Chartreux: Cat Breed Profile, Characteristics & Care

Appearance, Personality, History, Care, & Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Chartreux Cat lounging on a sofa

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The Chartreux cat is a French feline whose pleasant demeanor has made it the unofficial cat of France and a beloved pet abroad. The breed is notable for its solid blue-gray coat with a slightly woolly texture and bright copper eyes.

The muscular and athletic Chartreux has small, fine-boned legs for the size of its body, and it can appear to be rather short in stature. But, the cat is a mighty mouser—legend has it that French Carthusian monks employed Chartreux cats for rodent control in monasteries.

Breed Overview

Personality: Calm, friendly, docile

Weight: Up to 16 pounds

Length: Up to 24 inches, nose to tail

Coat Length: Short Hair

Coat Colors: Gray

Coat Patterns: Solid

Eye Color: Copper/orange

Lifespan: Up to 15 years

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: France

Chartreux Characteristics

With its quiet but friendly temperament, the medium-sized Chartreux is a lovely companion for individuals or families, but it can be a tough feline to find as the breed is rare in the United States.

This cat rarely makes vocal demands, but those familiar with the breed describe it as an excellent communicator with an engaging manner. When it does have something to say, the Chartreux may chirp to get noticed.

The Chartreux's round face and pointed muzzle make it appear to be smiling, and owners of Chartreux cats who know the breed's happy, friendly personality find this "smile" easy to believe.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Vocalize Low
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Chartreux

The early origin of the Chartreux is difficult to trace, though it’s well-established that the breed dates back at least to the 15th or 16th century. The unique woolly coat of these cats points back to Syrian roots, and it is commonly believed that Crusaders returning from Syria to France brought the early ancestors of the Chartreux.

Once in France, the breed proved to be an excellent means of controlling rodent populations. Many accounts of the Chartreux’s history point to French Carthusian monasteries keeping these cats as a defense against rats and mice. While no Carthusian records confirm this fact, it’s a much-repeated tale that also is said to explain the quiet, almost monastic nature of these nearly silent cats.

Moving forward in history, the Chartreux cat becomes easier to trace. Sometime in the 1920s, sisters Christine and Suzanne Leger encountered a colony of blue-gray cats living on a small island off the coast of France. The cats were notable for their striking appearance and unique woolly coat, so the Leger sisters decided to domesticate and breed them. In 1931, the cats were on a display at a cat show in Paris where the modern Chartreux cat became recognizable.

Like many breeds, the Chartreux’s existence was threatened by World War II. However, selective crossbreeding with Russian blue, British shorthair, and Persian cats ensured that this centuries-old cat didn’t disappear.

While first prized for its hunting prowess, the modern Chartreux became popular for its beautiful woolly coat, intelligence, and calm, friendly demeanor. Not surprisingly, cat breeders around the world took notice. In 1970, John and Helen Gamon brought the first Chartreux cats to the United States. This paved the way for the breed’s full acceptance into the Cat Fancier’s Association in 1987.

Today, the Chartreux is something of a national French treasure. Beloved by the people of France, the breed is relatively hard to find outside of Europe. Many breeding programs in the United States have returned their stock to France, making it difficult to find a purebred kitten here in the states.

Chartreux cat lying next to pillow with alert expression
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Chartreux cat close-up
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Gray Chartreux kitten on pillow
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Chartreux Care

The Chartreux is an easy keeper that is relatively self-sufficient but will happily engage in play. It enjoys the company of children and other pets but doesn’t require constant attention.

This cat breed is highly intelligent, so challenge your Chartreux with learning tricks or treat puzzles. Some curious Chartreux cats have even been known to open cupboards, so keep kitty treats hidden away and consider installing toddler locks on cabinet doors if this becomes a problem.

The soft, woolly character of the Chartreux’s coat makes it easy to care for. Many experts warn against brushing it since its unique texture is more suited to the action of a comb instead of a bristle brush. While the Chartreux does an excellent job of grooming itself, the extra attention will keep mats from forming and serve as good bonding time for you and your feline friend.

Several times a year, the Chartreux will shed his undercoat. During this time, you may want to comb it every day to keep the flying fur under control. But, you shouldn't need to bathe your cat very often.

Common Health Problems

The Chartreux has relatively few health problems and is a hearty, robust breed. However, there are a few potential health concerns to be on the lookout for:

  • Polycystic kidney disease: In this condition, fluid-filled cysts impair the normal function of one or both kidneys. 
  • Struvite crystals: Small stones can form in the cat’s bladder as a result of too little hydration or an excessively alkaline diet. The stones can irritate the bladder, blocking the urethra and resulting in kidney failure.
  • Luxating patella: Slipped kneecaps are a problem that can plague this cat breed.


The Chartreux has a solid blue-gray coat with a slightly woolly texture and bright copper-orange eyes. With its muscular build, the Chartreux may look like it has small legs for the size of its body, and its body length is often greater than its height. While the cat may appear disproportionate at first glance, its powerfully athletic nature is impressive to anyone who watches it hunt or play.

Diet and Nutrition

The Chartreux should be fed a nutritious diet and care should be taken not to overfeed. With a tendency toward developing struvite crystals, be sure that you work with your veterinarian to choose a food that isn’t too alkaline (many plant-based foods contribute to high levels of alkalinity).

Also, be sure that your cat has easy access to fresh drinking water at all times. If your cat doesn’t take in enough water, urine becomes more concentrated and struvite crystals can develop. If this is the case with your cat, consider incorporating wet food to add moisture to the diet.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Chartreux

Finding a Chartreux cat to call your own may not be easy because breeders in the United States are few and far between. However, the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) Breeder Directory and The International Cat Association (TICA) Breeder Directory are good places to start your search.

Since these cats are such treasures, it is rare to find one in a shelter. However, it happens—owners give up beloved pets for many reasons.

Chartreux Cat Overview

A calm demeanor is a key characteristic of the Chartreux, so they’re a popular cat breed for solitary owners and families. Just be sure that children or other pets are taught to treat the cat gently and with respect. Interestingly, these cats are also known to be adaptable; many enjoy traveling with their owners. 

  • Friendly and docile; not overly demanding

  • Good with kids and pets

  • Adaptable, travels well

  • Difficult to find a breeder

  • Prone to kidney problems

  • May get bored without sufficient stimulation

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breed profiles

  • Are Chartreux cats good pets?

    These calm, docile cats are very friendly and adaptable, so they make great pets for individuals and families.

  • Are Chartreux cats rare?

    There are few Chartreux breeders in the United States, so they are hard to find here. In France and throughout Europe, they are more common.

  • Do Chartreux cats have health problems?

    They are generally healthy cats, but they do tend to develop urinary tract infections. A specific diet can help prevent urinary problems.