PetMD Editorial

Published Oct. 27, 2009

The Chartreux is a study in contrasts. It has a robust body, broad shoulders, and a deep chest, but medium-short, finely-boned legs. Well muscled and energetic, the Chartreux also lives up to its reputation in French literature as a fine mouser.

Physical Characteristics

The Chartreux has earned the infamous description of looking like "a potato on toothpicks" because of its robust body and thin legs. Its coat, which is shades of blue-gray with silvery-colored tips, is dense and water-repellent -- both of which enhance its ability to swim.

Typically, Chartreux males are larger than females.

Personality and Temperament

A born hunter, the Chartreux may have been primarily used to get rid of mice. It is agile and energetic, and has all the characteristics necessary in a good companion. It is a good-tempered, loyal, and above all, quiet cat. Owners rarely hear its voice.

Capable of strong attachments, it may climb onto a lap if someone happens to sit near it. This cat is also playful and fun-loving, amusing its owner with its antics. It enjoys a game of fetch or any other game involving the family and other pets. This intelligent cat can even become familiar with its name and respond when called.


Though this cat is known for health and hardiness, it may possess a recessive gene of medial patellar luxation.

History and Background

The history of this breed is immersed in legend. The tale goes that the Chartreux was bred by monks in the order's head monastery, Grande Chartreuse, in the French Alps. Besides devoting their time to prayers, these fascinating monks made inroads into other not-so-holy activities like liqueur-making, weapon-forging, and breeding cats. The green-and-yellow Chartreuse liqueur originated in the monastery, thanks to the efforts of these monks.

Though the monastery was founded in 1084 by Saint Bruno, the cats staged their appearance only in the 13th century. They were brought to the monastery by crusading, battle-weary knights who, after prolonged battle with the Turks, retired to the peace of monastic life. Among the wealth they brought home were blue cats that they had found on the coast of Africa. These cats were trained to have quiet voices so as not to rudely interrupt meditation. The authenticity of this story, however, cannot be verified.

The Chartreux were first heard of in the 16th century, according to another story closer to the truth. The Histoire Naturelle, written in the 1700s by biologist Comte de Buffon, talks about four cat breeds that were common to Europe at that time: domestic, Angora, Spanish, and Chartreux. In the 1920s, a colony of cats was discovered by two sisters by the name of Leger on the tiny Brittany Island Belle-Ile, off the coast of France. The Leger sisters, who were also cat lovers, worked on this breed and in 1931 exhibited the first Chartreux in France.

World War II, however, dealt a crushing blow to this thriving cat community. Breeders rushed to rescue it and it was crossed with blue British Shorthairs, Russian Blues, and Persians to ensure its continued existence.

The Chartreux finally arrived in the United States in 1970 when the late Helen Gamon of La Jolla, California, brought back a male Chartreux from Madame Bastide in France, a breeder who had pure Chartreux lines. This famous cat was responsible for perpetuating the Chartreux cats in America. The breed was granted Championship status in 1987. It has Championship status in all associations.

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