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In 2019, 20% of French households reported owning a dog, compared to the 31% that owned a cat. In France, people regard cats as more independent, cleaner, and quieter than dogs, and like the fact that cats don’t need to be taken for walks. Average vet bills for cats are also significantly lower than for dogs.
Cats have overtaken dogs in popularity in France in recent years. In 2020, according to a French animal welfare organization, Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA), 58% of adoption applications were for cats. It estimates that there are 10.7 million cats in France compared to only 7.8 million dogs.
Many French people are passionate animal lovers, and two cat breeds originate from France. But there is also a darker side to cat ownership, with large numbers of pets being abandoned by their owners, especially in the summer holidays.
Cat Breeds from France
The Chartreux is an old and rare cat breed that, according to legend, descends from cats brought by Carthusian monks to live in their mountain monastery, Grande Chartreuse. Another legend holds that they were feral mountain cats originating in Syria and were brought to France by soldiers returning from the crusades in the 13th century. Many of these crusaders entered the Carthusian monastic order.
These copper-eyed cats are short-haired with thick, blue, double coats that are water repellant. The shape of the head and muzzle makes it look like they are smiling. It is a medium-sized, muscular breed, popular with farmers because of its hardiness and hunting prowess.
While not very vocal, Chartreux are intelligent and observant and take around two years to reach adulthood. Breeders emphasize clarity and uniformity of color and consider all shades of greyish blue acceptable. The Chartreux is regarded as the national cat of France.
Chartreux are agile and energetic and make loyal, playful companions. They can be taught to catch and retrieve a ball and are generally loving and affectionate with a tendency to choose one member of the household as their particular person.
We talk more about the Chartreux in our article about cats that shed a lot: Click Here.
The Serrade Petit is a much newer breed that has not yet been recognized by major cat breeding registries. It is a small cat with a short, soft coat that comes in orange, tan, or white. A Serrade Petit can be bi-colored, tri-colored, or striped.
It weighs between six and nine pounds, good musculature, and large, tall ears. The Serrade Petit is an attention-seeking cat with a lifespan ranging from twelve to sixteen years. They are quite active, enjoy playing with their owners, and vocalize frequently.
Popular Cat Breeds In France
Popular cat breeds in France according to Meyou Paris are:
- Maine Coon
- Sacred Birman
- British Shorthair
- Norwegian Forest Cat
The Maine Coon
Until the Savannah’s introduction in the 1980s, the Maine Coon was considered the largest domestic cat breed. It has higher than average intelligence with a gentle, playful personality. They don’t usually reach maturity until they are four years old.
Maine Coons have a lion-like ruff, and their coats come in a wide variety of colors. Their fur is thicker in winter than in summer and is soft and silky. They are sweet-tempered and friendly with everyone, and their life expectancy is around 12.5 years.
We compared the Maine Coon cat head-to-head with the Burmese cat in our article to figure out which cat is the best: Click Here.
Birmans are easy cats to handle, enjoy being around people are available in a variety of colors. They thrive on affection and are loyal and loving, and like to be held by their owners. The breed was first recognized and shown in France in the 1920s.
It is a fluffy, semi-longhaired pointed cat with white feet and can live up to 15 or more years. They are curious and outgoing cats with a laidback personality. Birmans shed their winter coats in spring.
We talk more about the Birman cat breed in our article about 7 of the dumbest cat breeds: Click Here.
The distinctive pattern on a Bengal’s coat is reminiscent of a jaguar’s or leopard’s. They are playful, attentive, loving, and curious. These cats are very active and like, playing, chasing, and climbing up high.
The Bengal was initially developed by crossing domestic cats with the Asian Leopard Cat, but now Bengals are a breed in their own right and are only bred to other Bengals.
To read more about the Bengal cat, check out our article on cat breeds that don’t shed a lot: Click Here.
The British Shorthair has a round, “chubby” face and is described as calm, cuddly, and independent by The International Cat Association (TICA). They are typically associated with blue (grey) fur but come in a variety of colors. Personality-wise they can be a little reserved but are affectionate to those, they know.
Males and females have different personality traits, with the males welcoming everyone’s attention, while females are sticklers for etiquette. British Shorthair cats make loyal companions and love to snuggle next to their people.
