PAPAMOA is home to one of the biggest cats in New Zealand.

Barou, named after Irish king Baru, is the mammoth maine coon pussycat belonging to Diane and Brian Helson. They retired to Papamoa from Auckland four years ago.

Barou, weighing a hefty 10.7kg, has made a career out of being plus size — he's won many awards and ribbons galore, including the prestigious New Zealand Cat Fancy Inc double gold premier award.

The muscular kitty has retired somewhat these days, preferring to spend his days lounging around the house looking regal with his fellow maine coon pals Tee-Tonka and Rico. But he's still showing himself off at the odd expo and he'll be one of the stars to feature at the Pet & Animal Expo in late June with Tee-Tonka and Rico.

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Brian and Diane have always loved cats and have had a number of them including an oriental show stopper called Yeoman. When he died, they went in search of a different breed.

They got him from a breeder in Auckland, who also has not heard of a maine coon larger than Barou. Diane was warned that because of Barou's big paws, he was going to grow into a sizeable cat. Maine coons can live up to 22 years and are known for their intelligence, the fluffy fur factor and playful personalities.

Cat lovers need two hands and a strong back to pick up these gentle giants. Barou, age 11, can stretch out to just about a metre.

''They are not a great lap cat. Barou will sit on my lap but I can't see the TV.''

Tee-Tonka is 3, and weighs 8.5kg. Rico, the ''red classic'', also weighs 8.5kg and is 5. They have a third cat — Rufus the abyssinian short hair cross — age 2. Rufus smooches the other cats and they all get along fine.

The cats spend their day indoors or in their cat run. They love to play. Being inside means they are safer as the fuller figure of a maine coon makes it hard to jump, although they still do.

Tee-Tonka once jumped on the roof of their neighbour's house, giving them a huge fright.

Surprisingly, the cats don't eat any more than the average cat. Diane and Brian like to keep their cats under 10kg, so they don't get too big.

''There is some grooming involved but they are mostly a no fuss cat, they love company.''

Check out Barou, Tee-Tonka and Rico at the upcoming Pet & Animal Expo, June 23-24 at AB Arena.