A brief look into Sonya Stanislow's breeding programme spanning nearly 30 years.
One of Sonya Stanislow's modern day
Maine Coons. She says of her kittens " I am
still breeding the same type as I did 25 to
30 years ago." One of her spcialities is
green-eyed reds as in the picture above.
When we look far into the background of our pedigrees, there is little doubt that, somewhere way-back when, there will be a Tati-Tan cat or two because Sonya Stanislow, owner of the Tati-Tan cattery, has been breeding her beloved Maine Coons for around 30 years, long before most of us had even thought that owning one cat might be a good idea, never mind a whole breeding group! And long before most cat breeders and exhibitors had ever heard of a Maine Coon, much less seen one. The resistance met by Sonya and her fellow breeders at that time should be hard to believe although, knowing the cat world even now, it is unfortunately quite easy to imagine its happening, and it made the achievements of that small group back in the late 1960s even more remarkable.
Unnamed Tati-Tan kittens
Sonya's first Maine Coon was a little girl, who came home with her after a happy accidental meeting at a friend's house in upstate New York in 1962. Once she had seen her, Sonya could not leave her behind and the kitten, Tanya, grew into her first show cat and infected her with an incurable love of Maine Coons which endures to the present day.
Unnamed Tati-Tan kittens
Shortly after bringing the kitten home, another accidental meeting, this time in a delicatessen, with a lady called Ellen Salonius, was to give fate - or Sonya - another push. She tells the story of how it was pouring with rain and miserable one day, so, bored, she went across to the deli to find same kind of treat for her cat ("roast beef, turkey or something")! In the shop was another wet and bedraggled lady, also looking for treats for her cats, and, as all good cat lovers do, the two got talking..."I have a Maine Coon" and "I have a Maine Coon, too" and "Aren't they just wonderfull?" and so on in time honoured tradition. The other lady, having recently retired from work, had some time on her hands to devote to a new pastime and, whilst she had no wish to register as a breeder, nor to attend shows with her cats, she too was in love with the breed and welcomed the chance to become involved in doing what she could to help promote the cat. Sonya had become very involved with researching information on the breed, seeking and talking to anyone who owned or knew anything about the Maine Coon and, during this time, attended her very first cat show in New York City, met a magnificent fully-grown Maine Coon and was amazed to realize that this was what one could do! This was still in the early 60s, when very few Maine Coons were seen or heard of, so an alliance was formed between Sonya and Ellen, they devised a breeding plan and eventually, in 1967, their efforts were rewarded with the birth of Dauphin de France of Tati-Tan, the brown tabby and white boy destined to become America's first Grand Champion Maine Coon. So Sonya began her grand plan with Dauphin and, of course, his ladyfriend, Tatiana, who also came, as an adult from Ellen.
Gr Ch Tati-Tan Coquette De France,
Best All-American Maine Coon 1969;
Tortie & Wh female; Sire: Dauphin,
Dam: Tatiana; DOB 11 July 1968.
To backtrack to the beginning of this story, there aren't a great many pedigrees without a Tati-Tan cat in them somewhere. And odds on that, when you find the Tati-Tan name, Dauphin and Tatiana will figure in there somewhere. In common with most of the Foundation breeders, Sonya built a strict line-breeding program around her cats, particularly Dauphin, thereby rigorously testing for undesirable traits hidden in recessive genes, until she was certain that she had sturdy, healthy and typey cats which would thrive. She strongly maintained then, as she does now, that no quality should ever be sacrificed for the sake of size and therefore the health and vigour of her cats has always taken precedence. Not that the size of her cats have diminished at all! When the size comes along naturally, it must be considered a bonus and good, solid bone has always been one of her trademarks, together of course with coat and distinctive head type of the Tati-Tan cats. But she is quick to point out that same of her lines are slow to mature and that some of her smallest queens have produced the biggest offspring. She will happily recount tales of Coquette, an emerald-eyed girl, who weighed only around six and a half pounds, became a Grand Champion with no problem and produced some wonderful big red sons. She is also often heard to say that Dauphin was ahead of his time, with Maine Coon type which could still be a show-winner today.
Fighting for the Breed
International & Gr Ch Tati-Tan Bijou,
Red Tabby Male, DOB 28 May 1969;
Sire: Dauphin, Dam: Tatiana
An All-American Top Winner which
appeared on television several times.
Not content with a full-time nursing career and a demanding breeding program, Sonya then decided she needed a little paperwork and perhaps some gentle travel to occupy her spare time. In 1968, her work on the breed began in earnest with the formation of a small but dedicated group - Ethelyn Whittemore, Nancy Silsbee, Rose Levy, Mr & Mrs Eminhizer, Henrietta O'Neil, Lillias Vanderhoff and Sonya herself - who, with help from others, set about bringing the Maine Coon back to the popularity it had briefly enjoyed in the early 2Oth century. They found themselves fighting, at the time, breeders of other longhaired breeds, the show judges and the system itself. As Sonya says, it is difficult to know why people generally disparage anything close to home, when that is the very thing of which they should probably be most proud, but that is what happened. The more exotic breeds had by then taken over in popularity and it was a hard task to get anyone to accept the Maine Coon could possibly be anything other than a barn cat. So they took on the daunting task of devising a show standard, trying to encapsulate all their own ideas but to make allowances for the fact that the cat was likely to develop differently in the long term from any one of the cats around at the time. As we have heard from many different breeders of those early days, the breed then was quite varied, although always with same consistent, recognisable features. The round head was quite prevalent, same body lengths left a lot to be desired, the coat was almost always heavier than it is today, the ears and muzzle were most changeable - showing, as we have commented in the past, the probable mix of Persian/Angora/Shorthaired farm cat - and to pick one 'look' from all these must have been a nightmare.
Unnamed Tati-Tan kitten
Sonya admits - but usually in very amusing terms - that this was a difficult time, with acrimonious disputes brought on by tiredness and frustration, but they - and the cat - and all of us - were winners eventually, with a show standard which has changed very little to this day, although the breed itself has developed over the years. While all of this was happening, Sonya was also writing letter after letter, begging and bullying anyone who would listen to reinstate the Maine Coon as a Championship breed - which at last happened, gradually over a period of time, and the rest, as they say, is history!
On the Road
Ch Tati-Tan's Caprice,
All-American Blue cream 1969;
However, this was the end only of the desk-bound phase. Next had to come consolidation. The Tati-Tan household then took to the road - not always literally - to prove that these cats could really do what she had been fighting so hard for. Now all those of us who find the long, hard days at cat shows exhausting, who complain at climbing out of the car at the show hall at the crack of dawn and who are too tired to drive home at night, having carried many pounds of unwieldy carrier and none-too-happy cat from the car park to the show hall, would do well to bear in mind while we are reading this that Sonya did not, does not, and probably never will, choose to have a car. Not only did she travel around the country and, upon occasion, into Canada by bus, train and, very possibly, steamer but she also found she had to take several cats, there being no competition available at most of the shows. So off she would go, with three or four cats, just for the joy of promoting the cat and listening to the frequent insults of the other exhibitors! Tanya, Sonya's first Maine Coon, had been shown - but as a longhaired household pet. Championship status or not, the other longhair exhibitors could not accept the Maine Coon as a pedigree show cat and the phrase 'barn cat' was positively complimentary when compared with the other descriptions chosen for Dauphin. "That long-haired stray" and "that garbage can cat" are two which Sonya recalls most fondly. And that was just when they would speak to her at all!
Unnamed Tati-Tan kitten
But when you listen to her tell it, you realize that she wouldn't have it any other way. The fight was worth it, as we can all attest. At Dauphin's first show, he came away with Best Maine Coon, Best Novice, Best Longhair and Best Cat. And it is even more to his and his owner's credit that he actually had to win that last award THREE TlMES since the owners of the other longhaired breeds in the show insisted that he be recalled by the judge over and over again, to see if any small fault could be found! Thank Heaven for those judges who have the courage of their convictions, since this one stuck to his, and Dauphin, a real Maine Coon, went on from that 'first' to many others, retiring as an International and Triple Grand Champion, undefeated after five years on the show bench.
Unnamed Tati-Tan kittens
Naturally, Dauphin was not the only Tati-Tan cat Sonya took around to the shows. In the early days, Tatiana and Tanya were often his travelling companions and it is interesting to note that, presumably because of the unfamiliarity of the varied colours in a cat with a long coat, Tatiana was at first thought of as a brown tabby, proving her tortie tabby status when she produced red kittens! She also had striking emerald green eyes, establishing the true green-eyed lines, often red-coated, of which Sonya is still very proud today.
Gr Ch Tati-Tan Beau De France,
Brn Cl Tab Male, DOB 11 July 1968
Sire: Dauphin. Dam: Tatiana
Highest scoring Best All-American
Maine Coon 1969 (tied with his
litter mate, Coquette).
Alongside all the excitement of the early show days, there was, of course, the other excitement of establishing the breeding plan. Sonya had met a man at a cat show who had told her of his two stud boys who had been reared together and therefore saw each other as friends, rather than competitors. From then on, that was the method in the Tati-Tan household, too. The boys, although not allowed to mix unsupervised with the girls, live very happily together, never lonely, and take delight in practical fatherhood, playing hide-and-seek with the babies and missing them when they leave home. Sonya laughs when she tells the story of one son - Beau de France - to whom Dauphin took an instant and total dislike - he never did tell her why! - but mostly the boys love to help.
