Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
Cole and Marmalade are Internet juggernauts — playful, furry, camera-friendly juggernauts. Their videos do more than entertain web audiences. Some inform the public of causes in need of support, some provide helpful tips, and, yes, some are straightforward fun fests of cat action.
The cats’ YouTube channel has dozens of videos detailing their antics. The videos deliver on their titles, as their fans would probably tell you. “Cat Logic,” “What Cats Do at Night,” and “A Cat’s Guide to Loving a Human” each accurately depict cat life and each have more than 3 million views.
Cole and Marmalade’s superpowers are being super cute and riveting. They use their powers for good. Chris Poole and Jess Josephs are the people behind the cat pair. Jess is a proud cat mom, and Chris is a lifelong cat guy. Chris has serious cat video-making cred. He worked as a videographer at the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. That’s where the couple met and began their family.
Cole came to them first, after being rescued off the street in 2012.
“Cole was running around at night in Florida, six ounces, anemic, and covered in fleas,” Jess said. “It took four to five flea baths in the first month to get him flea free.”
She said shelters wouldn’t take him because he was a black cat. also he was so young, around six weeks the couple guessed, that he didn’t know how to use the bathroom, and they had to bottle feed him.
He was so cute, they had to film him.
“Whenever I had the time and/or energy while working at Big Cat Rescue six or more days a week, I’d try and make some silly small cat videos, too,” Chris said.
The first video he made was “10 Reasons to Adopt a Black Cat.”
“The black cat awareness is definitely why we started making the vids,” he said.
Cat video award group the Friskies certainly noticed and gave its 2012 Catness category prize to the family for one of Cole’s earliest videos, “Black Cat Stick ’Em Up.”
The couple decided that Cole needed a friend. That’s when “Marm came into the picture with his derp face,” Jess said.
Orange tabby Marmalade was a rescue as well. He was born to a cat in a family who couldn’t care for him. The family considered simply letting him loose to join the local feral colony. Chris and Jess learned of this and wouldn’t have it. The tiny kitten with the wide-set eyes came into their lives in 2014.
That was a big year for the family. Marmalade proved to be no slouch as a video subject. In 2014, he starred in the video “Dumpster Kitty,” which won $25,000 as the grand prize at that year’s Friskies awards.
With each success, Chris began using the high-profile pair to draw attention to a growing list of causes. Through online campaigns or videos drawing awareness to causes, they support Love Your Feral Felines and its Barn Cat program; Clear the Shelters Day (in which they participated at the San Diego Humane Society); Operation Catnip (low-cost spay and neuter); FIV-positive cat groups; and black cat adoptions.
“Facebook is great for promoting stuff,” Chris said. “It lets people talk about things as a community.”
People do love to talk about these cats. In 2015, their video “What Cats See” was also an official selection of the Internet Cat Video Festival.
While most videos of the twosome are simply for fun, the power of pure joy shouldn’t be underestimated. In addition to the multiple cat charities the family champions, Chris helps a Cole-and-Marmalade fan battle a life-threatening disease.
Hannah Kiresuk has fought juvenile myasthenia gravis, also known as Mg, for the past four years, responding poorly to all treatments. She needs a life-saving bone marrow transplant, which would cost $500,000. So Jess and Chris began a campaign called Promote Pawsitivity, to encourage online support systems through sharing positive messages. They also sell merchandise with a logo they created for the project, donating all proceeds to Hannah’s collection.
“We’re in a great position where our videos in particular help so many people around the world,” Chris said. “Plus, we can help educate the public about important issues, too. I love it.”
They have had challenges, though. Marmalade was born FIV-positive and has a weakened immune system. He also had cancer. Chris and Jess found an intestinal lump on Marmalade when they moved to California. He needed nearly four months of cancer treatment and the funds to support it. His fans graciously bought charity calendars that Chris and Jess created for fundraising, drawing $14,000 in donations. He’s strong and healthy now.
“There’s a video on it,” Jess said. “There’s a video for everything.”
We wouldn’t have it any other way.