The British Shorthair hails from England. To find out more about if cats are popular in England: Click Here.
The Ragdoll Cat
The Ragdoll is a sturdy cat with blues eyes and is one of the larger breeds out there. They are semi-longhaired with points in a range of colors, including blue, lilac, red, chocolate, and cinnamon. Some of them have white paws, a white chin, and a white belly stripe.
Persian cats prefer relaxed, calm environments that require gentle treatment. With their flat faces and large round eyes, these cats are easygoing, sweet, and quiet. They have long fur that makes them look much bigger than they are.
The Persian cat is a medium-sized cat exhibiting different colors and patterns, including tabby, smoke tortoiseshell bi-color, and tricolor. Their life expectancy is between eight and eleven years.
Find out more about Persian cats and if they scratch furniture: Click Here.
Siberians are natural problem solvers who only reach maturity at around five years old. Their winter coat is long, thick, and full, but they shed it in summer when their fur is shorter and thinner. These cats originate from Russia and are described by TICA as medium to large-sized.
Temperamentally, Siberians are playful, lively, and affectionate but not demanding. Their life expectancy is between eleven and eighteen years.
Find out more about the Siberian cat and if they can go outside: Click Here.
The Norwegian Forest Cat
The Norwegian Forest cat evolved in Scandinavia and has a thick coat and sturdy body. It is a creature of Viking myth and legend, keeping their ships and village free of rats and mice. They are the official cat of Norway and are intelligent, calm, sweet, and loving.
Norwegian Forest cats require minimal grooming and take five years to reach adulthood. Colors vary between black, red, blue, silver, and amber, and many cats have a combination of colors. Their average life-expectancy is thirteen years.
Find out if it is safe for Norwegian Forest cats to go outside: Click Here.
France Animal Rights and Stray Cats
Sadly, the French are notorious for dumping their pets, including cats, for superficial reasons. Between 100,000 and 200,000 pets are abandoned in France every year. This practice is at its highest in the summer.
National animal rights campaigns are launched annually to dissuade the French from forsaking their pets when they go on their summer holidays. Despite this, a June 2020 parliamentary report showed a growing increase in the number of pets being abandoned. The reasons typically cited for dumping pets are going on holiday, having a baby, moving to a new house, or having a new partner with allergies.
Animal shelters say people acquire cats for all the wrong reasons, for example, that a particular breed is in fashion at the time. When another breed becomes more fashionable, the cat is dumped. Often they are purchased as gifts for their children, and when the child loses interest, the cat is abandoned. Many pets are impulse buys in France.
A French veterinarian says that the French are not used to paying for healthcare because of their social security system, so they balk at the idea of paying for medicines and veterinary services for their pets. This attitude means that they are also less likely to sterilize their cats, which leads to growing feral populations.
Cats are abandoned when they become old, ill, or injured and require medical care. The problem is so bad that one French MP has introduced a Bill in parliament to make it harder to acquire a pet, making tagging compulsory and raising the minimum age limit of pet buyers.
Some shelters have questioned whether this will make a difference, saying that there are already laws in place against animal cruelty, but the French police are not interested in enforcing them.
French laws generally prohibit putting food out in public places to attract stray animals, including cats. In 2014, a French woman was fined five hundred euros for putting food out for the stray cats in her neighborhood.
In 2015, a law was passed to prevent municipalities from implementing catch and kill programs for un-owned cats. In terms of this law, cats without owners living in groups in public places can only be captured at the mayor’s request. The cats may only be taken to shelters if it is impossible to implement a sterilization and identification program.
The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation for stray cats and kittens in France, with numbers soaring after lockdown brought an end to sterilization programs. Animal shelters are running out of space, even though abandoning an animal is punishable as a crime with a fine of 30,000 euros and up to two years in prison.
It seems that while France may be a nation of cat lovers, some owners don’t commit to their pets for life. The French can apparently be fickle about pet ownership, susceptible to fads and fashions when it comes to cat breeds.
Those that do understand the responsibilities of having and loving a cat take them seriously.
Cat cafes are popular in France and provide cat lovers with an opportunity to interact with cats while grabbing a quick bite and a cup of coffee.
If you enjoyed reading about the popularity of cats in France, check out these articles about the popularity of cats in other world regions: