Monday 26 June 2023

About Choupette, a Birman cat loved by Karl Lagerfeld

People ask: 'What breed of cat is Choupette?' As far as I know Choupette is still alive and the recipient of a $1.5 million legacy from her adoring caregiver Karl Lagerfeld who passed away in 2019 aged 85. News media reports that the cat is now looked after by Lagerfeld's housekeeper Francoise Cacote, in Paris, France. I expect she uses the money to look after darling Choupette in the manner to which she is familiar with a lot left over to spend on herself but we don't know!

The name "Choupette" is a cute version of the French word for 'cabbage' namely 'chou', which is a term of endearment between French people. French people sometimes give their opposite number a nickname such as "my little cabbage". The name Choupette is derived from that cultural habit.

Choupette is a Birman purebred cat. They are a majestic longhaired particolor, pointed cat. They have striking blue eyes and white laces and gloves on their feet. That all sounds a little bit complicated so I'll try and explain it.

RELATED: Famous felines: the stories of history’s most notable cats.

The word "particolor" means more than one colour. So, this cat breed is a pointed cat like the Siamese cat which means that the extremities are darker than the middle portions but, in this instance, the dark extremities are not a single colour but a mix of colours. 

And in the case of Choupette, in my opinion, the pointing is dilute tortoiseshell which is orange and black with tabby markings. It's rather complicated. And to go a bit further, I would also state that Choupette's pointing is diluted. Therefore, this cat carries the dilution gene.

Choupette. Image: Instagram.

If you look at the photograph above carefully, you will see that the pointing looks like a diluted red or orange. But if you look to the left of her left eye, you will see some darker-coloured fur. This is in my opinion a dilute black and the two colours together indicate to me that this is a tortoiseshell mix of colours on the extremities. It is manifested in terms of a red pointing colour on the tail.

RELATED: Karl Lagerfeld is wrong about animal fur.

Choupette has 'gloving' on her feet (white fur). The gloving on her left foreleg is not perfect and breeders of Birman cats expend a lot of effort in trying to get that perfect white paw with a clear demarcation between the darker area of the paw and the remainder of the foot.

The white gloves and "laces" on the feet are created by the piebald gene a.k.a. white spotting gene together with a pattern gene for the placement of the white in that particular area.

If the white fur runs up the leg the breeders call this "runners". This means that the white fur has run up the leg metaphorically speaking. It's taken many years of breeding Birman to Birman with the desired white-spotting pattern to achieve the perfect gloving on the feet. They have achieved this through careful selective breeding (artificial selection) to weed out the undesirable patterns and to fix the desirable patterns in their breeding lines.

The eyes should be blue, sparkling against the darker pointing of the face. Birman cats are said to be healthy and intelligent. They are relaxed and easy-going with their human family members. They have a tolerant personality and a peaceful nature. Choupette does have this aura of calm and sweetness about which she probably has. This is why, I presume, Karl Lagerfeld adored her so much.

Choupette entered the life of Karl Lagerfeld in 2011 when he adopted her from a model who, I presume, was modelling his clothes. The model's name was Baptiste Giabicone. They went on holiday and left Choupette with the staff at Lagerfeld's home. That was the beginning of the relationship. In short, Choupette was given to Lagerfeld as a gift during Christmas 2011.

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