Coat Length: Long hair
Body Type: Moderate
Appearance: The Norwegian Forest is a large cat breed with a sturdy and quite recognisable body shape. Males weigh between 4.5 and 7kg and the females from 3.5 to 5.5kg. They have a double-layered coat, a dense and soft undercoat and a long water-resistant outer coat. Almost all colours and colour patterns can be seen and are accepted within the breed standard, this includes chocolate, lilac, fawn and cinnamon. Norwegian Forest cats have medium-sized ears with rounded tips and large almond-shaped eyes in various colours – green, gold, copper or even odd coloured eyes.
Grooming Requirement: Once a week
Activity Level: Average
Affection: Very affectionate
Time Alone: 4 to 8 hours a day
Attention: Needs average attention
Temperament: This big cat has the personality of a sweet little kitty. They’re kind and friendly with people they know but can be rather like distant with strangers. This isn’t a cat that will want to spend hours on your lap but they appreciate a scratch or a stroke from time to time.
Interesting Facts: There’s a legend in Norse mythology about the god Thor and the strongest frost giant Utgardsloki. They made a bet that Thor won’t be able to lift Utgardsloki’s Norwegian cat. The Norse god was convinced he couldn’t fail, but the frost giant proved him wrong as Thor truly couldn’t lift the cat and lost the bet.
Behaviour Toward Other Animals and Children: The Norwegian Forest cat is an amazing choice for a family with children. They love a child’s attention and are happy to play with them. Other cats and cat-friendly dogs don’t scare this furry friend and they can live together without major problems. Of course you should always supervise, especially if you have a toddler in the house and it’s always a good idea to teach your children how to approach animals.
Common Health Problems: Some of the main health issues seen with the Norwegian Forest cats are glycogen storage disease IV, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, polycystic kidney disease and retinal dysplasia.
Lifespan: Average 12 to 16 years.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a natural ancient breed, with some theories arguing it originated about 500 years ago, while others hold that the breed is 1000 – 2000 years old. The exact origin of the “skogkatt”, as the breed is known in Norway, remains uncertain. It is believed that these cats were taken by the Vikings on their explorations and used to keep the ships free of rodents. On land, they were used for the same pest control purposes at the barns of local farms.
The Forest Cat is featured in numerous folklore tales, including the legend of the goddess Freya, who rode a chariot pulled by two large cats, and the lore of Thor, who had to prove his strength by lifting a cat of enormous size.
Historically, the first written record of the Norwegian Forest Cat dates back to the mid-16th century when Peter Clausson Friis, a Danish minister and naturalist, residing in Norway at the time divided the Norwegian lynx into three classes: the lynx-wolf, the lynx-fox and the lynx-cat. In literature, they are mentioned in a collection of Norwegian tales and songs published in 1835, and in 1912 an autobiography by Olaf Gulbransson featured a drawing of a skogkatt-like cat. Possible ancestors of the breed are considered to be the Turkish and Siberian Angora, as well as short-haired cats brought from Britain by the Vikings and long-haired cats brought by the Crusaders. The breed we know today was most likely the result of natural selection, as only the toughest cats, adjusted to the cold weather in Norway survived the harsh climate.
Due to hybridisation with freely roaming domestic short-hairs, the Norwegian Forest Cats were almost lost as a distinctive breed, prompting Norwegian breeders to start attempts in preserving it. Their efforts, however, were cut short by the outbreak of WWII. In post-war times, a group of breed fanciers renewed successfully the attempts to develop the breed. The Skogkatt took to the show ring in Europe and was designated the official cat of Norway by King Olaf. The breed was exported from Norway in the late 1970s, and officially accepted for registration in CFA in 1987. It was accepted for championship competition in 1993, scoring 11 Grand Champions, 13 Grand Premiers and two regional winners in years to come.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is often referred to as a two-in-one cat because of his semi-long, water-resistant double coat that changes to fit weather conditions accordingly. In winter, the cat is protected by a dense, woolly undercoat, a full ruff, and a long, flowing tail that they can wrap around themselves to stay warm. In summer, they shed the downy undercoat, making them look almost as a short-hair.
The breed matures slowly and the coat does not reach complete maturity until the cat is two years old. Kittens start to develop their adult coat when they are about three months old. This process can take several months. The Forest Cat’s coat is relatively easy to maintain for a long-hair. It will, however, tangle or mat if it is completely neglected. It needs weekly combing or brushing, and grooming two or three times a week significantly reduces hairballs. The breed needs more frequent combing during their spring moult.
When choosing a commercial brand of food or home cooking for your Norwegian Forest Cat, keep in mind that cats from this breed share much of their DNA with the fiercest of cats – leopards, lions and tigers. Norwegian Forest Cats need to eat a high proportion of meat for fat and protein, and avoid carbs which they are unable to process. Carbohydrates can lead to serious health issues such as obesity and diabetes. Norwegian Forest Cats are a large breed and will require approximately 80 Kcals per kg of bodyweight per day of food. Their diet should include omega-3 and 6 fatty acids and L-carnitine to keep their coats thick and shiny. Formulas especially designed to meet the nutritional requirements of the breed contain a proper amount of fiber to minimise hairball formation.
Common health problems in Norwegian Forest Cats include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, hip dysplasia and glycogen storage disease type IV.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) – a condition which causes thickening (hypertrophy) of the heart muscle, is the most common form of heart disease in cats. It can not be guaranteed whether or not, a cat will develop HCM but an echocardiogram can confirm whether a cat has HCM. A Norwegian Forest Cat that will be bred should be screened for HCM and removed from breeding programmes if identified with HCM.
Hip dysplasia is a hereditary defect of the hip socket, and depending on the severity of the condition, weight loss, medication, or surgery can help relieve pain. Norwegian Forest Cats who will be bred should have their hips x-rayed and graded at 2 years of age. When buying a Wegie kitten, ask the breeder to show evidence that the parents have hips that have been rated as fair, good or excellent.
Glycogen storage disease type IV is a rare disorder that causes a deficiency of an essential enzyme required for proper metabolism of glycogen. Some affected kittens die before or shortly after birth. In others, the disease usually becomes apparent when the kitten reaches 4 to 5 months of age and is fatal.
Norwegian Forest Cats love climbing and perching on high places, so owners should provide adequate cat trees and posts as these cats’ strength and agility allow them to scale great heights. Wegies have highly developed predatory behaviours, and will love toys that will let let them satisfy their hunting instincts. Highly active and athletic, Norwegian Forest Cats need more room and exercise than average cats. Wegies are also highly intelligent and need proper mental stimulation in the form of puzzle toys and creative games.