The Chartreux stands out from other breeds of cat because of the distinctive colour of its coat. While many breeds occur in a variety of colours, Chartreux cats are always blue. The shade, however, may vary from ash-grey to slate. The coat itself is quite short, with a slightly woolly texture. As their name suggests, Chartreux cats originated in France. They are now found in a variety of countries, but are still fairly uncommon, even in their homeland.
- BREED DEVELOPED: 1300s
- COUNTRY: France
- TYPE: Shorthair
- BODY SHAPE: Relatively compact, with a round face
- MAXIMUM WEIGHT: 7.5kg/16lb
- PLUS POINTS: Friendly; loyal; quiet; at home in rural or urban surroundings
- WATCH POINTS: The least aggressive of cats — easily bullied by others; a keen hunter
The Chartreux is an old breed, and was first described in the mid 1500s, but legend suggests that it goes back further, to Syria. The breed is best known for its association with the monastery of La Grande Chartreuse, near Grenoble, France. The cats were kept and bred there for centuries, for their distinctive, dense and valued fur, which was used to make garments.
TO THE BRINK
By the 1920s, however, the breed was on the verge of extinction. It was saved through the efforts of the Leger sisters who found and rescued a number of the cats living wild in the grounds of a hospital in Belle-Ile-sur-Mer, Brittany. Cross-breeding, especially with blue British Shorthairs, increased Chartreux numbers. This ended in 1950, on the orders of the Paris Cat Club. Since then the breed’s numbers have grown, and also its range — it was introduced to the US in 1970.
Young kittens are born with darkish eyes, but those of the adult cats can vary from copper through to gold. Deep-orange eyes are preferred, as these make a striking contrast to the colour of the coat. This is very glossy, with a slight silvery tipping to individual hairs.
- The Crusaders may have brought the original ancestors of this breed back to Europe.
- The Chartreux is nicknamed the ‘dog-like cat’ because of the great devotion it shows towards those whose home it shares.
- It is easy to distinguish the sexes of these cats because toms are significantly larger than the queens and have broader faces.
- The Carthusian monks produce a famous green liqueur which is also called Chartreuse, the feminine form of the word.