Catel studied at the Royal School of Singing in Paris. He was the chief assistant to François-Joseph Gossec at the orchestra of the National Guard in 1790. A member of the Institute, he jointly composed pieces of military music for official state ceremonies, including L'Hymne à la Victoire (Victory Hymn), with words by Ponce-Denis Écouchard-Lebrun. He was appointed inaugural professor of harmony at the Conservatoire de Paris, but was destitute in 1814. Amongst his students was the Prix de Rome winning composer Joseph Daussoigne-Méhul, the Belgian composer Martin-Joseph Mengal, and the famous, if eccentric, harpist Nicolas Bochsa. See: List of music students by teacher: C to F#Charles-Simon Catel. Catel died in Paris.
His works include a "Treatise on Harmony" (1802) which was used by the young Berlioz, several concert band works, several dramatic compositions at the National Opera of Paris: Sémiramis, Les bayadères ; at the Opéra-Comique: Artistes par occasion, l'Auberge de Bagnères (1807) ; Wallace (1817); symphonies, quartets etc.
- Sémiramis, lyric tragedy in three acts, libretto by Philippe Desriaux based on Voltaire, performed by the Opéra de Paris on 4 May 1802.
- Les artistes par occasion, farcical opera in one act, libretto by Alexandre Duval, performed at the Opéra-Comique in 1807.
- L'auberge de Bagnères, farcical opera in 3 acts, libretto by C. Jalabert, performed by the Opéra-Comique in 1807.
- Les bayadères, opera in 3 acts, libretto by Victor-Joseph-Étienne de Jouy based on Voltaire, performed at Opéra de Paris on 8 August 1810.
- Les aubergistes de qualité, comedy in 3 acts, libretto by Victor-Joseph-Étienne de Jouy, performed at Opéra-Comique on 17 June 1812
- Bayard à Mézières, comedy in one act, libretto by Alisvan de Chazet and Louis Emmanuel Mercier Dupaty, performed at Opéra-Comique in 1814.
- Le premier en date, comedy in one act, libretto by Marc-Antoine Désaugiers and Pessey, performed at Opéra-Comique in 1814.
- Wallace ou Le ménestrel écossais, epic opera in 3 acts, libretto by L. Ch. J. Fontanes de Saint-Marcellin, performed at Opéra-Comique in 1817.
- Zirphile et fleur de myrte ou cent ans en un jour, "opéra-féerie" in 2 acts, libretto by Victor-Joseph-Étienne de Jouy and Nicolas Lefebvre, performed at Opéra de Paris in 1818.
- L'officier enlevé, comedy in one act, libretto by Alexandre Duval, performed at Opéra-Comique in 1819.
- Bouillet's Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie (1842),