Instagram – the ubiquitous social media platform – has given rise to Internet celebrities and influencers. Not every social media influencer is in it for self-promotion and profit, though. In fact, with more than 160,000 followers hailing from places all over the world, local resident Jen Boger leverages her Instagram account, @pokeypotpie, to improve life for cats on a global scale.
From the handle @pokeypotpie, Jen posts on behalf of what she has dubbed “The Playschool for Wayward Kittens,” the rotation of cats that she and her husband, Ian, foster in their home. Jen and Ian typically foster a few cats at a time, and until they are adopted, they are all regularly featured on the very popular @pokeypotpie Instagram feed along with their ever popular resident cats.
“Instagram has been amazing,” Jen said. “I started the account a really long time ago specifically to post pictures of my cat, Pokey (whose nickname is Pokey Pot Pie), so the page is named after him … It was originally a place for me to post photos and updates about him and it has continued to be a page for me to post cat-related content. Now, it features my five resident cats, who are all foster fails. And then the other cats you see are all the cats I foster,” through Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation.
Boger also works with City Kitties DC @citykittiesdc and helps with a group in Chincoteague periodically.
While fostering cats and kittens with special needs might seem like a full time job, Jen and her husband Ian have full time jobs too. Jen is an attorney and Ian is a doctor.
On the @pokeypotpie page, you will find adorable images and videos of
“We foster a lot of special needs cases,” Jen said. “I try to reserve space in the house for cats with medical needs; I’m a sucker for medical cases, like when a cat has had a leg removed, eyes removed. I love any blind cat … as anyone will tell you, once you have a blind cat, you’ll always have one.”
And what Boger does for these cats by fostering and promoting them on her Instagram feed is life-changing for them, whether or not they have special needs. She has found that “good PR” has been incredible in landing so many of these cats in fantastic forever homes.
“Cats who we foster definitely get adopted more quickly because of their presence on Instagram,” Jen said. “There’s nothing better about any of our fosters than the other cats with [Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation], either. They just have better PR, so people get more insight into them. They get to see the cat come into the house and observe how he or she progresses and grows. So, if you’re going to choose between that kitten and one on another rescue website, you’re going to pick the one you know better.”
@Pokeypotpie has also become far more than an avenue for getting foster cats into forever homes.
“The account brings attention to the cats, to the rescue, and so much more,” Jen said. “I use Instagram for education and advocacy – about the importance of fostering cats, adopting them, and spay/neuter. These messages are reaching people all over the world.”
When Jen started this Instagram account, a big following was certainly not the goal. But then, a @pokeypotpie post caught the attention of so many people that one of her cats went viral. And, then it happened again, and again, and again ...
“The focus was never on big numbers, but instead local followers, because that is where adoptions come from,” Jen, who has to date fostered 175 cats, said. “But then, what tends to happen is, when the cat community finds something particularly cute or endearing, a bigger account will pick it up, and that always brings in more followers. We’ve gotten the attention of some big rescue communities, and we have had certain cats go viral.”
It all started taking off in 2018, when Pokey himself made Internet waves after a video featuring him landed on The Dodo, a popular website that showcases particularly heart-warming and extraordinary animal stories.
Then there was the dramatic and determined Wilford, a 28-pound cat whose story was told by People.com and a host of other media outlets.
“Wilford got attention all over the world,” Jen recalled. “He’s definitely the one that went the biggest [no pun intended]. He seemed to be everywhere for a while – he was even on morning shows. We have followers in France who told us they saw him on their local news.”
Pokey and Wilford are not the only @pokeypotpie stars who became viral sensations, either. Still, the Bogers have never been, and will never be, on Instagram for fame or fortune.
Especially these days, when logging onto the Internet and plugging into social media often brings reminders of all that is wrong in the world, Jen relishes the ability to push out some positivity by way of @pokeypotpie.
“It’s a really cool corner of the internet,” Boger said. “It’s a feel-good place where you’re not looking at someone who is trying to tell you how to feel – it’s cute cats surrounded by a good message about how to make the world a better place for the cats around them. People all over seem to enjoy it. We have followers in Australia, France, the Netherlands, and so many more places that we love to connect with.”
To learn more about the Playschool of Wayward Kittens, follow Jen and her gang on Instagram, @pokeypotpie.