Meet the Medieval Chartreux Cat

Do you know why old cat breeds, such as Chartreux cats, are so cool? Well, there are many reasons, actually, but for me, one reason stands out. When you think about spoiled cats and their devoted owners, you usually imagine people from the 20th and 21st centuries and their pets.

However, even though cats were working animals in the past, that doesn’t mean they weren’t loved and cared for. Also, even though our ancestors didn’t live in abundance as we do today, they still tried to provide their cats and other pets with food and love.

I can clearly picture a French peasant feeding their Chartreux cat and playing with it. It might sound silly, but I find it so endearing when I see modern Chartreux cats and think about their ancestors that were just as sweet and loved. 

Enough of my ramblings; let’s learn more about this old and fascinating breed:

Chartreux Cat Characteristics


Fur colorAny shade of blue/gray
Fur patternSolid
Fur lengthShort
Eye color & shapeRound eyes that can be orange, copper, gold, or any other similar shade
LengthMales 15”-18”
Females 12”-15”
WeightMales 9-11 lbs
Females 6-9 lbs
Expected lifespan11-15 years


TemperamentQuiet, gentle, intelligent, playful, trainable, friendly, loving, affectionate, and loyal.
Kids and other petsFriendly towards children and other pets
Sociable and cuddlyYes, when properly socialized

Requirements & Traits

FeedingMeat-based cat foods (both dry and wet) rich in animal proteins and moderate in animal fats. Kittens should eat more often than adults. Portion size depends on several factors.
GroomingWeekly combing, biweekly nail trimming, and regular dental hygiene
SheddingTwice a year

History and Origins


The first mention of Chartreux cats was in 1558,  in Joachim du Bellay’s poem “Vers Français sur la mort d’un petit chat” (“A small kitten’s death”). I read it and sobbed a bit, but this is a perfect example of what I was saying in the intro paragraph – there is something endearing about shared love between humans and cats that lasted for centuries and millennia. 

Another French artist, this time a painter, immortalized Chartreux cats in his 1747 work “Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange.” In this painting, the cat was shown as a pet held in the hands of a noble lady, which was quite rare at that time.

Chartreux cats weren’t only the inspiration for artists; they were also notable for scientists.  A French biologist, Comte de Buffon, listed four cat breeds that were common in Europe in his 1749 36-volume Histoire Naturelle (Natural History). He listed Angora, Domestic, Spanish, and Chartreux cats as the most common breeds in Europe at that time. 

Monastery Origins

One theory about Chartreux breed origins says that they originally came to France via monks from the Grande Chartreuse Monastery. This is a monastery of the Carthusian order located in southeastern France, near Grenoble. 

According to this theory, apart from making world-famous yellow and green Chartreuse liqueurs, these monks were also successful in selectively breeding quiet cats that would hunt the mice and rats without disturbing the peace of praying monks.

While this theory sounds really cool, it is highly unlikely that there is even a grain of truth in it. According to the monastery’s documents, there is not a single mention of these cats. If monks really spent their free time breeding Chartreux cats, at least one document would mention it.

Syrian Origins

However, there is another equally interesting theory about Chartreux origins, and this theory is actually backed up by some documents. According to Jean Simonnet and his 1980 book The Chartreux Cat, these cats actually came from today’s Middle East during the Crusades in the 13th century.

Further proof for this theory was the existence of cats that were described as the Cats of Syria by the Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605). These cats are considered to be Chartreux ancestors, and in Simonnet’s book, illustrations of Cats of Syria show them as basically the same as modern Chartreux cats.

But how did these cats come from Syria and surrounding countries to France during the 13th century? Even today, that would be quite a feat. Well, the 13th century was a time of the Crusades, and many French soldiers and other adventurers fought in Crusade wars in and around Syria.

Many of these soldiers survived the wars and returned to France, some of them bringing riches with them, while others brought something else – cats. These cats were Cats of Syria, the ancestors of the Chartreux cats. 

Slowly enough, these cats continued to breed and multiply on French soil, and this is how we got Chartreux cats. As a passionate cat owner, I gotta say that those who came back from the Crusade wars with cats instead of some gold coins were actually the ones that brought treasure with them.

However, the next few centuries were tough for everyone, including the Chartreux cats. They were mostly street cats or working animals that hunted rats and mice for a living. As such, they didn’t enjoy the popularity of Persian and Angora cats, and at a few points in time, they almost went extinct.

Modern Development and Recognition

In the 1920s, two sisters, Christine and Suzanne Leger, visited the northwestern French coast, the city of Le Palais on Belle Ile Island. There, they encountered a colony of free-roaming cats inhabiting the hospital grounds.

