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Get to Know the Chartreux: A Smart Cat With a Fixed Smile

This solidly built charmer loves his people, but he's also a fierce hunter when given the chance.

JaneA Kelley  |  Dec 9th 2014


If you’ve got a soft spot in your heart for gray cats, you’ve probably drooled over photos of the plush-coated French charmer known as the Chartreux. Here’s the 411 on this social and hardy breed.

Origins

Research has revealed that the Chartreux originated in ancient Persia, the land now called Iran. They probably made their way to Europe in the hands of knights returning from the Crusades, and some stayed behind in French monasteries to earn their keep as mousers. French literature is replete with references to the Chartreux, particularly through the 1800s, and today the Chartreux is the national cat of France.

The Chartreux made his cat show debut in 1931, and the first ones were imported into the U.S. in 1970. The breed gained championship status in the Cat Fanciers’ Association and the International Cat Association in 1987.

Appearance

The first thing most people notice about the Chartreux is her medium-length, wooly textured solid blue coat. Her face, set into a permanent smile, is highlighted by round, orange eyes. The Chartreux has sometimes been given the loving, yet unflattering, description of “a potato on toothpicks” because of her robust body and finely boned legs. Chartreux are solid, muscular cats, and mature adults tend to weigh between 12 and 16 pounds.

Health and longevity

You can expect a well-cared-for, indoor Chartreux to live between 13 and 16 years. The breed is slightly more prone to patellar luxation (slipping knee caps) and hip dysplasia than other cats. Some sources also note that Chartreux may have a higher risk of developing polycystic kidney disease and urinary tract stones than other breeds. For best health and to catch problems early, be sure to bring your Chartreux to the vet for annual checkups.

What it’s like to live with a Chartreux

Your Chartreux will quickly become very bonded to you and the other people in her life. She is a social gal who loves to spend time sitting on your lap while you watch TV or read. If she can’t sit on your lap, she’ll probably follow you wherever you go. She may not be a big fan of being picked up and held, but she does like to climb, so be sure to offer her plenty of vertical space in the form of cat towers and shelves.

The Chartreux is a very intelligent cat and a fierce hunter, so be sure to give your Chartreux plenty of intellectual stimulation in the form of puzzle toys and perhaps even agility or clicker training, and play with her regularly. These cats don’t like to be alone, so if you work long hours, consider getting your Chartreux a kitty friend, and be sure to hire a well-qualified and reliable cat sitter for daily visits when you go out of town.

Your Chartreux needs regular grooming, but it’s not a terribly labor-intensive task. Because she has a thick double coat, she needs to be combed about twice a week to remove any loose fur. She sheds her undercoat twice a year, and you may want to comb her daily during those times.

Chartreux trivia bits

  • A Chartreux named Ste. Cat is the mascot of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the world’s largest jazz festival. She was named after the festival’s center point, Sainte Catherine Street.
  • French writer Colette was a fan of Chartreux cats, and even made one of hers the heroine of her 1933 novel La Chatte.
  • Legend has it that the Carthusian monks of France were so impressed with the Chartreux’s mouse hunting skills that they named the breed after their famous Chartreuse liqueur.

Do you have a Chartreux in your home? What’s it like to live with him or her? Please share your thoughts and photos of your kitty in the comments.

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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.