The Chartreux is a large, muscular cat with short, relatively fine-boned limbs, big round paws and extremely fast reflexes. It is described as being primitive in type - neither cobby nor classic. The Chartreux is sometimes confused with the British Blue Shorthair, as they are quite similar in appearance. Both breeds are large, robust and full in body, with legs that are slightly shorter in proportion to their bodies. However, the Chartreux is lighter, more slender and more refined than its British counterpart and is never referred to as course or clumsy. The Chartreux has been described as looking like a "potato on toothpicks". Both the Chartreux and the British Blue Shorthair are truly "blue" in coloration, which is not common in domestic cats.
The head of this breed is large, broad, attractive and strong. Due to the contoured structure of the Chartreux's head, which tapers softly to a slender muzzle, it often appears to be "smiling," which gives it a remarkably sweet expression. The ears of the Chartreux are medium in size and set high, wide and erect on the top of the head. They give an impression of alertness. The eyes of this breed are among its most distinguishing characteristics. They start out blue in kittens, and then change to a brownish-gray. When these cats are mature, their eyes have become a clear, brilliant, vivid yellow-to-orange-to-copper color, which is striking against their distinctive steel-gray coats. The eyes of adult cats are large, round and especially open in appearance, with the outer corners turned slightly upward. They are not as completely round as the eyes of the Persian.
The Chartreux is known for its dense, plush, solid blue coat, which can range from ash to slate-gray in coloration. Their coat is short and shiny and has a unique woolly undercoat, which makes it especially water-resistant. A paler version of gray is preferred in the show ring, and consistency in the shade of coat is important in this breed. These cats should not be regularly brushed, but instead should have the hands of their owners run through their thick coats on a regular basis.
Legend has it that the Chartreux descends from cats owned by the French Carthusian order of monks, who lived in the monastery of La Grande Chartreuse, near Grenoble, France, during the Middle Ages. This monastery dates back to the 1300s, or perhaps even earlier. The naturalist author Georges Louis Buffon documented details of a blue feline breed in his work, Histoire Naturelle, which was published in 1756. However, the precise origins of the Chartreux breed are not well-documented. Rumor and legend suggest that the ancestors of the Chartreux were brought to the European continent by knights after the Crusades. Allegedly, these unusual cats, prized for their unique thick blue coats, were entrusted to the care of the French monks, who bred them selectively and only permitted spayed or neutered animals to be sold to outsiders. Other experts believe that the Chartreux actually was named after fine Spanish wool that was prevalent in the early 18th century, due to the unusual texture and character of the cat's fur.
In any event, by the 1920s, the Chartreux in Europe had declined significantly in numbers. Apparently, the breed survived largely through the concerted efforts of two sisters who found several of these unusual, bluish-gray cats roaming around the grounds of a hospital in France. The sisters crossed these cats with both purebred Blue Chartreux and with British Shorthairs. They also added non-pedigreed cats to the mix, in their attempt to maintain and refine this traditional French feline breed. By the 1930s, a French veterinarian had coined the name for the breed, Felis catus cartusianorum. During World War II, other French breeders tried to save the breed from extinction by outcrossing to Persians and British Shorthairs. 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 in the 1970s, through the efforts of John and Helen Gamon. The breed achieved recognition and championship status from the American Cat Fanciers' Association in 1987. Today, many American-bred Chartreux are being returned to French breeders, thus reducing even further their availability in the United States. Today's Chartreuxs are not to be confused with the British Blue Shorthair or the European Blue Shorthair. This cat is much more massive, with a distinctively jowled head and a different disposition.
This is a healthy breed, with no reported breed-related health problems.
This is a friendly, intelligent, self-confident and affectionate breed, but not intrusively so. Chartreux cats tend to be quiet-voiced and typically do not annoy their owners with constant meowing or crying. They are quite observant and have been known to operate radio buttons and open screen door latches with their faces and paws. Chartreuxs are playful well into their adult years. They are gentle and good with children and other animals. They are non-aggressive and very affectionate. They also are good travelers. Chartreux tend to bond with one person in their household more than others, preferring to be in the general vicinity of that one special person, often following him or her from room to room. However, they are still loving and affectionate to other members of the household.
Chartreux are exceptional hunters. They historically have been and still are highly prized by farmers, even to this day. Their reputation as mousers is legendary in French literature. This is not a particularly high-strung breed, but the Chartreux does need and appreciate regular exercise and activity. It is completely comfortable being entirely a house cat.
Environment and attention are said to have everything to do with the behavior and manners of adult cats of this breed. The Chartreux can take up to three years to reach full maturity. The stage between kitten-hood and adulthood is often scraggly and reminiscent of a teen-aged human. Once the Chartreux cats mature, however, it seems to happen overnight. These cats are very dog-like in disposition and are known to follow their favorite people from room to room. They can be taught to play fetch and typically learn to respond to their names when called. Chartreuxs are relatively quiet cats, but when they do vocalize, they tend to emit soft amusing chirps rather than loud annoying meows. They seem fascinated by television. This feline breed is most happily housed entirely indoors. However, they are reknowned for their hunting prowess, and thus they will reliably keep their households free from rodents.
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