The cats had gray, short-haired, and plush furs – typical Chartreux cats. The sisters decided to further work with the breed, and in 1931, they exhibited their Chartreux cats in Paris. The cats became an instant hit among cat enthusiasts, and things seemed to go well for this breed. 

However, WW2 devastated the country, and it even endangered many cat breeds, including the Chartreux cats. The effects of the war were so profound that the breed almost went extinct.

Fortunately, the war ended in 1945, and the few remaining Chartreux cats were bred with Russian Blues, British Shorthairs, and Persians. This saved Chartreux cats from extinction, and today, du chat des Chartreux (The Chartreux Cat Club) takes care of this breed.

The first Chartreux cats arrived in the US in 1970, and in 1987, CFA officially recognized them as a separate breed. Still, Chartreux cats remain relatively rare, and hopefully, that will change in the near future. 

Chartreux Cat Personality

Chartreux cats are known for their quiet and calm nature, but that doesn’t mean that they are boring pets! As a matter of fact, Chartreux cats are intelligent and playful cats that can be taught several different tricks and games. They can even be mischievous as they learn how to turn on/off various house appliances and even open the screen food latches.

But apart from being really smart, Chartreux cats are also devoted and affectionate towards their owners. While they might be more attached and affectionate toward one person in their family, Chartreux cats still enjoy spending time playing and cuddling with other household members. 

Even though they rarely make any sounds, and some of them never make any sound at all, Chartreux cats have expressive eyes, and they will find other ways to communicate with their owners.

When it comes to other pets and children, Chartreux cats will enjoy having a playmate, as they are friendly and outgoing in general. Still, their owners should socialize them from an early age. Proper socialization is important for every cat, no matter which breed it belongs to. 

Chartreux Cat Appearance


Chartreux cats have a subtle yet unique appearance that sets them apart from other similar breeds. They are a perfect choice for when you want a cat that doesn’t look like common domestic shorthairs but you also don’t want some “weird” breeds.


Certainly, the most distinct feature of Chartreux cats is their lush fur. This fur is short to medium-short, dense, and somewhat wooly. Younger Chartreux cats and females tend to have more silky and smooth furs. Regardless of age and gender, all Chartreux cats have dense and resilient undercoats and bit longer topcoats. 

When it comes to color and fur pattern, all Chartreux cats have solid-patterned furs that can come in various shades of blue/gray color. Some Chartreux cats are ashy, while others are more silver or blue.


Chartreux cats have round and expressive eyes that can be any shade of orange, gold, or copper. Other eye colors, such as green or blue, aren’t permitted. 


These cats are considered to be medium-sized, and males are typically larger than females. On average, male Chartreux cats weigh between 9 and 11 pounds, while females weigh between 6-9 pounds. Male Chartreux cats are also longer, with their body length ranging from 15-18 inches. On the other hand, female Chartreux cats’ bodies are between 12 and 15 inches long.  

Other Body Characteristics

The bodies of Chartreux cats are robust, with deep chests and broad shoulders. Their bones are strong, and their muscles are well-developed and dense. When compared to the rest of the body, the legs are somewhat short and fine-boned, but they are still sturdy and strong. The paws are round, almost dainty in comparison to the rest of the body. 

The tail is proportionately long to the rest of the body, strong and thick at its base. This tail slowly tapers and ends up with an oval tip. The whole tail is flexible and lively. 

The head is round and wise, with a strong jaw, prominent cheeks, and a narrow muzzle. These features give Chartreux cats a somewhat sweet and smiling expression. The ears are medium-sized, set high on the head, and always alert and erect.

Daily Life With Chartreux Cat


This is a low-maintenance and undemanding cat breed suitable even for first-time cat owners. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to make any effort to keep these cats healthy and happy. Just like with every other breed, you need to feed and groom your Chartreux cat properly, and you need to provide it with enough activity and attention.  


All cat breeds, including the Chartreux cat, are obligate carnivores. This means that they should only eat meat-based foods. Many cat owners make the mistake of feeding their cats non-meat foods, such as milk, cheese, eggs, and even sweets and bread.

While the intentions of these owners are certainly good, such foods aren’t healthy for cats, as they don’t provide needed nutrients and can even lead to some health issues. Even milk and other dairy products aren’t suitable for adult cats because they are mostly lactose intolerant. 

Enough about bad foods; let’s focus on foods that your Chartreux cat should eat. Meat-based foods that are rich in animal proteins and moderate in animal fats are the best nutritional choice for your cat. Commercial cat foods provide exactly that, and you can choose between wet and dry cat food. 

