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BREEDERS PROFILE Conducted by Emma Matthews

Breeders Name: Rocco & Angie Barletta Prefix: Coontastic Breed: Maine Coons

Profile:
We have been showing Maine Coons for about ten years and breeding for eight years. It all started when we bought our first house and I wanted a cat, having grown up with several always in the house. My husband, not being a cat person, saw a picture of a Maine Coon in a magazine and said that if we had to have one it would have to be one of ‘those’. One of ‘those’ was a silver classic tabby. So, as all I wanted was any sort of cat, I told him that he could buy me one for my birthday!

He went to visit Philippa Holmes in Hastings and returned with the news that he had in fact bought not one but TWO kittens!! One was a silver classic tabby called Alex and the other was a silver mackerel tabby called Mack. I was so excited! When the day came to collect our babies we both went to Philippa’s and whilst we were there she suggested to us that we might like to show Alex. In due course we booked Alex into the Bedford and District show and when we came away with a third rosette in the Open we were over the moon. We had caught the bug well and truly!

Alex hated showing but we decided to have a go with his brother Mack. Being a total show off, he loved all the attention. We got him to premier and decided that we would like to have a go at breeding. We asked around some of the friends we had made within the cat fancy as we wanted a silver tortie and white.

This was something of a rarity at the time. As luck would have it Jackie Huddleston of Jakatta Maine Coons had just had a litter of kittens from the very famous Verismo Britannicus. We rang and asked if she had what we wanted and she said yes!!! The rest is really history! We met Jakatta Desdemona when she was 9 weeks old and have never looked back. She is now the most titled Maine Coon in the UK holding the titles of UK GR CH & IMP GR PR & INT GR PR & IRSH SUP GR PR. We can’t thank Jackie enough for our beautiful Dessie.

How did you come up with your prefix?
We submitted ten prefixes for approval to the GCCF and Coontastic was I think our third or fourth choice. It was just a play on words really. We love the prefix though and think it describes our cats very well!


What has been your greatest moment so far?
Gosh, there has been so many! Desdemona winning Overall Best in Show at the breed show three years running was amazing. But I think perhaps our greatest moment as breeders was at the 2005 Supreme Show. Earlier in the year we had imported a girl from France. In the spring she had kittens but fell very seriously ill.

I then had to hand rear from birth all six kittens. This was something I had never done before. One of these babies, Xavier, went to live with my friend’s mum, Sue Wilkinson. She showed him beautifully through out the summer and autumn and he notched up win after win. As the day of the Supreme dawned we could never have imagined what was in store!

Feeling a little delicate from the night before in the hotel we watched Xavier win his open, then best of breed and then best of variety SLH kitten. At this point we were already in tears and over the moon. When the time came for him to go across the stage we worried that a seven-month-old kitten may find it all a bit daunting. How wrong could we be!

He absolutely reveled in all the attention and behaved like a true professional. When he was crowned Supreme kitten 2005 it was amazing. A feeling that I don’t think we could ever match.

All our thanks go to his very proud owner Sue and her husband Peter who had to put up with us all day alternating between tears and elation!

What has been your funniest moment so far?
There have been many very funny days! Maine Coons are so silly sometimes, especially the boys who don’t seem to blessed with too many brain cells!! At the Somerset show this summer we were all in fits of laughter watching our brown and white neuter boy Coontastic Don Giovanni being judged in the Best In Show line up.

When the judge walked down the line for the final time to make her selection he did no more than stood up on his back legs and waved his front paws through the bars at her as if to say “ pick me! “
Of course, she did!

Do you have any breeding or showing tips?
If you want to breed, do your homework. Look at the cats that are winning and ask lots and lots of questions. Always try to show a neuter first, that is the best way to learn about any breed of cat. You will find people are much more willing to help you if they think you are serious and not just trying to make a quick buck!

I think as far as showing is concerned many people forget that it is a beauty contest. Preparation is paramount. It is such a shame to see some beautiful cats so badly let down by their show prep.

At the end of the day, showing cats is a hobby. Never forget the days when you were a beginner. Everyone has to start somewhere and we should all try to help and encourage new people. As in anything competitive there will always be bad losers, try not to become one of them. You should enjoy your day out with your friends and your beautiful cats. If you win it is a bonus, if not, you are still taking home the best cat in the world.