This fabulous, flawless, British Shorthair ‘two-faced’ cat living in France has become a celebrity overnight. The cat’s name is Narnia de la Grace of Chatterie de la Grace (“Narnia” for short). He is a purebred “Celestial” – a breed distinguished by its blue eyes. Sarah Hartwell a cat genetics expert says that he is probably not a chimera and more likely the result of a localised gene mutation affecting the skin/fur colour (see more below).
He has been reported as being female (he is a boy cat). That allegedly is one of several misdeeds committed by the photographer: Jean-Michel Labat.
Narnia’s owner, Stéphanie Jimenez agreed that Labat could photograph her cat for a book (and to publish on his Instagram account) but I am informed that permission was not given to Labat to sell his photographs of Narnia to any third party. Allegedly in breach of this agreement (but see update below) Labat sold his photos of Narnia to Caters news agency who sold them on to various newspapers where they have been published today in the Metro, Daily Mail and Times (and others I suspect). He obviously did this to (a) make money and (b) promote his photography.
In selling the photographs against his agreement with Stéphanie Jimenez he compounded his alleged unethical behaviour by failing to ensure that the publishers of the photograph were provided with proper and full details such as the cat’s name, the owner’s name, the cattery’s name (Chatterie de la Grâce) and the cause of the coloration. Also, as mentioned, he gave the wrong gender of the cat.
Stéphanie Jimenez is obviously very upset. I would advise her to seek damages because Labat must have made a decent amount of money from the photos. I have tried to contact Labat for his comments by FB messenger and phone without success at the time of publishing this article. Stephanie has granted me permission to publish the photo of Narnia.
Update: I have, since publishing this article, received a Facebook messenger communication from Mr Labat in response to mine seeking his comment before publishing the article. He has asked me to delete the article because he said that he received a full release for the photographs. He has provided me with a copy of the release form. It is in French but it is easy to understand. I’ve also been told by Sarah Hartwell, subsequently, that there was a verbal agreement between the parties which specified that the photographs should only be used for Mr Labat’s book and for his Instagram account. I’m awaiting a response from Mr Labat on that issue and will further update the page as necessary. Further update: Mr Labat appears to have accepted that there is a verbal agreement (“j’arrête de polémiquer” – I will stop arguing). So I conclude that he is in breach of contract 😉
I’ll quote Sarah Hartwell who is friend of Stephanie Jimenez. What caused the extraordinarily beautiful appearance of Narnia?
“There is no evidence that Narnia is a chimera because the test results are not through. It is possible that he is a case of “non-disjunction” during cell division, where part of a chromosome does not copy across into one of the daughter cells. In Narnia’s case, it is possible that the dominant “full colour black” allele did not copy into one of the daughter cells and the recessive allele causing grey colour was therefore not overridden (Narnia’s genetic makeup is black carrying dilution (grey is the dilutiion of black)). This would mean he has the same DNA on both colours, apart from the absence of the black allele in the grey region. The grey would be a birthmark rather than a fused embryo. The straight line down the centre of the face is due to the way to two sides of the face fuse together in embryo development (it’s why humans have a line under the nose)”
Comment: I hope Stephanie has a written contract with Labat. That would help enormously in getting some form of compensation. See above: there is a release form plus a side verbal agreement I am told.
Narnia is an extraordinary cat. It the first time I have seen grey on one side of the face and black on the other. All the other examples of what is commonly described as a two-faced cat or chimera cat have been tortoiseshells with black on one side and tortie colourations on the other side.
See Stéphanie’s Facebook page.