Both types of cat food are good for your cat. That’s why you should feed your cat with both dry and wet cat food. You can also give your Chartreux cat unseasoned cooked meat or even a slice of raw meat, but only if you are certain it is fresh and free of parasites. 

Occasional snacks are recommended, especially when you are training your cat. Fresh drinking water is another thing you should provide to your Chartreux cat. Make sure your cat has constant access to drinking water.

When it comes to feeding frequency and portion size, feed your Chartreux kitten 3-4 times a day. When it grows up, 2-3 meals per day will be more than enough. The best way to determine optimal portion size is to consult your vet.


Most Chartreux breeders and experts agree that combing is much better for your Chartreux cat’s fur than brushing. This is due to its unique fur texture that’s almost wool-like. With that in mind, you should comb your Chartreux cat’s fur once a week. 

Since they don’t shed a lot, apart from two times per year when they shed their undercoats, Chartreux cats aren’t prone to fur matting and tangling. Still, combing their furs once a week will further reduce the shedding, and it will keep your cat’s skin and fur healthy.

You will also need to trim your Chartreux cat’s nails every two weeks to prevent it from scratching the furniture. Train your Chartreux cat while it is still a kitten to put up with nail trimming, and you won’t have any trouble doing it when your cat grows up.

The same goes for teeth brushing. Dental hygiene is important for your cat’s dental and general health. Teach your Chartreux cat while it is still a kitten to put up with daily teeth brushing. Once it grows up, your cat will be more tolerant and accepting of the process.

If, for some reason, your Chartreux cat is still resisting your attempts at grooming, take it to the professional pet groomer. Additionally, buy your cat some teeth-cleaning snacks. 


Chartreux cats aren’t hyperactive, and they are more placid than many other breeds. Still, they need physical activity to stay healthy, fit, and mentally stimulated. 

There are some essentials that every cat should own: several cat toys, a climbing tree, and a scratching tree. These will be almost enough to keep your Chartreux cat entertained. You will still need to dedicate some of your time every day to play and cuddle with your cat to make it happy. 

If you have small children or other cats/pets, your Chartreux cat will go along really well with them, given that all sides are properly socialized. You should teach your children how to handle cats and other animals in general. 

When it comes to playing outside, you can allow it, but only under your strict supervision. Chartreux cat’s ancestors spent all their time outside not so long ago, but they also had shorter lifespans due to various dangers lurking outside.   

Most Common Chartreux Cat Health Issues


In general, Chartreux cats are healthy animals, but that doesn’t mean they are immune to various health conditions. Let’s take a look at some of the most common health issues that affect Chartreux cats so that you can be prepared if any of them happens to affect your cat:

Struvite Crystals

This condition occurs when mineral crystals, called struvite crystals, form in the cat’s bladder and eventually form bladder stones. These crystals are made of magnesium, phosphate, and ammonium, and they can appear when the cat eats too much alkaline food or doesn’t drink enough water.

The common symptoms are increased urination, blood in urine, and various urination difficulties, such as straining while urinating. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should take your cat to the vet as soon as possible.

The vet will probably suggest some dietary changes that will involve eating less alkaline foods. They might even prescribe some medicine that will dissolve the struvite crystals. To prevent this condition from happening, make sure your cat drinks enough water. 

Luxating Patella

This condition happens when the cat’s kneecap (patella) moves out of its normal location. As you can already guess, this causes discomfort to your cat that can seriously affect its mobility. 

Some of the most common symptoms of luxating patella are limping, difficulty walking, abnormal gait, and the reluctance to jump, climb, or run. Your cat might also excessively lick the affected area, or it might avoid being touched there.

Any of these symptoms are good reasons to take your cat to the vet as soon as possible. The vet will first have to diagnose the condition, probably by X-Rays. They will then prescribe the best possible therapy, which can consist of weight management, physical therapy, medications, and in most severe cases, surgery.  

Polycystic Kidney Disease

As its name suggests, this condition is characterized by the formation of multiple cysts on the cat’s kidneys. These cysts can significantly reduce the effectiveness of the affected kidneys, and they can even lead to kidney failure. 

Common symptoms of polycystic kidney disease are increased thirst and urination, weakness, lethargy, weight loss, loss of appetite, and vomiting. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your cat to the vet as soon as possible. 

The vet will do some bloodwork and other tests that will help them determine whether your cat has polycystic kidney disease and how severe it is. They will also prescribe treatments that will help manage the condition and, in more severe cases, kidney transplantation. 


Certainly a disease of the modern age; obesity doesn’t spare our cats, either. This condition is dangerous because it can cause so many other conditions, including joint deformities, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, breathing difficulties, etc. 

