The viability of a Pay-it-forward Pet Sitting Economy

When we started Dogma, our goal was to find a neighbor who would pet sit for us and in-exchange we would pet sit for them.  It didn’t start off as a business but it grew into one because we realized we had saved a truckload of money simply by asking our neighbors to pet sit for us.  Aside from the emotional aspect of having a real connection with neighbors, the figures below are what convinced us that Dogma was the way to move forward:

US Pet ownership

65% of American households own a pet, that equates to 79.7 Million homes ( notes that in 2015, there were 124.6 Million households in the US. A household consists of all people who occupy a housing unit. Total US population is at 324 Million)

Knowing that more than half of US homes have pets, we can essentially conclude that 1 out of every 2 US homes have a pet.  If you lived in neighborhood with 100 houses, half of those homes have pets and some or perhaps even most of them would willingly pet sit for you for free.  I’m betting my life on it actually, I’m dedicating my life to finding and connecting all the pet owners who believe in paying-it-forward.

Cost of Living

Our cost of living has increased from 1975 but minimum wage has actually decreased.  When you adjust for inflation the minimum wage in 1975 was $9.16 /hour while the current minimum wage in some states in 2016 are still at the $7.25 /hour level.

Success of Sharing Economy

The success of early Sharing economy Startups is a great gauge in the success of Dogma in that Users are more comfortable to share their time  and resources with each other.

United States of No Vacation

I personally know of families who don’t go on vacation because they can’t afford the cost of pet sitting on top of paying for hotels and airfare. Pet sitting costs can actually cost as much airfare or hotels.

As a pet owner myself, I only look for pet sitters who are going to love my dogs as their own.  I have found that in our neighbors and I hope that you find yours in your neighborhood too.

As a side note, being part of Dogma,  doesn’t mean that we don’t ever use a pet sitter, on the contrary, we have a pet sitter that we love and we will always call them if we go on an extended vacation or if our neighbors aren’t available. You can also hire pet sitters in Dogma if you can’t find a neighbor who is available.

The viability of a Pay-it-forward Pet Sitting Economy

Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Dresser Cat is back
Dresser Cat is back

Tabitha (Tabby) was our foster cat.  She was adopted four months ago.  Recently, the adoptive Mom called up the Rescue that we volunteer for and asked if they could “take the cat back because she was peeing everywhere.”

We called Tabitha, ‘Dresser Cat’ because when we first got her she was so scared of everything and would hide under the dresser every time we came into her room.  She stayed under the dresser for a good couple of months when we first got her.  Fast forward to eight months later, she was already comfortable in her foster home.  We thought for sure that she was  a forever foster until we got a call that she had an adoption application pending.  We were happy because she deserved her own home, a quiet home.  Our house has 4 dogs, 3 cats and a couple of goats so it wasn’t really conducive for a shy cat who had previously lived alone with her human.

Causes of Hyperthyrodism in Cats

When I went to pick up Tabby after agreeing to foster her again, there were some signs that her health wasn’t optimized.  Bear in mind that she wasn’t being treated badly or physically abused.  Tabitha, our 15-years-old cat was a victim of the lack of knowledge in nutritional health.  Here are the signs of poor nutritional knowledge:

  1. The poop in the cat litter was mush.  Cats poop should be solid not mush.  I am a poop detective and proud of it and all my furry kids have good poop, its how I know that they are well.
  2. In the house, strewn around was the cat treat, Temptations.  There were maybe 4 bags, all opened. Not the small bags mind you, the large ones.  There was even a large plastic container and that was half way empty.  I give my cats the same treat but you should really read the label in terms of how much to give your cat daily, its 15 treats daily per every 10 lbs of weight. We are guilty of giving this to our cats and have a large bag of temptations at home, its half gone but we’ve had it for over a month and we have 3 cats!  By the looks of it  this 15-years-old cat cat was probably getting fed cat temptations instead of proper food.  Try eating McDonalds daily and see what happens to you. Here are other people’s experience with Temptations.  Also if you read the ingredient list of Temptations, the top ones are Chicken Byproduct Meal and GMO Corn, Rice.  The chicken byproduct has no nutrients. Corn and Rice are both starches, a food group that cats cannot even digest.
  3. I also asked about her food, and she said she was feeding her dry and wet food. She showed me a can of Friskies and a pouch, whose main content was fish and byproducts.  I specifically remember telling her to feed Tabby only quality wet food so that she will thrive.  I guess quality for her meant Friskies, a Purina Company.  Here are other peoples experience with Purina, Cat Food and dog food.  Kidney failure, Liver failure… to name a few.  Imagine eating this crap for 4 months, I am beyond devastated for Tabby, my 15 year old foster who didn’t deserve this.

