat!
So that became my new mission on my weekends when I wasn’t making videos of tigers and lions at Big Cat Rescue! Then of course we started a Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram account to spread the message as far as possible.
AW: Has the purpose of the account changed over time?
CP: Not really! We still try and educate as well as entertain with our posts. The pressure has definitely increased now though. Because we’re so well-known I feel that we can’t just do what some famous cats do and post cute/silly content all the time, we need to use our popularity to continue to educate and make a positive difference. We promote adoption, spay, neuter and compassion towards community cats and getting involved with TNR.
AW: You also use your platform to spread FIV awareness. Why this disease?
CP: Marmalade is actually FIV+, so we’ve learned a lot over the past 7 years about the disease and cat health in general. Marmalade tested negative as a kitten and we weren’t made aware that you should re-test when they are older since the kitten tests can be unreliable. So when we discovered Marmalade had lymphoma in 2014, we re-tested then and he was FIV+ … at first we didn’t know much about the disease and thought we might have to separate Marmalade from Cole and panicked, but we learned a lot about FIV, and although it sounds very scary, it’s really not that big of a deal and can be easily managed and FIV+ cats can live just as long as FIV- cats.
AW: What a story! No wonder you’re so passionate about it. So, what’s the ultimate message you’re trying to spread?
CP: The message we’re trying to spread is that if you see “FIV+” on the cage card of a cat at a shelter, please don’t let that be a deal breaker for you! Those 3 letters scare so many people away and it’s a real shame, we like to say that FIV+ cats are POSITIVELY adoptable! … Since Marmalade is very popular we like to highlight the fact that he’s FIV+ so people see him in videos running around being crazy and having fun, which shows that FIV isn’t something to worry about.
We also made a fact sheet and send to people so they can print out and display at their local shelter/vet to spread the message
AW: Sounds like you’re a huge advocate for animal adoption! Tell us about some of the rescue initiatives you’re currently involved with.
CP: We’re actively involved in TNR and rescue work. I get messages all the time from people needing help and advice with cats and kittens, and if they’re local I do my best to get out there, trap and help however I can.
It’s gets kind of overwhelming at times, but I do my best to save as many lives as possible and help stop the cycle of suffering
AW: What’s next for you, Cole and Marmalade? What are some of your short- and long-term goals?
CP: Hmmm, we’re just trying to keep up with everything! Keep creating content that people can relate to, help get more people involved in rescue work, I’d really like to do more to connect with children, we have so many younger fans I’d really like to do more stuff to inspire and educate them to be crazy cat people when they’re older!
AW: Sounds like a great goal. We need more crazy cat people in this world! Speaking of crazy, do Cole and Marmalade have any notable quirks?
CP: Cole carries around his favorite toy and meows in a high pitch to announce his “kill”. He loves to snuggle and drools on you when he really gets in the purr zone. Marm is a food freak and trying to eat with him around can be very time consuming… he also sees and talks to ghosts on a daily basis!