This Rare Breed is Known as the Blue Cat of France
Chartreux cats are a rare French breed known for their wooly blue-gray double coats and Cheshire cat-like smile. Imported to the United States in the 1970s, these robust felines are charming, intellectual and have loyal and playful characteristics similar to dogs.
Stories and poetic verses about this unusual cat, which typically belonged to common Parisian folk, date back to sixteenth century France. It was long assumed that the cats earned their name while being raised by the Chartreux Carthusian Monks, according to Club du Chat des Chartreux, a Paris-based organization dedicated to the breed. Common belief today is that they were dubbed so because of their wooly coat, similar to the Spanish wool “la pile des Chartreux."
Natural colonies of the blue cat existed in parts of France until the early twentieth century, according to Cat Fanciers. Life on the streets of Paris wasn’t easy. Blue cats were killed for their pelts and meat and nabbed for their knack to hunt vermin. After WWI, French cat breeders set their sites on preserving the fading breed.
These cool cats are rather quiet but when they do make noise it’s more likely to sound like a “chirp” instead of a distinct “meow.” Chartreux are superb hunters and also very loyal companions. Experts at the Cat Fanciers’ Association say Chartreux are known to tag with owners from room to room and stick by the side of sick family members. But don’t mistake these felines as the all business set. They’re playful and in some cases have been known to play fetch.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association says this feline is often illustrated as a “potato on toothpicks” because of its stout body and short, skinny legs. Here are more characteristics of this breed:
- Chartreux are similar in size to the large Maine coon breed. (Females average 7-10 pounds and males 12-16 pounds.)
- The coat typically clumps like sheepskin. The undercoat is dense and the topcoat is long and protective.
- Their gray-blue coats are complimented by their lovely round copper or golden-orange eyes.
Chartreux have short coats don’t require tremendous maintenance. Some recommend owners simply run their fingers through the coat daily. Others warn owners that bathing these felines is tricky because of the fur’s texture and thickness.
- Chartreux kittens are usually named for a specific letter based on the year they are born. (Letters K, Q, W, X, Y and Z are omitted).
- Other blue cat breeds include Russian blues, Korats and British Shorthairs.
- In Jean-Baptiste Perroneau’s 1747 portrait, the subject Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange appears to be holding a Chartreux.
- The heroin of a 1933 book, “La Chatte,” by Colette, is a female Chartreux named Saha.
If you liked reading about Chartreux cats, you may also enjoy reading about Russian blue cats.