Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cat Breed Facts: Chartreux

References to blue, gray, or blue-gray cats can be found throughout French literature. Though the first recorded use of the name Chartreux to describe cats with blue fur was in 1723, entirely gray cats were common in France at least as early as 1558. Legend, which often passes for fact among cat fanciers, says that the Carthusian monks were responsible for the development of the Chartreux, but in truth, the ancient origins of this beautiful cat are probably lost to time.

The Development of the Chartreux

The first recognized Chartreux breeders were the Leger sisters, who lived on a small island in the northwest of France. Originally, the sisters bred Siamese and Persians, before becoming acquainted with blue-gray cats in the late 1920s. They discovered a large population of blue-gray cats on the island and were enchanted. Though no one knows how the cats came to be on the island, it is clear that one of the Leger sisters exhibited the first Chartreux in 1931 at a show in Paris.

Even today, the Chartreux remains one of the rarest of cat breeds. The breed was almost eliminated entirely during WWI and WWII. When breeders attempted to revive the breed in the 1950s, they found that there were not enough of the blue cats to create a suitably diverse gene pool. In an effort to save the breed, breeders began outcrossing with other blue cats, most notably Persians and British Shorthairs.

This outcrossing compromised the Standards of the Chartreux, making the breed resemble the British Shorthair. In 1970, the Feline International Federation judged that there was no difference between the breeds, and so they were to be judged in the same category. This situation lasted for seven years until breeders in Europe insisted that their cat was indeed different from the British Shorthair.

The Chartreux did not make an appearance in the United States until 1970, and after that outcrossing was rare. The Chartreux has developed a style all its own, one that distinguishes it from other breeds and varieties of blue cats.

Some Breed Standards for the Chartreux

The Standards for the Chartreux, as with many other breeds, are quite strict. It is quite easy to have a cat that is penalized or even disqualified, so those picking a show or breeding kitten should do so with care.

General: The ideal Chartreux is a sturdy French breed with dense, water repellent fur. Though husky, robust, and amply built, the Chartreux is a supple and agile cat, never coarse or clumsy. These cats are strong and intelligent, and have an amenable personality.

Head: The head should be rounded and broad, but not a sphere. This cat should have a powerful jaw with full cheeks. The nose should be straight, and neck short and heavyset. The Chartreux has a sweet, smiling expression.

Ears: Ears should be medium in both height and width, set high on the head, with a very erect posture. The set of the ears makes the Chartreux appear to be ever on alert.

Eyes: The eyes should be rounded and open, conveying an alert expression. The color should be anywhere from copper to gold, with a deep, brilliant orange as the preferred color.

Body: A Chartreux should have a robust physique. The chest should be deep, and all cats of this breed should be solid and dense. Females are medium in size; males are much larger and take longer to mature.

Tail: The ideal Chartreux has a tail of moderate length, heavy at the base, and tapering to an oval tip. The tail should be lively and flexible.

Coat: The coat of a Chartreux should be medium short and slightly wooly in texture. The undercoat should be resilient, with a longer and protective topcoat. The coat may range in color from blue gray to ash or slate, though blue is the preferred tone.

Penalties: Any cat with a severe nose break, snubbed or upturned nose, tail defects, or eyes too close together will be assessed a penalty.

Disqualifications: There are several reasons a Chartreux might be disqualified. These include: visibly kinked tail, green eyes, or a white locket.

The Chartreux is a sweet and loving cat, unique in color and gentle in nature. This breed would make a wonderful addition to any home, including homes with children.

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