For Mark Chapin, pets make the best co-workers. “I just never thought I would be my own boss. It sounds so cliché, but to wake up every morning and know you’re going to do something you love. Not to get that sick to your stomach feeling on a Sunday night that a lot of people get. The fact that I get to be around these amazing, bizarre, lovable creatures every day, I’m just really fortunate. I guess, in a sense, my customers are my boss, but it’s certainly different than working for a large company.”
Mark is the owner of Rocket Boy Cat Sitting, a business dedicated to ensuring that the cats of Western Mass are well taken care of while their owners are away on vacation. Depending on the personal needs of the customer, Mark offers daily or overnight visits to ensure that each cat is fed, their litter box is clean, they have their medication if necessary and that they have adequate playtime.
It all started after Mark stopped working at MassMutual in April 2009. In the summer of 2009, Mark started Furry Friends Pet Sitting. He shared, “It actually took off rather quickly, more quickly than I was anticipating.”
It was a big year for Mark. That same year, Mark met his absolute best friend. “One day, in South Hadley, this little guy showed up in my backyard. He was this little black and white muffin. I went out there and just started talking to him and, long story short, turns out this was the guy I named Mr. Mooch.”
Though he adores all animals, Mark had previously begun to realize he had the self-described “crazy cat person gene.” But meeting Mr. Mooch confirmed it. “A switch went off in my head, and because of him, I became a crazy cat person.”
Mr. Mooch, also known by his nickname Rocket Boy, quickly became Mark’s partner in crime. He later earned his nickname based on his personality. Mark explained, “He was a little weird, like all cats are. And much like one of my current cats, I used to say he came from another planet. He was like a furry martian.” Mr. Mooch soon came to be known as Rocket Boy.
Unfortunately, in August 2018, Mr. Mooch passed away at the age of nineteen. “When he passed away in August, I had a friend of mine do a piece of art, which was him riding a rocket. As soon as I got it, another switch went off in my brain and I thought to myself ‘there’s no way this is not going to be my new business name.’”
The business initially known as Furry Friends Pet Sitting rebranded to focus on cats. “I had no intention of changing the business name. I kind of thought about changing the focus. Cat-specific services are a niche. While I still love animals and I still take care of dogs, fish, birds and even chickens, I thought I would dearly love to try to make the business more cat-centric. It’s really the same business. I still have all of my existing customers, but I’m putting a renewed focus on the cat care.”
Mark said he doesn’t want anyone to think that he has abandoned his love for all furry creatures. “I’ve been fortunate enough to build up an incredibly loyal customer base as well as a good reputation over the past decade. Of course I still adore all animals, and still happily provide care to existing canine customers and new when availability allows, along with birds, fish, amphibians and chickens.”
Mark continued, “However, as I begin my second decade as a professional pet sitter and start to put greater focus on feline care, my goal is to eventually become the go-to name in cat sitting throughout my small part of Western Mass, all while continuing to provide the same level of service and care I have always done for years to come. I think my Mooch would approve.”
Having a love for cats is a major component of Mark’s success with Rocket Boy Cat Sitting. Mark shared why he loves cats so much. “They’re so playful. They’re so funny. In a weird way, they remind me of me. They’re total homebodies. They’re affectionate when they want to be.”
Cats often carry a reputation of being unaffectionate and anti-social, but Mark explained that this is not the case. “They’re so misunderstood. I think a lot of people see cats as these emotionless, unloving creatures. They’re really not. Once you’re around one cat, you realize how amazing they really are and how affectionate. They’re always making me laugh. You cannot be in a bad mood around a cat.”
Mark brings experience from volunteering at Dakin Humane Society’s Cat Intensive Care Unit to his business. Cats are brought in from the local community, including after natural disasters. Mark shared, “While I have many years of experience with our feline friends, I also have a desire to continue learning about these amazing creatures. I don’t think it’s possible to ever stop learning about something you’re passionate about. This is why I wanted to work with the amazing people at Dakin Humane Society. The hard thing is, because a lot of them are contagious, you can’t smooch them.”
Mark said he is happy to have transitioned his love for pets into a business that makes others happy. “A customer might think you only want to do that visit every day for the money, which is not the case. It’s not really about the money, it’s about the welfare of your pet.”
Mark never charges for consultations. He said, “We’re going to tailor this to work your way. I might make recommendations and suggest things, but we will tailor a program to you. I can’t imagine charging someone to talk about a service they might not even get.”
Owning his own cats, Mr. Mooch (Rocket Boy), Roobarb, Roxy and Frosty, Mark is no stranger to caring for cats. “The thing about hiring a professional is the experience level. I have been doing this for years. Pretty much any situation that comes up, I’m going to know how to handle. Whether it’s with the cat, or there’s an emergency in the house. I have dealt with gas leaks, broken water heaters that just suddenly start flooding the basement, a customer’s roof just collapsed one day. You kind of have to know how to deal with these things. I think there is a level of experience and professionalism that comes with hiring a professional sitter.”
Although his passion is in caring for cats, it’s not always easy to be a sitter for animals with their own plan. “I’ve been lucky. I’ve worked with some really tough ones before, but 90% of who I’ve worked with are very sweet little babies.”
It’s clear that when Western Massachusetts needs to leave their pets in good hands, Mark is the cat’s meow.
FOR PRICING OR TO SET UP A CONSULTATION, PLEASE VISIT WWW.ROCKETBOYCATSITTING.COM