Cats of Madison and Dogs of Madison adds adorable photos to animal lovers’ feeds

On nice days, you might find Jason Nolen walking through a Madison neighborhood snapping pictures for his Instagram accounts, @cats_of_madison and @dogs.of.madison. 
Collage of three dogs and three cats from Jason Nolen's Instagram page
Courtesy of Jason Nolen/Cats of Madison

On nice days, you might find Jason Nolen walking through a Madison neighborhood snapping pictures for his Instagram accounts, @cats_of_madison and @dogs.of.madison

Cats of Madison boasts more than 23,500 followers and Dogs of Madison has nearly 17,000. After starting to post a couple pictures of cats in his neighborhood on his personal Instagram account in 2015, Nolen was inspired to create an account just for felines. 

Nolen says he didn’t have expectations for the account at first, but he started to gain a significant number of followers in the first few weeks and it became a more serious project. Since launching his Instagram accounts, Nolen estimates that he has put in thousands of hours of walking for pet pictures, exploring Madison’s different neighborhoods to find photogenic furry friends — he probably knows about 400 cats in Madison by name. 

“A lot [of cats] recognize me now as the guy that’s going to stay for a while and pet them, so they’re just like, ‘Hell yeah,’ ” Nolen says. 

Nolen, who works full time as a researcher for CapTel Ultratec, has two cats of his own, Baby Girl and Button. His main cat-spotting locations include the Marquette, Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara, Sherman, Eken Park and Monroe neighborhoods. Nolen says it’s not only the cats that recognize him these days; many of the cat owners have built relationships with him, too.

“It’s an awesome combination of the cats it brings into my life and the people it brings into my life,” he says. “Madison loves dogs, of course, but they love their cats, too.” 

Keeping up with his Instagram pages is a labor of love for Nolen, who estimates that he makes between $1-$3 an hour from his efforts. The posts themselves don’t bring in money, apart from a couple sponsored posts — but he has sold merch and calendars, secured business sponsorships and will do private photoshoots on a pay-what-you-want basis. He also accepts donations through PayPal. 

Nolen says his comments section is incredibly wholesome, and he enjoys people loving the animals and interacting with each other.

“Especially now in the last couple years, the world is a mess and people are struggling and having a really hard time,” Nolen says. “This is one of the things in the world that is still light. I’ll see comments that say, ‘This is what I needed today,’ which is the best thing that can happen for me.”

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