Chartreux Cat

chartreux cat
Chartreux Cat – Photo of Spenser ©copyright Helmi Flick
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Quick Guide to this breed

 

Introduction

The Chartreux was the chosen cat companion of Charles de Gaulle, a past president of France and the famous author Collette5. Farmers liked them too6- for their hunting skills.

This is possibly one of the most natural cat breeds of them all because the origins appear to go back to the 16th century (see below) and more importantly the objective of modern breeders is to make sure the breed remains as it has always been. This cat is almost the same as it was hundreds of years ago4.

I think that Chartreux cat breeders deserve recognition for their foresight and almost unique actions. The cat fancy usually likes to “improve” cat breeds through selective breeding.

The desire to retain the purity of the breed seems to be a thread running through the history of this breed. This is a great motivator to continue the good work and is probably why the current breeders are dedicated to the preservation of this breed in its original form.

The cat’s naturalness is one of several notable features of this breed. The others are that the Chartreux comes in one color or shades of one color, is a large cat, has a small voice (mute sometimes4), a permanent, apparent smile due to its strong jaws and a body that is out of proportion to its legs. The body is semi-cobby and quite substantial but the legs are slim4.

This cat breed is in the mid-range in terms of rarity and therefore not one of the rare cat breeds. Although Gloria Stephens describes it as “relatively rare”4, which may be true as at 2007 there were around 20 breeders in the USA6.

This cat is the native working cat of France4 in the same way the American Shorthair is for the Americans (or the Maine Coon). It is said that the only grooming that the Chartreux cat needs is a gentle stroking with your hand. How good is that! The coat is water repellant4.

This is another cat breed (with the Birman) where the first letter of the  name of the cat is dictated by convention depending on the date of birth. The letters K, Q, W, X, Y, and Z are ommitted6. A cat born in 1997 will have a name beginning with “N” (2002 = “T”6). I’ll leave you to check if that adds up and to work out the others!5

Chartreux Cat
Photograph of Spenser © Helmi Flick

History

It is said that the name Chartreux is either derived from an association with Carthusian monks (a Roman Catholic Monastic Order founded in 1084) living in the Chartreuse Mountains north of the city of Grenoble, France or the Chartreuse liqueur that the monks are famous for2. But, in 1972, the Prior of the monastery apparently denied any connection on the basis that the archives contained no records7. The word “Chartreux” means a Carthusian so you can see the connection. 

Another possibility is that the name is derived from a Spanish wool of the same or similar name from the early 18th century4.

There is an experimental breed called the Benedictine Cat keeping the same monkish theme. This cat is a long haired Chartreux. Another name for the Chartreux cat is the Carthusian cat.

After World War II, in order to save the breed, the Chartreux cat was crossed with Persians or British Shorthairs1 and British Blues5. It is also said that the outcrosses were with blue longhaired cats. This diluted the pure Chartreux strain.

Apparently Chartreux were shipped back to France from the USA to help preserve the breed in the country of its origin1.

It is said that many Chartreux were killed for their coats4 reflecting the plight of the small wildcats which often suffer the same persecution. They were also killed to eat4.

Date Event
13th or 16th Century Alleged stocky feral mountain cat (“Cat of Syria”4) imported on Dutch ships from Syria during the Crusades are thought to be the possible origin of this breed1. The Crusades occurred from 1095 to 1291 and during the 16th Century. A stocky cat with a “woolly” grey coat and golden eyes was referred to in a 16th century description4.
1558 First written record of a grey cat that looked like this breed. A certain Joachin de Bellay refers to a dead Chartreux (?) in a poem. The poem refers to the cats rat catching skills.
17th Century The word “Chartreux” began to be used for this cat breed. By the 1700s the breed was described by the naturalist, Buffon, as the “Cat of France”5.
18th Century
(1723)
Written evidence in a French “dictionary” of the breed name “Chartreux” for a blue cat. Apparently the cat’s fur was used by furriers. This seems to mean that there were wild populations and colonies at this time, up until the end of the 2nd World War.
1747 A cat having the appearance of Chartreux painted by Frenchman. Painting now at JP Getty Museum USA
1747 – 1880 The Chartreux Cat referred to in a number of books from France and Europe.
from late 1920s Cat Shows in Europe exhibit the Chartreux Cat
Circa 1945 Breeders recognize the worth of protecting this breed of cat and preserving the genetic make up. After WW2, the population of this cat in the wild (I presume feral) was very low8.
1970 (or 19719) FIFe merge the British Blue and Chartreux during the 1970s. All European and British Blues described as Chartreux for a time. Imported into the USA and Canada5
1987 CFA grant full (championship status to this breed)3
Present Full status with all major associations in US and Europe. Note that the US associations and FiFe don’t allow out crossing so it’s always Chartreux to Chartreux. The GCCF doesn’t recognize this breed.

 

Appearance/Character

Chartreux cat

Photo of Amethyst: © Helmi Flick

This is a late maturing cat5. The Chartreux Cat is large (quite substantial in cat fancy parlance – see cat body types) and muscular except it seems their legs which are short and fine boned (the photographs don’t really support this, though). They develop pronounced jowls as they get older5.