When I started this journey, I didn’t know anything about kidney or liver disease or any of the diseases caused by cat food.  I know most people know nothing about nutrition so here are Articles on the Causes of Hyperthyroidism in Cats:

  • Flame Retardant (PBDE) linked to Feline Hyperthyroidism — Japanese scientists found the link between PBDE and marine organisms.   Its not so much eating of the fish per se but the quality of the fish.  It is important to note that Whales and Gulls started developing Thyroid issues about the same time that Cat Hyperthyroidism was reported.  It was in the 1970’s and thats also the time when Industrial pollution was at its highest.  Since we haven’t totally gotten rid of pollution in our oceans, the fish that the cat food is made from seem to be the likely culprit of the PBDE’s found in their system.  Its important to note that the chemical PBDE also comes from other household products and not just fish from canned food.    But Friskies and the overall brand of Purina is not famous for their quality food.  If they are using byproducts of fish in their canned food, I’m pretty sure the accumulation of the months she ate it, for a 15 year old cat, could have caused this issue.
  • The truth about Commercial Cat Food  —  Personally, I would never feed my pets commercial cat food, all the common diseases of house cats can be traced to feeding them commercial cat food.  These diseases are:  diabetes, UTI, Chronic kidney disease, cardiomyopathy, hyperthyroidism, cancer, fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis).  Yes thats right commercial cat food can cause hyperthyroidism because they contain too much carbohydrates and the iodine content may be too high as its not regulated.  (Disclaimer on link provided, I loved this Vets advise on commercial cat good but I would recommend a more comprehensive diet for cats and not just plain human food, they need digestive enzymes and a few more minerals that human food does not contain as we are not carnivores and do not eat bone meals)
  • Hyperthyroidism is the most common endocrine disorder of cats —  in this post the Endocrinologist states, “…despite the fact that nutritional factors and cat food likely has a role in the etiopathogenesis of the disease…” meaning that commercial pet food could be and is likely the culprit of hyperthyroidism.   In this article the Vet also states that he suggests feeding cats a high quality protein to improve muscle mass, strength and agility.

Food for Hyperthyroid Cats

When we first fostered Tabby in March of 2015.  She came to us with medication for anxiety.  She was taking Prozac.  We slowly weened her out of that.  Over the course of a month we gave her less and less of the prozac all the while feeding her high quality canned cat food.  Initially she didn’t want to eat wet, canned cat food.  She was use to eating dry food.  So we mixed in a little wet food at a time.  We eventually converted her eating wet food only.  When she had made the switch, we saw no obvious signs of anxiety in her, in fact she started getting more comfortable with the other dogs and cats in the house.

Our bodies, just as they are, can heal themselves from sickness and disease, same thing with our pets.  But our bodies can only heal itself if has been fed an optimized, nutrition-packed diet.  We need calcium for strong bones and teeth.  We can get calcium from eating broccoli, kale, legumes, etc.  If we don’t eat enough of these types of food that provide calcium to our bodies, we get osteoporosis.   We need potassium to regulate the beating of our hearts (among other functions of potassium) and we can get potassium by eating fish, tomatoes, lima beans, cantaloupe, bananas.  If we don’t eat enough potassium we are in a risk to develop the following:  abnormal heart rhythms, abnormal glucose response, increase blood pressure, kidney stones.  Our bodies need a variety of food groups in order to live a rich, healthy and full life.  Cats and dogs also need the same kind of sustenance but their diet is more specie-appropriate but the same type of reasoning.  They also need the same minerals so their bodies can process it to help heal their ailments.

Eating overly-processed food, junk food, food with no nutritional value such as fast food, will not help your body heal itself.  Without proper nutrition your body will slowly succumb to disease.  In this same line of thought, Food is medicine.  You won’t be sickly if you eat a proper diet, same thing with pets.

Some people think that its ok to feed them whatever because they live long.  But what about their quality of life?  You see, even if you feed your dogs crappy commercial food, their bodies will adjust to it.  Thats how amazing their bodies (including humans) are, we will adjust to every situation.  But their quality of life is not great meaning they could need the vet often for yeast infections, poor skin conditions, joint discomfort — all these things that come with aging and hinder their quality of life.  Your elderly pet can actually have great joints and can be yeast-free up to their last breath.  Quality of life is so important, without it, its very hard to be happy and suffering, simply put, sucks.

Here is a list of food that we feed our cats.  We hope it is helpful.  Bear in mind that I am not a paid advertiser of any of these products.  We use them for our own pets and we see the huge difference with them vs. a few years ago when we didn’t know anything about nutrition.  Without further adieu, here are our favorite cat food that we use for our cats for optimal health benefits:

  • Weruva Chicken:  We love it because it is grain-free no GMOs, has no antibiotics and no added hormones.  It also has no Careegenan, which is a major plus.  Weruva also doens’t put kelp in their food so less iodine content, which is great for cats with hyperthyroidism.
  • Blue Wilderness Chicken & Trout:   We love it because its made from real chicken and trout. Free from chicken or poultry by-products.  No artificial preservatives!
  • Stella & Chewy’s Chick, Chick, Chicken Dinner:  We love it because its got nutrient rich bone and organ meat!  Rich in taurine and probiotics!  All the good stuff basically.

