How Many French Cat Breeds are There?

Serrade Petit

The French love cats. If Statista is correct, a third of French households owned a cat while a fifth of French households owned a dog in 2020. As such, chances are good interested individuals can guess there are French cat breeds. The surprising part is that there are just two or three French cat breeds, with the exact number depending on how one counts these things.

What Are the French Cat Breeds?

According to Native Breed, these are the three French cat breeds:


What Is the Birman?

First, there is the Birman. One can argue that it is a Burmese cat rather than a French cat. However, it is more accurate to say that the Birman is a French cat created using both Burmese cats and non-Burmese cats. Indeed, even the name of the cat comes from the French Birmanie.

It isn’t known how the Birman came into existence. No clear records mean no clear understanding of the process. Instead, people make do with stories. The Cat Fanciers’ Association relates an oft-told tale about the Birman descending from companions to Burmese priests on Mount Lugh. As for how these companions winded up in France, there are both heroic and not-so-heroic stories. The heroic story says that a temple gifted a pair of cats to a pair of Europeans for their assistance in defending it during an invasion. Meanwhile, the not-so-heroic story says that a rich American smuggled a pair of cats with assistance from a disloyal temple servant. Whatever the real course of events, the Birman existed in France in the early 1920s.

Unfortunately, the Birman came close to extinction during World War Two. The exact process for how this happened isn’t difficult to imagine. After all, France was fought over, occupied, and then fought over a second time. Any one of those things would have been bad on its own. The combination was much worse. By the war’s end, the Birman had two representatives throughout Europe. These cats became the foundation of the modern Birman. Yet, the effort to save the cat breed needed extensive crossbreeding with other cats, thus explaining the earlier claim that the cat breed descends from both Burmese cats and non-Burmese cats.

What Can People Expect From the Birman?

Moving on, the Birman is a long-haired cat. In particular, it is famous for its white gloves, which come from its point coloration. With that said, the Birman can also have either tabby or tortoiseshell coloration. Currently, the relevant authorities recognize six colors for cats with point coloration and four colors for cats with one of the other two colorations. They always recognize blue, chocolate, lilac, and seal. In contrast, they recognize cream and red for cats with point coloration but not for cats with one of the other two colorations. Please note that cat breeders are working on more coats, so interested individuals might be able to get their hands on a different-colored Birman that isn’t quite a Birman.

Temperament-wise, the Birman is one of the more easy-going cats. They are affectionate, gentle, and good-natured. Better still, they are both smart enough and obedient enough to respond positively to cat owners seeking to train them. Combined, these characteristics make the Birman an excellent choice for a household with other animals.


What Is the Chartreux?

Second, there is the Chartreux. It has existed in France since at least the 16th century. However, the Chartreux Club UK lists stories that the ancestors of the Chartreux also came to France from other parts of the world. Sadly, those stories are even more unreliable than the stories told about the Birman. Still, they are fascinating in their own right.

The Chartreux is consistently associated with the cloistered monks and nuns called Carthusians. Even the two names are connected. The Carthusians are named thus because they have their headquarters in France’s Chartreuse Mountains. Under those circumstances, it seems safe to say that the cat breed’s similar-sounding name is no coincidence. In any case, one story says that the Carthusians brought the Chartreux with them to live in France. The issue is that their records show no such thing. Besides this, another story says that French crusaders brought the ancestors of the Chartreux home from Syria. In this version, the Carthusians are just one of the groups that took the cats in.

Like the Birman, the Chartreux came close to extinction in the 20th century. Its numbers plummeted because of World War One and World War Two. The Chartreux emerged from the second conflict in better shape than the Birman, but to be fair, it wouldn’t exist anymore if it had fared worse. Even so, it says much that people couldn’t find any wild members of the cat breed during that period. Fortunately, interested individuals successfully intervened to save the Chartreux, thus preserving it for France and other countries.

What Can People Expect From the Chartreux?

Nowadays, the Chartreux remains a rare cat breed. As a result, if interested individuals want one, they will need to put in extra effort to find one unless they are in France. On the plus side, the Chartreux is a likable animal. It has a powerful build mounted on surprisingly light-looking limbs packed with power. Furthermore, it has a short but thick blue coat. Amusingly, the Chartreux is most notable because its unusual facial structure makes it look like it is smiling much of the time.

Interested individuals should avoid assuming too much based on that expression. Yes, the Chartreux is an excellent companion. That doesn’t mean it has infinite patience because no animal has infinite patience. With that said, the Chartreux is more patient than most, being a quiet but playful and affectionate animal that can get along with everyone in the same household. Funny enough, these cats are also more clever than most people expect, so much so that they sometimes teach themselves how to use buttons and open latches.

