The ‘blue Maltese’ refers to a cat that has grey fur. Grey fur is referred to as ‘blue’ sometimes because of the faint bluish tinge. Malta has grey cats and because of this some people decided to link Malta to greys cats.
No doubt there are grey cats on the island of Malta but I don’t think that they are any more common on the island than anywhere else. I have lived in Malta and visited several years ago. They have the usual community cats as it has a warm climate. Gray colouration was not predominant. In fact, I can’t recall seeing one.
But the terminology stuck and the connection between Malta and grey cats did too. As there are some cat breeds that are only grey (also called ‘blue’ by the cat fancy) when asking ‘what is a blue Maltese?’ you could respond by saying the Russian Blue. The longhaired version of the Russian Blue is the Nebelung. That too is a Maltese blue or blue Maltese (same difference) as are the Korat and the Chartreux (France’s very own cat breed).
It is said that the Maltese blue cats are the ancestors of the Chartreux. Frances Simpson the doyen of the cat fancy in the early part of the 20th century wrote: “A great deal of interest has been taken in England in the subject of blue cats in America which are often called Maltese. In some circles in the US the name Maltese became entrenched to become synonymous with ‘blue’.
In 1898 Robert James’s book on the Angora cat includes an illustration of a longhaired grey cat with a plumed tail with the caption: ‘Maltese Male Cat’.
Rudyard Kipling wrote a story about a pony he called ‘The Maltese Cat’ because it was feline in movement and grey in color. Kipling played polo on a grey pony called Dolly Bobs. He wrote about the pony in a short story collection The Day’s Work in 1898. This must be the pony referred to.
Sarah Hartwell of messybeast.com says that the ‘breed name’ Maltese is an archaic name for the Russian Blue. It seems therefore that of all the grey cat breeds, the Russian Blue has the closest link to this name.
Maltese blue is hardly if ever used today (2021), to the best of my knowledge. As Sarah said, it is archaic and has fallen out of use.
Dr Desmond Morris in Cat World writes: “A shorthaired, blue-grey cat is said to have existed on the Mediterranean island of Malta in earlier centuries”. The cat was first mentioned by Francois Moncrif in 1727 in his book Les Chats.
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