The Chartreux cat has been described as “primitive” in terms of build5.

On the linked page, I discuss cat breed size.

They have the classic blue coat/gold copper coloured eye mix. They are quiet and some (many?) are apparently totally mute. If not mute their meow is different, being high pitched or a chirp (chirping is found in other breeds too e.g. Maine Coon). The British Shorthair has a similarly very quiet voice.

Another particularity is that they are noted to be very good hunters (but not good fighters5). This may be in part due to their quick reflexes6.

They have all the usual characteristics of a domestic cat if well socialized namely, affectionate, non-aggressive and playful. They are noted for being reserved, calm and devoted to their human companions. They are good climbers (legacy of their hunting skills perhaps). They need plenty of room4.

The breed standard includes these selected features:

  • broad, round head with small to medium sized ears (small by modern cat fancy standards but normal size in terms of random bred cats).
  • the ears are set “close together”. Yet bearing in mind that this cat is  “natural” the position of the ears are normal, I would suggest.
  • the coat should be short and thick. It is a thick double, woolly coat. A sheen is desirable4.
  • large cat – full size is 12-16 lbs
  • smiling expression due to the structure of their heads and muzzle6.
  • rounded head
  • robust medium-long body – erect posture
  • medium short coat with dense undercoat and protective topcoat
  • color: any shade of blue-gray
  • rounded open expressive eyes

This is a really nice looking cat for me. Reference to a blue coat means blue-grey. The coat can be any shade of blue-grey from ash coloured to a slate colour3.

The blue-grey colour is the same for the popular colour of the British Shorthair. Although the British Shorthair has other coat colours. There has been some overlap with the Brit SH in the past. Read more here: The health, history and character of the Chartreux cat

Other cat breeds confined to the solid blue coat color are the Korat, Russian Blue and Nebelung. They are all grey cat breeds.

Chartreux cat
Chartreux cat – photo ©copyright Helmi Flick
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Health

Patellar luxation can occur in this breed. This is a condition in which the knee cap dislocates from its normal position. This can cause the cat to be lame. This in an inherited condition and is therefore controllable by careful breeding – check with the breeder.

Luxating patella is considered hereditary if it is present in both legs — if it only occurs in one leg it is likely to be caused by something else, like an injury…..Amanda Bright

Reported in some: close set incisor teeth (this report probably comes from a cat breeder) and possible Gingivitis (this though is a potential for all domestic cats and should be watched for)1.

Despite these relatively minor health issues this is a sturdy cat which supports the admirable hunting skills. I expand on health issues on this page.

Chartreux cat
Chartreux kittens – photo © Helmi Flick
Chartreux Cats
Chartreux cats – photo © Helmi Flick
1

I’d like to hear from you on the Chartreux cat. Please leave a comment.

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What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page…

I think I may have rescued a beautiful Chartreux  About 5 years ago I decided my domestic shorthair, a black cat named Mr.BoJangles needed a cat-companion. He seemed bored all the time, didn’t want to …

Chartreux Health Issues  Gus is very devoted and likes to be within a few feet of you at all times. For a cat who hates to be picked up or sit on your lap and meows his discontent,…

Probably not a Chartreux…  My little Widget was the spawn of a feral cat that a neighbor was caring for, and almost certainly has no “breeding” whatsoever, but I couldn’t help being …

I love Jassman more that anything in the whole world!  ! found my cat 7 years ago when I was five. It was under our mobile home. She had one brother. He was white and a sister she was white and the mom was …

Are these three cats a Chartreux and Egyptian Maus?  This is one of my cats his name is Grey Brat and I think that maybe he is a Chartreux cat. Also I have noticed that his tail has an odd and faint stripe …

Quite perplexed regarding my “Rockie” kitten…help?  I have received a new kitten from my brother for my daughter. The kitten is gorgeous! She has gray colored shorter hair with only a small white strip on …

Pittsburgh Chartreux Mourner   Vladimir, a 6 year old Chartreux male, died a couple days ago. I share this because when his condition deteriorated to concerning levels, it was too late….

Higgins, My Loving Companion  I adopted Higgins when he was perhaps four 4 yrs. He is now 11. Within one month he became ill and I found out he had megacolon.

I gave him daily …

Sammy the Chartreux Cat  My friend Steve had a grey cat named Sammy who was the third generation of cats from a female that Steve also owned.

I’m not particularly a cat person …

Nippers the Chirpping Chartreux  Four years ago my daughter brought home a kitten that was dropped of at a local horse barn.