Supplement for a Hyperthydroid Cat

Mercola’s Liver and Kidney Support:  If you click the link you will see a video of Dr. Karen Becker who will better explain how this supplement can assist your cat who has hyperthyroidism.

Basic Supplements for your Cat

The food that we give our pets are never enough because lets face it, its not fresh.  Any food thats been prepared will lose essential nutrients and whats why we need to supplement.  Here are our all the supplements we give our cats:

  • Grizzly Wild Salmon Oil:  We love it because we know it keeps their joints, immune system, coats, heart, muscles, etc healthy.  Fish oil is amazing stuff, you should probably be taking it as well.  Get the wild and not farmed variety because the nutrients will be stronger.
  • Probiotics: We use a probiotic that also has a digestive enzyme called Grady Pet.  We’ve tried quite a few brands.

Using the diet above, Tabitha’s poop is now solid only after a week and she has stopped peeing multiple times a day.  She now only pees twice daily, which is what my other cats do.

I wish we could afford to just feed our cats with Stella & Chewy’s but because we take in fosters, its a bit too much for our budget so we spread it.  We buy what we can with the budget that we have.  We make sure that the food they are eating will not cause them to get sick and thats essentially our main concern.  Food is suppose to heal and thats the kind of food that we buy for our pets.

Where to buy:  Buying from Amazon is cheaper than buying from PetCo or PetSmart.  In Amazon a can of Blue Wilderness is about $1.15 and in PetCo (Warrenton, VA) the same can goes for $1.79 — thats savings of $0.64 per can.

If budget is an issue, buy high quality, grain-free dry food and give them canned food or even better, raw food every other meal.  Remember even if its called, “grain-free” it still has carbohydrates almost 30-40% of dry food is all starch.  Canned food only has 10% carbs.  Carbohydrates is a food group that cats do not need and cannot process.  Another important aspect of wet food is the moisture content.  Dry food only has 10% water whereas the natural diet of cats normally contain up to 70% moisture.   Also, the high heat used in processing the dry food kills all the nutrients in the food.

More information here about why cats need more than dry kibble.

Good food and regular exercise equates to less Vet visits

Tabby was returned to us with medicine tablets called Tapazole.  Prescription is half tablet twice a day.  We noticed though that she would stop eating with the meds so I have lessened the meds to just 1/4th tablet per day and will increase the dose as we go along.  I will also get another blood test reading sometime soon so we can get a grip on this.   Because of the upheaval, she’s in a strange place again so I took the liberty of putting Feliway in her room.  Its helped calm her down and she’s slowly remembering.

When she first came to us, I thought for sure that we would have a foster who needed to go to the vet often since she was on Prozac.  I’m glad the high-quality food was able to reverse the damage done in her previous life. We only went to the vet once in the 8 months that we had her.

I will update this article once she’s all better.  Being 15 years old, I am hoping the damage is reversible and thats she’s able to get better from having hyperthyroidism.

Disclaimer:  I am not a veterinarian, I am a web developer, SEO professional and free pet-sitting Startup founder.  I am a cat owner, well they would argue that they own me.  I have had cats forever.  SEO is essentially about research: findings and testing.  I have applied my professional experience to my personal one and have done fervent research to support any of my material claims.  Nevertheless, please note that everything you read here is subjective, it is my experience and you should find a holistic vet to verify treatment plans for your pet.  Please note that I mentioned holistic vet because they will try to find the cause of the issue and address it, wholistically instead of prescribe an antibiotic. Vets are only starting to understand nutrition now but even so still lack the focus that food is medicine.

Hyperthyroidism in Cats

3rd Time Startup Founder

When we completed the 6-month BETA of Dogma, my Startup Mentor required that I create a more prolific online bio.  Here is the start of it.  I can’t promise to always update it but will do when something moves me.

Dogma is my third Startup. I have failed twice before and have learnt valuable lessons.  The good news is that failing does not necessarily mean failing at everything.  I may not have reached specified goals but I was able to pivot and make some money in the process. I’ve already sold a Startup Project.  The turn of events in my life has made me keep coming back to the Startup table hungrier than ever.

Ideas are only 10%, Execution is 90%

Startup #1: I created my first startup when I was 24 years old in Manila, Philippines. I raised over PhP 2 Million in a few months and recruited my favorite officemates to come with me on an adventure. Our Investor was also our mentor.

