The Norwegian Forest Cat

True to its name, the Norwegian Forest Cat is built to survive Norway’s cold and snow!

With a thick coat of warm, water-resistant fur, the Norwegian Forest Cat is a truly rugged cat. It is also one of the oldest breeds: its ancestors were brought to Norway by Vikings over a thousand years ago and interbred with longhaired cats imported to Norway by Crusaders.

Over the centuries, the Norwegian Forest Cat walked Norwegian forests and farms, honing their hunting skills. In 1938, the first Norwegian Forest Cat club was formed to preserve the breed. However, crossbreeding during WWII almost led to the breed’s extinction. Luckily, another official breeding program saved the breed, which didn’t leave Norway until the 1970s.

The Norwegian Forest Cat wasn’t introduced into the American Cat Fanciers Association until 1994. Today, it’s one of the most popular breeds throughout America, Canada, and Europe. Read on to learn why!

Cat Facts
Big and fluffy, the Norwegian Forest Cat, often called “Weegie,” is pretty interesting. Here are some quick facts:

  • Some consider the Norwegian Forest Cat and the Maine Coon to share a common ancestor. They are similar in appearance and it’s possible the Vikings brought Maine Coons to America.
  • They are known in their native land of Norway as Norsk Skogkatt
  • The Norwegian Forest Cat’s long, woolen coat double-coat is water-repellant
  • Size: 10-16 lbs.
  • Lifespan: 14-16 years

What are they like?
Norwegian Forest Cats are playful, naturally athletic, and love to climb up high and observe what’s going on down below. Even though they’re very hardy and rugged, they’re also very cuddly and playful and are great for families. They are very reliable around children and like to be included in all family events. And though they thrive in the outdoors, Norwegian Forest Cats are equally contented to be indoor cats. Many people consider them a “dog lover’s cat.” And they actually get along very well with dogs, in fact sometimes better than with other cats!

Norwegian Forest Cats also take new situations in stride and adapt very well, meaning they are good traveling cats. They’re very friendly, too! Strangers are usually welcomed into the home of a Norwegian Forest Cat, and they’re well known for their loud, contented purring. Some are big “talkers” and chirp and vocalize much more than other cats. As a bonus, they don’t require as much grooming as other longhaired breeds like Maine Coons. However, they are heavy shedders at times, especially in the spring.

Norwegian Forest Cats have very few breed-related health issues, but there are a couple to be aware of:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Glycogen storage disease, which appears in kittens and affects the kidneys and liver among other organs

Right for you?
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a great breed of cat for people who have the time to spend with one. Here are some things to think about if you’re thinking about welcoming one into your home:

  • They mature slowly. It takes Norwegian cats 4-5 years to mature, so you’ll have a kitten on your hands for longer than many other breeds.
  • Need to be challenged and occupied. Although they are great at hunting and killing pests like spiders and other insects, they also hunt less desirable critters. If you don’t like the idea of your cat turning up on your step with a gross dead animal it its mouth, you might want to look for a different breed!
  • Grooming is easy, but they do shed heavily at times. The fur of Norwegian Forest Cat is short, close-lying, and lustrous, and it is dense enough to protect against the elements. A weekly combing is usually all that is necessary to keep the fur clean and healthy.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Reviewed on:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

About the Norwegian Forest Cat

Known as the Skogkatt in its native Norway, the Norwegian Forest Cat is a large, semi-longhaired cat whose rugged appearance fits its name. Despite the hardy facade, this breed is very much a homebody that enjoys the company of other pets and particularly their human companions. Their relationship with you can best be described as “on their own terms.” Yes, Forest Cats can be lap cats, but THEY will decide when to get on or off that lap. At a minimum, Forest Cats insist on being near their people in a place of their choosing: chair, bed, or desktop. A scratching post and a cat tree, preferably tall, are musts for the Norwegian Forest Cat home. These are moderatley active cats there will be bursts of energy followed by long naps. Sensitive yet social, you will find them to be intelligent cats that adapt readily to change. Breeders are often asked if these cats need to be outside. As with all cats, inside the home is quite suitable and is certainly the safest environment. Providing interesting toys, perches with outside views, and most importantly, regular one-on-one time will result in a well-adjusted cat.

To the inexperienced eye, the Norwegian Forest Cat may resemble other semi-longhaired breeds such as the Maine Coon or even some random bred longhaired cats. In fact, there is considerable difference. Without a doubt, the expression of the Norwegian Forest Cat is striking and distinctive among pedigreed cats. Large, almond-shaped eyes with their oblique set and the equilateral triangle-shaped head contribute to the unique appearance of this breed. Viewed from the side, the Forest Cat has a straight profile, i.e. straight from the brow ridge to the tip of the nose. Heavily furnished ears that fit into the triangle finish the look.