Still Breeding, Showing and Judging
Gr Ch Tati-Tan Beau Brummel
CFA Best Maine Coon 1983-86
inclusive; Blk & Wh male.
(Editor's note: the information about
the showsuccess has turned out not to be correct.
We do not know what the cat's exact awards were.)
Since these early, tiring, often tiresome but essentially rewarding days, Sonya has continued to breed her beautiful cats, has been president of a cat club, still judges Household Pets now and again, shows when she can arrange travel and maintains her career. In 1981, she bred a litter of kittens, three of which - Tati-Tan Beau Brummel and his two sisters - had very successful show careers and loved to be shown. Sonja still has one of the girls, Tati-Tan's Belle Amie, an old lady now at the age of 14, but Beau Brummel died of a brain tumour on Easter Sunday, five years ago, and temporarily took away her enthusiasm for showing. Still, after another two years, she bred a litter of ten kittens, all of whom survived and became robust, showy cats, and the spark was again lit. She chose three of the boys, a black called Tati-Tan's Silhouette, a red tabby called Tanti-Tan's Tigre and a black and white bi-colour called Bon Chance. These are the three cats she still enjoys showing today.
Dauphin De France of Tati-Tan,
America's First Gr Ch;
Brn Tab W/Wh male
pictured at 11 months.
DOB 20 May 1967.
Her kittens are still of the consistent type for which she is known and she has sent kittens abroad to enable others to follow her path. The Tati-Tan prefix is still very much in evidence in same current pedigrees, just as it was back in those days when everything took so much fighting for. But can you get her to talk about it? Not much. Her cats may be special but she seems to think of herself as 'just another breeder', now the fighting is more or less done. Her philosophies have changed little over the years. She has never chosen to breed silvers or smokes and brown tabbies are not quite her thing - Dauphin notwithstanding! Although naturally she gets the occasional one. Many of her best cats are black and white but she claims this to be a happy accident. She feels that, in her lines, the type comes quite naturally, the colour is more variable and it is therefore good colour, coat and a generally flashy appearance which draws her to a kitten for breeding or showing in the first place - particularly if it has those stunning green eyes, too. She keeps a mostly closed household, with few visitors to her boys, unless by specific invitation, and only the occasionally outside female brought in to extend her gene pool. Asked how many generations down her own lines she has come, she will answer matter-of-factly "About ten, probably less but I've had a lot of time to do it." The overriding impression one gets from talking to Sonya is that she is, as she always has been, justly very proud of her breeding - but that she has done no more than any breeder should expect to do. At the forefront of her mind these days is the cause for the health and vigour of the breed and the desire for our beautiful cat to continue to progress but in the right direction. Not all change, in Sonya's eyes, is progress - and wouldn't it be good if, just for once, we all agreed?
Cathy Glynn's research into
the early years of this important cattery
Breeder: Sonya Stanislow
Location: Long Island, N.Y.
Established: Early 1960s/still breeding
|Primary Source Cats:
Dauphin De France of Tati-Tan
B: 20 May1967 Brn T/Wh.M
Tatiana of Tati-Tan
B: 24 Dec 1965 Brn Patched Tabby F
|Selective Offspring of Dauphin de France
|Breeding x Lucky of War-Tell
||Blue T/Wh F
|Breeding x Miston Misty Blu
||Illya Coco de Chanel
||Brn McT F
|Breeding x Norwynde Miss Blu Girl
||Norwynde Mindi Blu
||Blue McTorb/Wh F
||Bm McT M
|Breeding x Tati-Tan Coquette de France
||Tati-Tan Colette of Mor-Ace
||Bm T/Wh F
|Breeding x Tatiana of Tati-Tan
||Tati-Tan Suzette de France
||Tati-Tan Beau de France of Mari-Lee
||Brn T M
||Tati-Tan Coquette de France
||Tati-Tan Moses of Sundar
||Brn T M
||Tati-Tan Anya of Sundar
||Brn Torb F
||Red T M
||Tati-Tan Blu Belle of Mor Ace
||Blue T F
||Tati-Tan Tati of Mor Ace
||Brn T F
||Red T/Wh M
||Tati-Tan Simone of Tomoka Oaks
||Tati-Tan Toni Girl of Mor-Ace
|Breeding x War-Tell Jasmine of Quan-Yin
||Quan-Yin Blaze of Cozy Nook
||Bl McT/Wh F
||Quan-Yin Natasha of Miston
|Breeding x War-Tell Mimosa of Quan Yin
||Brn T F
||Quan-Yin Emerald of Illya
||Brn T/Wh F
© "Maine Coon International", issue 4, 1995.
Reprinted with permission.