A cat doesn’t have to have a loud voice to make an impression on humans. The Chartreux is the National Cat of France. A Chartreux named Gris-Gris was known to stick closely to the side of famed French president Charles de Gaulle. Surely, Gris-Gris helped with the plans that freed France from World War II (great plans come from great kitties in my experience).

Chartreux: Potato on Toothpicks?

Chartreux Cat Breed - Doudou vs chaussette

Photo Credit: Shephane Martin via Flickr

Chartreux cats are all about contrast. The torso is very robust and muscular while the legs are quite finely boned. Some say that the Chartreux looks like “a potato on toothpicks” while other find that derogatory and prefer the term “primitive” to describe the look. The face is rounded (though not quite as full as the British Shorthair) with a narrow muzzle. They always look to be smiling! Their eyes are rounded, but slightly bent up at the outer edges. The radiant gold to copper color of their eyes stands out against the duller blue/gray color of their coat.

The Chartreux coat has a distinct undercoat and top coat. The undercoat is soft and dense, while the top-coat has a harder feel and is water-resistant. It is said that their coat feels like wool. The CFA does not suggest using a comb to brush their coat, but rather running your fingers through the cat’s coat to keep it in good shape. However it is done, a Chartreux cat should be groomed at least one per week to keep that coat in top condition.

Generally speaking, this is a very healthy breed. The only medical condition associated with the breed is medial patellar luxation, which is a slipping knee-cap. It is a recessive gene disorder.

2 Tales of 1 Cat Breed

Like many older breeds, it is not certain exactly how or where the Chartreux breed came to be. According to the CFA, the Chartreux breed originated in Ancient Persia. Other sources say that they may have been found on the African coast. Either way, it is believed that they made their way to France via knights returning to France from the crusades.

Legend has it that the Carthusian monks in the French Alps took in the Chartreux cats because they are great mousers. The cats were used to protect grain stores that the monks used to create their famous blue-green Chartreuse liqueur. It is believed that the breed got it’s name from the liqueur. It is also said that the monks trained the cats to be quiet so they wouldn’t interrupt their meditation. However, there are no historical records to back any of these claims up.

Another theory is that the Chartreux cat breed got it’s name because of the texture of it’s coat. The woolly texture reminded people of a Spanish wool with a similar feel. In this case, the problem is that there are records of people using the name Chartreux for the cats before the name for the wool started to be used.

Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange, née de Parseval

Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange, née de Parseval by Jean Baptiste Parronneau
Photo Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum (free use allowed)

Written records of the Chartreux breed begin in French Literature in the 16th century. Histoire Naturelle by Comte de Buffon (a French biologist) written in the 1700’s describes 4 different breeds of cats: Chartreux, Domestic, Angora, and Spanish. In 1748, a beautiful oil painting by Jean Baptiste Parronneau, Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange, née de Parseval, depicts a French woman holding a Chartreux cat in her arms.

In a strange twist of fate, very old breed of cat didn’t gain show status until the 1920’s. Two breeders, the Leger sisters, saw some Chartreux cats wandering around outside of a hospital on an island off the coast of France and found them interesting. After getting permission from the hospital to take a few, they began to breed them. Their Chartreux cats were the first to ever enter a cat show.

However, just like many other European breeds, World War II took it’s toll on the Chartreux breed. In attempt to save the breed, breeders began to cross breed the Chartreux with the British Shorthair and the Russian Blue. This created a very short stock of pure Chartreux cats.

Today Chartreux cats can still be difficult to find. They are often confused with the British Shorthair and Russian Blue. American stocks tend to be more pure than European stocks simply because they were untouched by World War II.

Gray, but not gloomy.

Chartreux Cat Breed - Evie II

Photo Credit: Mike McCune via Flickr

True, all Chatreux cats are gray, but that is no indication of their wonderful purrrsonalities! These cats are more reserved than some cat breeds, but very intelligent. They are excellent hunters and can learn to press buttons on the TV remote! Some people describe the Chartreux as being dog-like; they love to play fetch and they will respond to their name being called.

These kitties are great for families with children and other pets. Playtime is always appreciated by the Chartreux, but alone time is welcome too. There’s nothing better than a window seat to all of the action happening outside! They become very devoted to their family and want to follow them from room to room. If noise bothers you, these cats are perfect for you. They are very quiet and are found to chirp more than they meow.

Want to add a Chatreux cat to your family? Check out the adoptable Chartreux cats on Petfinder!

Have you ever met a Chartreux kitty?