The Fishy History of Cat-Man-Doo
Cat-Man-Doo was the brain child of Peter Stake. Having eight cats of his own, along with numerous foster kittens, he had to find a way to make treats affordable. He contacted a friend who worked in distribution for a seafood company and was able to procure human-grade Bonito (a tuna-type fish which hails from Japan) in large quantities. He noticed that the Bonito was of much higher quality than the Bonito he had been purchasing in pet stores. The flakes were larger, fresher and more aromatic. And the dream of Cat-Man-Doo began.
Being a contractor by trade in rainy Seattle, Peter had a desire to transition into a warmer and drier career. On a whim he bought some deli cups, had labels printed and began packaging the fish by hand. He took samples of the product to one sizeable Pacific Northwest pet chain and they bought it!
Meanwhile, Sandra, who was working as a Bellevue paralegal had the need for a deck to be built on the back of her house. A co-worker recommended her contractor neighbor, Peter Stake. Peter came to bid the job and while he was there, discovered that Sandra was a fellow pet lover with two cats of her own. During the construction of the deck, he kept Sandra's cats stocked with Bonito treats which they devoured!
Peter and Sandra became good friends and Peter shared with her his vision of Cat-Man-Doo. But he couldn't do it alone. He needed a partner. Would Sandra take the bait?? Yes, she did. She left her paralegal job where she had a comfortable salary and benefits to partner with Peter and fulfill the dream. Cat-Man-Doo was born in late 2004.
The initial days were challenging. All of the labeling and packaging was done by hand in Peter's small garage. The garage was miserably cold in the winter and uncomfortably hot in the summer. Filling an order for their one customer could take weeks and Cat-Man-Doo now needed to pay salaries for two individuals. The motivated partners lived on personal savings accounts for as long as possible.
One of the most ingenious decisions made was in sifting the dust from the Bonito flakes. Cats loved the delicate flakes but seldom the fish dust that accompanied them.
Next was marketing. There was no scrimping on promoting the treats. They assembled substantial kits of free offerings for pet stores; half a dozen each of the half ounce and the one ounce sized tubs, as well as samples that the store owners could share with customers. They sent kits to retailers and told them, "put it on your shelf and see if it sells". There was enough product for retailers to stock their shelves and to sample it with their own pets. Any cash they got from the sales was theirs to keep.
The response was jaw-dropping. The duo sent out 20 kits and over the next 10 days, 18 orders came back. They sent out 20 more kits and 16 orders came back. They continued to do this until it was becoming more and more difficult to satisfy the demand. In 2006, and with a loan from Peter's father, they moved into a Redmond warehouse and Peter began inventing a packaging machine.
With a degree in aeronautical engineering and, after watching many episodes of "How It's Made," on the Science Channel, Peter built a packaging machine in his garage working tirelessly during the evenings and weekends. It took eighteen months and here's what the machine had to do: It had to fluff up the flakes and sift out the dust. Then it had to quickly sprinkle the flakes into a bowl (just one precisely measured ounce at a time), and dump that bowl into a plastic tub. Then the delicate flakes had to be gently tamped down into the tub just enough to leave room for the lid but not so much that they couldn't rebound. The machine had to do this over and over and over thousands of times... without breaking. Some of the machine's components will surprise you; it spun on rollerblade wheels, was slowed by paint brushes and the Bonito was funneled into cups through red plastic auto oil funnels!
Still, the machine's actions were intricate and Peter's step-by-step instructions filled up sixteen pages which he handed to a programmer who then wrote the software and completed the programing. It was dubbed the PackMaster 2000 and ran flawlessly until it was replaced several years later by more sophisticated machinery.
Another important decision that was made early on was to flush the flakes with food-grade nitrogen. At that time, no other flake on the market was nitrogen flushed. This action allowed the flakes to remain fresh and flavorful over time. This same function is utilized in the packaging of potato chips and breakfast cereals and Cat-Man-Doo still employs this action today.
In 2013, Sandra and Peter married and in 2014 Cat-Man-Doo packed up its three employees and moved to a warehouse twice the size of the existing warehouse. At this time, high-tech machinery was custom fabricated to precise specifications and fully automated packaging began.
By this time, Cat-Man-Doo had added two other products under a freeze dried treat line they called Life Essentials. These products are more cat AND dog oriented and include delicious chicken breast and wild Alaskan salmon. The treats were well received by furry customers and their two-legged "pets".
While Cat-Man-Doo still sells their treats directly to retail stores, they also sell in large quantities to distributors. Cat-Man-Doo and Life Essentials treats may be found, nationally and internationally, in brick-and-mortar stores, online retail sites, veterinary clinics, grooming shops and pet shelters. In 2018, two more freeze dried treats were added; Sirloin and Sirloin with Cheese.
At present time, Cat-Man-Doo operates with six amazing and dedicated employees, Adonis, JJ, Jesse, Dawn, Robert and Lee. They also employ four furry taste-testers; Jemma, Jake, Jewel and Jinger who perform their jobs with gusto each and every day.
The success of the business can be attributed to the willingness of the founders to take a risk and to the employees who have stood beside them and have weathered all the storms. They all take pride in knowing that they are producing healthy, nutritious treats, void of additives and preservatives and offer a product they are proud to feed to their own cats and dogs. They are dedicated to giving back to the pet community by supporting pet causes, donating time, goods and services as well as financial goodwill. Cat-Man-Doo founders and their team are true pet lovers and consider their pets to be valued family members.
Finally, customers are the most important part of the equation. Many of Cat-Man-Doo customers have been supporting the company since its beginning in 2004. To those, and all customers, Cat-Man-Doo owes a debt of sincere gratitude.