She was a beautiful blue gray all over. We named her …

My Chartreux Roommate & BFF  Meet my best friend and roommate, Sage. Sage is almost 7 years old and is at her “summer” weight of 16lbs. Like most women, she packs on holiday weight …

Is My Cat a Chartreux?   Hello there, I wonder if you can help me as my friend bought me this cat (see photo up loaded) and it looks like a Chartreux Cat could you please let me …

Possibly found a Chartreux in our line of strays :)  We have a lot of stray cats — or more like, we found a stray cat (tortoiseshell), and she had many kittens and made herself an extensive family. We’ve …

My Life with a Chartreux Cat  When I was a little girl before, I turned three, I was at my grandma’s house. When we came inside to get refreshments I saw a little pink box and it said …

Chartreux owner  I have 2 Chartreux cats, a male and a female. After purchasing the first one from a breeder in my state we loved him so much that we purchased a female …

Jerry the Cozy Chartreux Sleeps Like a Turkey!  Jerry was adopted last thanksgiving, with his little sister, when their Mother was hit by a car. We estimated their age at about 4.5 weeks and their BDAy …

Chartreux Shaking Steven  I got Stevie, who is now 3-4 years old, from the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – a big UK animal charity). The first time …

THOMSON – THE LUCKIEST CHARTREUX CAT  I got my cat, Thomson, from a rescue centre 2 years ago. He was 9 years old at the time and was blind in his left eye and also had a hip replacement!! Why …

My Chartreux Cat Sterling Silver  I adopted little Sterling from the Humane Society in Phoenix, AZ. He was 8 months old at the time and had just come from a foster home the day I adopted …

Health History and Character of the Chartreux Cat  There are some interesting aspects of the health, history and character of the Chartreux cat. On the main page I mentioned that this cat breed can suffer …

Breeders

These are taken from independent websites listed in the first 3 pages of a Google search. Most of the Chartreux Cat breeders are listed in directories.

Chanson Bleu Chartreux
The first listed and a nice site. Open and inviting with a phone number and an indication of the location plus pictures all on the home page. This site has the most comprehensive study on the history of the breed as well. Nice one.

This is the only independent site listed in the first 3 pages (as at 2008). I would start here other than the major associations.

Chartreux cat
Chartreux cat – photo © Helmi Flick

Sources other than below:

1. Medical, Genetic & Behavioral Aspects of Purebred Cats – edited by Ross D CLark DVM

2. Cats by Roger Caras 1985 page 108

3. Cat Fanciers Association – Breed Profile

4. Legacy of the Cat by Gloria Stephens and Tetsu

5. The Encyclopedia of the Cat by Dr Bruce Fogle

6. Wikipedia authors

7. The Chartreux Cat by Simonnet, Jean (1990). Translated by Jerome M. Auerbach. Paris: Synchro Company. ISBN 978-2-9506009-0-5.

8. Encyclopedia of Cat Breeds byHelgren, J. Anne (1997). Barron’s Educational Series. ISBN 978-0764150678.

9. The Cornell Book of Cats: A Comprehensive and Authoritative Medical Reference for Every Cat and KittenSiegal, Mordecai (1997). The breeds. Chapter 2 in — Second edition. Edited by Mordecai Siegal. Villard: New York. ISBN 978-0-679-44953-9.

Sources:

  • Cat fanciers
  • Wikipedia
  • Online dictionaries
  • Cat breeders
  • Chanson Blue Chartreux

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Comments

Chartreux Cat — 15 Comments

  1. Pingback: Chartreuse (Cartesian cat) | Breeds cats

  2. i adopted a little grey cat with huge eyes from a shelter while doing community service..i couldnt get her out of my mind she was soo pretty.. after a month at my house she gained her true body back.. and her robust chest and she can get into everything..!!!soo smart..shes got this one little white triangle at the base of her neck.. like a tuxedo tie..

  3. Was given a chartreux as a companion to my buff tabby who was deeply grieving the loss of his long time buddy. She looks exactly like many of the photos but I believe she had some siamese in her ancestry which have given he two toned eyes of gold and green and she is very vocal, most often chirping. She loves her new friend. I named her Chaia since she has brought new life into our home. She follows both of us around the house. I have had dozens of cats over the years and she is without a doubt the most intelligent and affectionate.

    • Hi Erica — Definitely possible. The classic smile is there and a beautiful grey coat. Fine looking cat.

      I guess you might know that you won’t know if your cat is a member of this cat breed unless he or she is registered with a cat association because in the West (e.g. America and the UK) the only formal way that you can declare to the world that you have a purebred pedigree cat is if that cat is registered with a cat association.

      That does not mean that your cat does not have genes that relate to this particular breed. It just means that you don’t know because there is no pedigree – family history – which is recorded and known, as far as I’m aware. You might want to tell me something else which corrects me.

      Thanks for sharing and showing. Gorgeous cat.

  4. I was not familiar with this breed until I picked up a usedcat book yesterday, and saw this photo,and thought that is MY cat! I have since been researching the Chartreux. His mother and Aunt were both grey, the father unknown to me. I can’t believe how Shadow fits the characteristics and mannerisms of a purebred almost 100%! It is absolutely amazing to me. Funny, how I thought he seemed so slow to mature, seems to smile, chirp, and follow me around. He absolutely can’t wait for me to sit down so that he can crawl up on my lap and love me. He is so heavy now, at only 2 years old, I can hardly lift him! I always felt there was just something different about him, and I have had cats all my life. I really feel he must be a partial Chartreux. I haven’t been able to get a lot of good photos, unfortunately. It has been fun researching. It took Shadow a long, long time to accept any human touch, and now he is my lover boy, and likes my mother. He is scared to death of everything and everybody else!

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