This is a quote from Jean Simonnet’s book “Le Chat des Chartreux”; a study into the origin and history of the breed: “I am inclined to think that these blue cats originated in the rugged, mountainous regions of Turkey and Iran, from where they were probably brought into the neighbouring territories of Syria”. Their unique coat also indicates that they lived in damp areas with cold nights and harsh winters. They were brought to France by returning Crusaders or merchants in the 13th century. The cats adopted France with all their native vitality and intelligence and the country adopted the breed. Stories of the blue cats began during the 16th century, describing them as stocky cats with a woolly ash-grey coat and copper eyes. The first document mentioning these cats is a poem written by Joachim du Bellay in 1558 entitled “Vers Français sur la mort d'un petit chat”. There is another representation of a blue cat in Jean-Baptiste Perronneau's painting “Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange” from 1747, into which the cat is painted as a pet, which was quite rare at that time. The name Chartreux was first mentioned in the “Dictionnaire Universel de Commerce” by Jacques Savary des Brûlons, published in 1723, in which it was defined as “the common name of a type of cat which has a blue coat. Furriers do business with their pelts”. It is possible that these cats were named after the luxurious Spanish wool “la pile des Chartreux” because of the soft and slightly woolly character of the coat. However, the exact origin of the name remains unclear. Although known as the “Cat of France”, they were also referred to as “the cat of the common people”.
They did not lead easy lives, as they were valued primarily for the pelt, the meat and as ratters. The 18th century naturalist Linnaeus described the Chartreux in great detail and gave it the Latin name Felis Catus Coeruleus. Buffon and other later naturalists also documented their studies of the Chartreux. These descriptions were used by the early breeders for putting together a “Chartreux breed standard”. The first official breed standard was accepted by Fédération Féline Française (FFF) in 1939. Natural colonies of these cats were living in Paris and in some isolated regions of France until the early 20th century. However, after WW I, no major breeding colonies of pure Chartreux were known to exist, so some French breeders became interested in preserving this ancient breed for posterity. One colony was found living on the island of Belle-Île off the coast of Brittany by Christine and Suzanne Léger. They began monitoring the cats, helping to care for them and eventually began selective breeding under the cattery name “le Guevere”. These cats became the nucleus from which the modern day Chartreux now descend. At the same time, Cat Club de Paris was formed. They started the breeding with blue cats from the wild, up until 1936, when they utilized a Blue Persian to improve the eye colour. Despite the two breeding stocks being different, in 1953 the Léger sisters acquired a male cat from the Cat Club and they acquired a female from Belle-Île.
By the mid-1960s the Cat Club’s stock was very inbred. Because of the ignorance of the history of the Chartreux, and the lack of knowledge of the selective breeding of their predecessors, the breeders at that time, started to cross-breed their stock with the British Blue. In 1970, Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) made the unfortunate decision to assimilate the Chartreux with the British Blue and adopted the British Blue standard for both breeds. This led to strong protests from the few remaining breeders of the genuine Chartreux, and in 1977 FFF decided to separate the British Blue and the Chartreux and to introduce a breed standard for each breed. This decision was supported by the president and founder of FIFe. Outcrossing is not allowed by LOOF, CFA and TICA. FIFe state: “A clear distinction should be drawn between the Chartreux and the Russian Blue and the British Blue. Crossing the Chartreux with these two breeds is undesirable
APPEARANCE AND COLOURS
The Chartreux has a medium-short coat and a large robust well-proportioned muscular body. It is renowned since antiquity for its hunting prowess and its dense greyish-blue slightly woolly coat. They are extremely supple and agile cats and the qualities of strength, unrivalled intelligence and adaptability, enabled them to survive in the wild for centuries. The head is the shape of a trapezium, wider at the base and narrower at the top, and broad with rounded contours. The cheeks are full and adult males have well developed jowls. The profile has a gently concave curve at eye level with a high forehead and a flat plane between the ears. The nose is straight, wide and moderately long. The muzzle is narrow in relation to the overall width of the head, not long nor pointed, with full whisker pads and a firm chin, giving a sweet, smiling expression. The eyes are one of its most endearing features. They are large, open and expressive with the outer corner curving slightly upward, set moderately wide apart with the colour varying from yellow to copper. The ears are broad at the base, slightly rounded and medium size set high on the head. The body is semi-cobby, sturdy with broad shoulders and a deep chest, medium length with a strong bone structure and dense powerful musculature. The neck is short, thick and muscular. Females are significantly smaller, but still robust and well-muscled. The coat is medium-short, dense, slightly woolly and open in texture with abundant undercoat, looking almost water repellent All uniform shades of greyish blue are acceptable; slate grey nose leather, blue lips and rose-taupe pads.
The Chartreux has a gentle but seldom used voice, chirping rather than meowing at things it finds interesting. They are calm, observant, intelligent, non-aggressive, affectionate and good with children and other animals. The Chartreux are playful well into maturity, which is reached at between two and three years. They tend to bond with one person in their household, preferring to be in their general vicinity, though they are still loving and affectionate towards the other members of the household. Despite its rather teddy-bear look, given by its soft and woolly coat, the Chartreux are not fluffy toys; they are lively, sturdy and agile cats whose ancestors had to struggle to survive and they still bear reminders of that determined behaviour. They play in short spurts, sleeping and relaxing the rest of the time. They are creatures of habit and enjoy the same games and rituals day after day. They are also known for being particularly intelligent, which has probably enabled them to get quickly used to modern indoor life and to become perfect pets loved by the whole family. They prefer to be nearby, preferably getting their cheeks scratched and giving loving head-bumps to their owners. Their supportive, cheerful presence can be wonderful for elderly people and people living alone, yet this devotion is never obtrusive. They do not demand attention and are content to sit quietly when you are busy. They accommodate themselves to most situations without complaint and do not mind being left alone for long periods.
Because of the dense, slightly woolly coat, it should be combed and not brushed. Comb it regularly as indoor cats shed throughout the year due to the artificial light in the house and the more constant temperature. This helps remove dead hair and keeps the coat looking healthy. Also, trim the claws regularly. The Chartreux is regarded as a 'low-maintenance' breed. It is an indoor cat, but it does like to spend time outdoors when the weather is nice. When outdoors, its movements must be restricted, it must not be allowed to roam freely. The normal ways of achieving this is either with a purpose built enclosure or, if the garden is fenced in, by adding cat fencing or a radio containment system. They also enjoy being taken out on a lead and even for walks.
The Chartreux is considered to be one of the healthiest of all pure breed cats with little to no genetic problems.