The Chartreux is a breed of cat that is probably best know for three things:
- A long history going back many hundreds of years;
- Being almost unchanged over these years (this is what breeders want) and….
- Being French.
Background and History
The Chartreux is France’s only purebred pedigree cat and it is a part of French history and culture. The famous president of France, Charles de Gaulle, and the well known author Collette, both made the Chartreux their companion. Collete showed the world her patriotism in having two Chartreux during the second world war (1939-1945).
At a quick glance, it is possible to mistake the Chartreux for a blue British Shorthair. However, they look different if you look carefully. Also the Chartreux has to be blue (“blue” means grey in the language of cat breeders) whereas the British Shorthair can be many colors and patterns. However, there are some British Shorthair genes in the Chartreux because after the second world war there were almost no Chartreux left. Cat breeders had to rebuild the breed. They did this by mating remaining and carefully selected Chartreux with blue British Shorthairs. This confirms how close these two breeds are in they way they look.
The precise history of this solid looking cat is not known. However, it is believed that the first Chartreux were brought to France from Syria by ship up to 900 years ago. At that time they were not known as Chartreux but as moggies (random bred cats).
The Chartreux is mentioned in a very old book Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière (1749–1788) written by Buffon a Frenchman who was an expert on nature at the time. He wrote about the “Cat of France”.
The reason why there is a picture of a monastery in the collage above is because there is a legend that this cat was bred by monks at the Grand Chartreuse monastery which is near a town called Grenoble. The legend also says that these monks brought this cat to France. The connection with these monks is said to be the source of this cat’s name. (Note: a “legend” is an old story handed down over time that may not be true).
The Chartreux was brought to the United States in the 1970s but they are still rare.
The Way The Chartreux Looks
Cat breeders today sometimes call this cat “primitive” looking. This is probably referring to the fact that it has not changed that much over hundreds of years whereas most often cat breeds change in shape, slightly, because of changing ideas and selective breeding (“selective breeding” means choosing certain cats and mating them to create a certain look and doing this over and over again).
This cat is known for its permanent smile. This is because of the anatomy of the face. This is not a real smile. The eyes are the color of copper or gold. The ears are on the top of the head and quite close together.
As mentioned, it is grey in color and the coat is dense and short. This cat looks solid and quite large (called quite “substantial” by breeders). The male cats have a “jowly appearance” (they have wide cheeks making the head shape wider).
Although the body is chunky the legs are skinny. Some breeders think this looks odd.
Naming Chartreux Cats
I have to mention this. Chartreux cats are named using a strict method. You can’t choose a name without following the method. The first letter of the name depends on the year the cat was born. We are told that cats born in 1997 must have a name that begins with “N” (for example: Nico). Then the next year, 1998, the name must begin with the next letter of the alphabet, “O”, and so on. You can ignore the letters K.Q,W,X,Y and Z. This is probably because it is difficult to find a good name beginning with these letters. It is an interesting tradition. I wonder what would happen if you ignored this rule!
Behavior and Character
For a biggish cat the voice is very small. This reminds me of the British Shorthair (Brit SH). Did the Chartreux get this voice from the Brit SH when they were mated after the second world war? Some Chartreux are silent. This is the same as the Brit SH. This is a calm, independent cat with excellent hunting and climbing skills.