History of the Chartreux Cat
Blue cats are said to have lived in France since the 16th
century. The first document that can be quoted, is a poem written in 1558 by Joachim du Bellay, called
« French Verses on the Death of a Small Kitten" »
Afterwards, other writers mentioned the existence of blue cats, but it is only at the beginning of the 18th century that the word "chat des Chartreux" appeared referring to these blue cats.
In 1723, for the first time, Savarry des Bruslon used the name "Chat des Chartreux" in the "Universal Trade Dictionary of Natural History and Applied Arts" («Dictionnaire Universel du Commerce d'Histoire Naturelle et des Arts et Métiers»), a technical book for traders. It reads :
commoners use this term for a variety of cat whose fur has a blue tinge. The furriers trade its skins. »
In 1753, in the famous « Grande Encyclopédie », there is an article called « Chartreux » :
: a variety of cat whose fur is ash gray bordering on blue. Furriers trade it and use it for fur coats. »
In 1756, Buffon, the famous French naturalist, described the Chartreux cat as a cat different from the European cat and the Angora cat. The description is lengthy and precise. The book is illustrated with plates. A comparison of the plate on Chartreux cats with those of other cats shows the Chartreux cat as being a little shorter than the domestic cat with a straight and no-stop nose; the fur is a little longer than that of the domestic, and is woolly; the tail is set straight up, tapering at the end.
At the same period, Perronneau painted Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange with her Chartreux cat.
In the 1832 edition of Buffon's « Histoire naturelle », the plates were colored : the Chartreux cat is deep slate blue gray with yellow eyes.
After Buffon, it is quite common to find descriptions of the Chartreux cat in books dealing with natural history. The breed still existed in France and was used by furriers. In his book « Our animals » (1896), Dr. Beauregard wrote :
« Once a cat is dead, its fur is used in different ways... The fur of Chartreux cats is sold as gray squirrel fur; but and dyed, it is given as otter fur »
Fortunately, at the beginning of the 20th century, interest in the Chartreux cat grew for less utilitarian reasons : breeding Chartreux cats as pets began. « Colette », the French woman writer, owned several Chartreux cats and made « Saha », one of them, the heroine of her book « La Chatte » in which she devoted some beautiful descriptions to her cat :
« The sun was playing on her Chartreux's fur, mauve and bluish like a wood-pigeon's breast. »