Team Journeys Mall Tour
Team Journeys Mall Tour

Goal #1:  Even before The Amazing Race, I started a company called Team Journeys and the concept was very similar.  When the Amazing Race premiered a year later I was pretty certain they stole that concept from me.   Our goal was to get a couple (any couple: two sisters, brother and sister, best friends, married couple, dating couple, etc) to travel through different countries with a task to do in each country.  We would have a tv crew filming the entire journey and we would sell Advertising to cover the cost as well as profit. We would also go online and ensure the viewers could follow their adventures online.

Epic Fail #1:  None of us had TV or Advertising backgrounds.

Lesson #1.1:  Make sure that you are going to make a profit if you are going to do all the work.  That means knowing your industry’s current rates and your expected overhead expenses.

Lesson #1.2:  Work with people who have industry knowledge and background.  If you dont have one in your team, hire someone!  Enthusiasm will only get you so far.

Lesson #1.3:  Don’t ask people to join you just because you like working with them.  Ask them only when they bring a unique talent to the table that enhances the entire teams capabilities.

With the host of the no. 1 Game Show in the Philippines, Willie Revillame
With the host of the no. 1 Game Show in the Philippines, Willie Revillame

Ironically, after my epic failure, I was hired to work for a local television Producer where I created and produced two televisions shows for Philippine Television, namely “Pera o Puso” (Love or Money) for Channel 5 and Single Girls for Channel 9.  I even consulted for a huge break out TV Show called, “Wowowee” — with Willy Revillame for ABS-CBN, Channel 2.  What a ride!

Startup #2: I left the Philippines to work in the Cayman Islands when I was 31.  I worked as an SEO Professional for a couple of years but my contract was over so I applied for jobs in the US. When I was about to accept a contract in Miami, my current clients in the Cayman Islands asked me to stay.  It was strange really as I got offers for investment money, for an office and even a boat!   My mentor (eventually my Investor), who managed the largest International Private bank in the Cayman Islands said to me, “If you want to be more than ordinary?  Stay.  If you want to be ordinary, go!”  I decided to stay, start another Startup and get my favorite clients as Investors.  I had to think of a concept and so I did within a week. I wrote a business plan and my three amazing Investors / Clients approved it. It was to create an online booking platform utilizing World Travel Partners (now Orbitz) as our booking engine.   I was funded for almost half a million dollars and I was a single founder.

Fevi and her dog, Junior on Seven Mile Beach
Fevi and Junior on Seven Mile Beach

Goal #2:  Since I was an SEO professional, the easiest way to make money was to build portals, integrate a booking engine and just watch the money from commissions pour in.  So I thought.  If you have noticed all the Trivago Ads on Television then you know its not that easy.  Its not cheap and it will take a long while.  You seriously need to differentiate your brand.  If you build it, they wont come unless you have an imperative proposition, an impossible-to-resist kind of proposition.  And even when you have an imperative proposition, its not guaranteed.  Users are fickle and loyal at the same time. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get them to try your service and to let them have the most amazing online experience that they keep coming back for more.  In the industry its called, “usability” but its more than that, I call it “an online magical experience”

Epic Fail #2:  Don’t build a Startup just to build it.  You will be another website in a space already crowded with other websites.  You need to solve a problem and you need to be emotionally invested.  This was my problem the second time around.  I wasn’t passionate about my Startup.  Apparently I just wanted to be more than “ordinary” but WTF does that even mean?

Lesson #2.1:  Ask for money on your terms and not on theirs.   I spent more time creating excel sheets of expense reports than I did creating an online magical experience.

Lesson #2.2:  Ignore your Investors when they tell you to change your business plan to become a small business.   I focused on immediate income rather than on building the portals.  Instead of being a portal we became a Web development and SEO Company.  Mind you I was making over half a million a year but we couldn’t do anymore than that because I was maxed out and exhausted after 3 years.  I started walking around like a Zombie and I felt so empty even with half a million dollars in the bank.

Lesson #2.3 Don’t give up too much of your shares at the beginning of your Startup journey.  It will be like working for someone else so there will be no point, you might as well go and work for someone else.

So even if the crystal clear waters of the Cayman Islands didn’t provide the clarity needed for this project, I was able to build another website that became a booking engine for Condos on Seven Mile Beach and eventually sold it to one of my partners.  More information in the Startups page.

I left the Cayman Islands when I met and married my partner and now live in Northern Virginia.  I am still in Web development and SEO.  I think that if I continue doing Web dev and SEO for the rest of my life, I would be ok.  But I don’t think I’d be ok with being ok.

Starting a Startup (again)

The thing with being an entrepreneur is that you are always afraid to fail but at the same time you are more scared not to pursue your vision.  Winston Churchill said,“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Thats me personified.   Dogma is a culmination of all the things I’ve ever been good at in life.  Its about pets and its about technology, my two greatest passions!  Also, didn’t someone wise once say, “Third times a charm.” 🙂



3rd Time Startup Founder