Serrade Petit

What Is the Serrade Petit?

Third, there is the Chartreux. Both the Birman and the Chartreux have widespread recognition. The same cannot be said for the Chartreux because it is a much newer cat breed. Hepper says that it isn’t recognized by so much as a single cat registry of importance, which says much about its status.

What Can People Expect From the Serrade Petit?

There isn’t much information out there about the Serrade Petit. These cats are new, so more time is needed for their cat owners’ collective experience to spread. Still, there are some things that interested individuals should know.

For instance, the Serrade Petit is as small as one would expect based on its name. Reportedly, these cats are just 6 to 9 pounds when mature, thus making them some of the smaller cats out there. As for its personality, the Serrade Petit is supposedly a lap cat that shouldn’t stay home on its own for long periods. For that matter, interested individuals shouldn’t let these cats outdoors because their small size makes a wide range of threats even more dangerous to them than to their bigger counterparts.

So How Many French Cat Breeds Are There Really?

As stated earlier, there are either two or three French cat breeds, depending on how one counts these things. Essentially, the Serrade Petit is so new that it has little official recognition. Due to this, some people would argue that it isn’t a true cat breed for the time being. That will presumably change when it receives official recognition, but such things won’t happen in an instant if at all. There can be no doubt about the other two cat breeds being French cat breeds. They might have ancestors from other parts of the world. However, they were created in France, thus making them French.

When Did Cats Make Their Way to France?

If people are wondering why there are so few French cat breeds, they should check out the history of cats in France. Cats are unlike dogs when it comes to their spreading around the world. We domesticated the dog so early in our existence that our canine companions went everywhere with us. This is seen in how the Native Americans had dogs before the Columbian Exchange. We domesticated the cat in prehistoric times. What is interesting is that we can also see evidence of cats spreading around the world in historical times.

National Geographic states that the cat originated in the Middle East. From there, it spread throughout the rest of the Mediterranean world. The World History Encyclopedia claims that Phoenicians brought cats to Greece in historical times. We know this because the historical records make it clear that the Greeks used weasels rather than cats for vermin control for much of antiquity. Subsequently, either the Greeks or the Phoenicians presumably introduced cats to the region that is now France because both were far-sailing peoples. In particular, the Greeks had a huge influence on the Gauls through trade, so much so that the Gauls in Southern France wrote Gaulish using Greek letters.

How Were Cats Treated Over Time in France?

The status of the cat was decent in Greco-Roman times. It was never as respected in the Roman Empire as in Egypt. Still, we have more than enough evidence that Roman cat owners could be very fond of their feline companions. Sadly, there is reason to suspect that the low status of cats in medieval Europe has its roots in Greco-Roman mythology. In short, a maid named Galinthius thwarted Hera’s plans to prevent Heracles’s birth. Furious, Hera turned her into a cat before sentencing her to serve Hecate in the underworld forever. Now, Hecate wasn’t a wicked goddess in Greco-Roman mythology. Nonetheless, she was an ominous figure associated with death, darkness, and witchcraft. states that much of medieval Europe disliked cats. They were still useful for vermin control. Still, that wasn’t enough to overcome the widespread perception that cats were evil. Some of this might be connected to the status of cats in pre-Christian cultures. On top of this, cats were independent creatures, so much so that they didn’t conform to the medieval expectation that animals existed to serve humans. If cats didn’t conform to their divinely assigned role, it wasn’t a huge jump to interpret them as potentially dangerous creatures in league with supernatural evil.

By near-modern times, the status of the cat improved in France and its neighbors once more. European sentiments about the medieval era went back and forth, as shown by the Enlightenment and then Romanticism. There is nonetheless zero doubt that many medieval beliefs fell by the wayside, thus making it possible for new beliefs to take their place. The modern fondness for cats is one of them.

Why Are There So Few French Cat Breeds?

Despite that, the interest in cat breeding seems to have lagged a bit in the country when compared with either the United Kingdom or the United States. For example, cat enthusiasts founded the National Cat Club in the United Kingdom in 1887 and the Chicago Cat Club in the United States in 1899. Soon enough, the National Cat Club merged with a local rival to form the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in 1910. In the United States, matters developed at around the same time but in a different way, as shown by how there are now several major registries based in that country. French cat shows started early but the first French cat registry started in 1913. In time, French cat enthusiasts would unite with their international counterparts to form the Fédération Internationale Féline in 1949, though it isn’t the only such organization active on the international stage.

Besides this, there was the devastating impact of World War Two. Certainly, both the Birman and the Chartreux came close to extinction, so the overall impact on French cats can be imagined. Under these circumstances, it would be strange if the development of French cat breeds wasn’t set back, particularly since French cat breeding was always connected with the cat breeding going on elsewhere.

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