It may be difficult to notice if your Chartreux cat becomes obese because they are naturally round and stocky. However, if you notice that you can’t feel the ribs under its skin when you pet your cat, or if you notice that it gained a lot of weight recently even though it stopped growing, your cat might be obese. 

If you have even the slightest doubt or suspicion that your cat might be obese, take it to the vet. The vet will tell you whether your cat is at its optimal weight or not, and they will also recommend you the best diet plan. 

Upper Respiratory Infections

Many cat breeds can suffer from upper respiratory infections, and Chartreux cats are no exception. These infections can be caused by either viruses or bacteria, and if left untreated, they can even be life-threatening.

Some of the most common and obvious symptoms of upper respiratory infections are sneezing, nasal discharge, coughing, fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your cat to the vet.

The vet will be able to prescribe the appropriate therapy, which can include various medications and even antibiotics if the infection is caused by bacteria. They might also prescribe some supplements that will boost your cat’s immune system and help it fight the infection. 

Chartreux Cat Name Suggestions

Many Chartreux cat names are a direct nod to their appearance or French origin. Of course, you can name your Chartreax cat however you like, and here are some of my top suggestions:

  • Misty
  • Blue
  • Smokey
  • Ash
  • Mafi
  • Casper
  • Amelie
  • Beau
  • Esme
  • Pierre
  • Claude

    Buying or Adopting Chartreux Cat

    Chartreux cats are extremely rare in the US, and it is highly unlikely that you will be able to find one in an adoption shelter. If you still happen to find a Chartreux cat (almost impossible), standard adoption fees range from $75 to $150. 

    Still, since the scenario of finding a Chartreux cat in a shelter is highly unlikely, your best chance of getting this cat is by buying it from a breeder. Even then, you will have to be patient and persistent until you find a Chartreux breeder because they are rare in the US.

    Once you find a Chartreux breeder, the cat will cost you anywhere between $500 and $2500 (and, sometimes, even more), depending on various factors such as the cat’s pedigree, age, gender, and physical characteristics.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Are Chartreux cats good pets?

    Yes, Chartreux cats are good pets, even for first-time cat owners.

    Why is the Chartreux cat rare?

    This breed’s turbulent history and WW2 are the main reasons why these cats are so rare in the US and most of the world. Even though their popularity is slowly rising, they are still not as popular as many other breeds.

    Do Chartreux cats meow?

    Chartreux cats are among the quietest cat breeds in the world, and they rarely make any sounds. Some of these cats never make a sound, not even a tiniest meow.

    Do Chartreux cats like to be picked up?

    Chartreux cats are lap cats, which means they enjoy being handled and close to their humans. They even tolerate being picked up, but make sure you do it gently and carefully.

    Is my cat a Russian Blue or a Chartreux?

    These two cats look similar, but there are many differences between them. The first difference is in their eyes, as Russian Blue cats have green eyes, while Chartreux cats have eyes in various shades of orange/gold. Russian Blue cat’s fur is more silvery and bright, while Chartreux cat’s fur is darker. Additionally, Chartreux cats are sturdy, while Russian Blue cats are more slender. Those are only the most noticeable differences, but there are more.

    Chartreux Cat Alternatives

    Since Chartreux cats are so rare, it can be impossible to find one in the US, especially if you don’t have time or money to search for Chartreux breeders. Fortunately, there are some great alternatives to Chartreux cats.

    Russian Blue cat breed is definitely one of them because, apart from some differences, this is the most similar breed to Chartreux cats. Both breeds have solid grey/blue furs that set them apart from most other breeds.

    British Shorthairs and American Shorthairs are also great options. They were even used to save the Chartreux breed from going extinct, which means that many modern Chartreux cats actually have British/American Shorthair genes. Finally, Persian cats are great alternatives for many other breeds, so you can get a Persian cat instead of Chartreux. 

    Chartreux Cat Fun Facts

    1. Chartreux cats are national cats of France, which is logical, given their French origin. 
    2. A famous French army officer, Charles de Gaulle, had a Chartreux cat that followed him all around his home.
    3. Another famous Chartreux owner was a French writer Colette. Colette loved her Chartreux cats so much that one of them was one of the main characters of her books La Chatte and Les Vrilles de la Vigne.


    Chartreux cats have been through a lot, and they have come a long way, both literally and figuratively, to be where they are today. Still, they are rare and relatively unknown to the general population in the US, which will, hopefully, change in the future. 

    Chartreux cats are known for their beauty and gentle nature. They are great for first-time cat owners or for owners that simply enjoy their peace. These cats are also extremely intelligent, affectionate, and loving, which are more reasons why you should consider getting one for your family!