The Chartreux may be one of The Cat Fanciers’ Association’s
oldest new breeds. Chartreux history is steeped in legend,
even though the breed was only advanced to championship
status in 1987.
Recent research has proven that the origin of these cats was in
ancient Persia. They probably arrived at the French monasteries
with knights returning from the Crusades. Some cats remained
behind and became a vital part of monastic life.
There exists a lovely old legend that the Chartreux lived with,
and were named for, the Carthusian monks of France, and
perhaps even shared a tipple or two of their famous Chartreuse
liqueur! Recent research, however, indicates that because of the
woolly character of their fur, they were given the same name
as a well known Spanish wool of the early 18th century. Since
this method of naming is common in animal husbandry, it is
very likely the truth. Nevertheless, the presence of this natural
breed of cat was noted in documents as early as the 16th
century, and was acknowledged for its unique coat texture and
color. Whatever the reason, the Chartreux adopted France
with all their native vitality and intelligence, and the country
adopted the breed.
The Chartreux is a study in contrasts. Often described as a “potato
on toothpicks,” the Chartreux has a robust body, broad shoulders
and a deep chest, all complemented by medium short, finely
boned legs. The Chartreux is well muscled, which would enable
the cat to meet its obligation as the fine mouser it is reputed
to be in French literature. Unlike any other cat, the Chartreux’s
blue fur is medium in length and woolly, with the proper coat
breaking at the neck, chest, and flanks. A dense undercoat gives it
resistance to the elements and a feeling of sheep’s wool.
The Chartreux is known for its smile. The rounded head with
its softly contoured forehead tapers to a narrowed muzzle. This
gives the Chartreux an image of smiling. The nose is straight with
a slight stop at eye level. The Chartreux’s eyes are one of its most
endearing features. They are rounded, but not as round as the
Persian’s. The outer corners curve slightly upward. Color ranges
from gold to copper, the latter being most preferred by breeders.
This preference could actually describe the Chartreux as a “sweet
potato on toothpicks.” The ears should be medium in height
and width, set high and erect on the head. Most importantly, the
Chartreux should enjoy being handled for exhibition.
Chartreux quickly become attached to one family and
frequently follow them from room to room. Known for their
dog-like behavior, these cats can be taught to fetch a ball, and
most will respond to their names. By tradition, all kittens born
in a given year are named beginning with a specific letter of the
alphabet for that particular year. Breeders use only 20 letters,
omitting K, Q, W, X, Y and Z.
The Chartreux is a quiet breed, chirping rather than meowing
at things it finds interesting. This intelligent cat is fascinated by
television and sitting in a sunny window watching birds and
other outdoor wildlife. Chartreux kittens are quick to play and
interact with their human companions.
Physical maturity can be three years in coming, with a scraggly
stage between kitten and adulthood that puts one in mind of
a gawky, adolescent youngster. Then, almost overnight, they
put it all together, with stunning results. Environment and
attention have everything to do with this breed’s adult manners
and behavior. Brushing the double coat is a no-no. Instead,
running your fingers through the fur on a daily basis will
suffice and will also contribute to your cat’s social demeanor
at the same time.
Chartreux kittens are generally available by reservation only
inasmuch as the breed is zealously protected by its breeders
and demand for these endearing cats outstrips availability.
During World War II, some French breeders tried to save the
breed from extinction by outcrossing to Persians and British
Shorthairs, resulting in the European Shorthair. However, the
original Chartreux cats that were imported to the United States
came from the French countryside, and only those cats were
used in breeding programs to produce and preserve the natural
status of the present pedigreed Chartreux. This lovely breed was
brought to the United States through the efforts of John and
Helen Gamon who were committed to finding and acquiring
the beautiful cats. Today, many American-bred Chartreux are
being returned to French breeders, thus reducing even further
their availability in the United States.
Pricing on Chartreux usually depends on type, applicable
markings and bloodlines distinguished by Grand Champion
(GC), National Regional winning parentage (NW or RW)
or of Distinguished Merit parentage (DM). The DM title is
achieved by the dam (mother) having produced five CFA grand
champion/premier (alter) or DM offspring, or sire (father)
having produced fifteen CFA grand champion/premier or DM
offspring. Usually breeders make kittens available between
twelve and sixteen weeks of age. After twelve weeks, kittens
have had their basic inoculations and developed the physical
and social stability needed for a new environment, showing, or
being transported by air. Keeping such a rare treasure indoors,
neutering or spaying and providing acceptable surfaces (e.g.
scratching posts) for the natural behavior of scratching (CFA
disapproves of declawing or tendonectomy surgery) are essential
elements for maintaining a healthy, long and joyful life.
For more information, please contact the Breed Council Secretary for this breed.