The Norwegian Forest Cat has an insulated, waterproof double coat that was designed to withstand the Scandinavian winters of its origin. The texture of this coat also matches that environment – longer, coarse guard hairs over a dense undercoat. A full frontal ruff, bushy tail, rear britches, and tufted paws help to equip this feline for life in a region that borders the Arctic. Surprisingly, this coat does not require the care of some of the longhair breeds: weekly combing along with a little more attention in the springtime should cover it. Often identified by their brown tabby and white coats, Norwegian Forest Cats actually come in most colors, from pure white to deepest coal black, with every possible coat pattern and color combination in between, with the exception of the colorpoint colors as seen in the Siamese or Persian-Himalayan, such as seal point or chocolate point.

The fully mature (approximately age five) Norwegian Forest Cat is a large, sturdy cat, well-muscled with significant boning. Expect a male to weigh from 12 to 16 pounds fully grown females will weigh from 9 to 12 pounds.

Although the Norwegian Forest Cat is a relatively new breed in the United States, it is a very old breed in Norway, featured in folk tales and mythology for centuries. The term skogkatt literally means “forest cat.” In all probability, this was the cat the Viking explorers took with them to keep their ships clear of rodents, the same job they had in the barns in the Norwegian countryside. Their first arrival on the east coast of North America may have been with Leif Erickson or his contemporaries in the late 900s.

Norwegian Forest Cats were almost lost as a distinct breed through hybridization with the free-roaming domestic shorthairs in Norway. Interest was aroused among Norwegian cat fanciers who became determined to save the breed, but World War II put a hold on their efforts. Efforts after the war were finally successful, resulting in the Norwegian Forest Cat being not only welcomed into the show ring in Europe, but also designated the official cat of Norway by the late King Olaf. They were not exported from Norway until the late 1970s, and the first pair arrived in the United States in November of 1979. The Norwegian Forest Cat was presented to the CFA Board for registration acceptance in February 1987 and in 1993 was accepted for full championship status.

Breeders usually make kittens available between twelve and sixteen weeks of age. After twelve weeks, litters have had their basic inoculations and developed the physical and social stability needed for a new environment, showing, and being transported. As you discuss the price of a kitten, consider that the breeder often makes one or more trips to Europe to research and obtain cats for their breeding program. Other considerations may include titles obtained by these cats in competition or parentage, as well as preferred markings and type. Discussions with the breeder should include recommendations on spay/neuter surgery, feeding, and information on registering your kitten. For more information, please contact the Breed Council Secretary for this breed.

Physical Characteristics of the Norwegian Forest Cat

Referred to as The Norse Skogkatt in its native Norway, and nicknamed wegie (pronounced “wee-gee”) in the US, the breed is a muscular, semi-longhaired cat that resembles the Maine Coon cat in build. Wegies possess tufted paws and an insulated double coat ideally suited to the cold Nordic winters, but this lavish insulation is relatively easy to groom. They do shed, but a weekly brushing should keep away the matts and tangles.

Colors include a range of browns from caramel to sienna and grays from a light smoke to graphite, often with white paws, chest or belly. Males typically weigh 12 to 16 pounds, with females being slightly smaller at 9 to 12 pounds.

Health Issues

The wegie is a generally healthy cat breed, but does have a mildly increased risk for hip dysplasia, certain kidney ailments, and a thickening of the heart muscle (called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) that is common in cats of other breeds, as well.

Where do they come from?

No-one knows exactly where the breed's origins are, but references can be found in Norwegian folklore from the time of the Vikings. Norse legends refer to a “mountain-dwelling fairy cat with an ability to climb sheer rock faces that other cats could not manage.”

Some believe they are the descendants of Turkish longhaired cats, brought back from the Byzantium Empire by Nordic warriors. Others believe they may be related to the Russian Siberian cat. It has also been suggested that the skogkatt – or at least its ancestor – was used as a mouser on Viking ships.

However, it seems that the Norwegian forest cat of today developed simply through natural selection. Longhaired cats that shed water with ease are much more adapted to the colder, northern climate.

For centuries the Norwegian forest cat was exactly that. It lived in forests, and was only a popular figure among farmers who valued its hunting abilities. Wild cats can still be found on some farms in Norway to this day.

Sometime before the Second World War, some Norwegian cat fanciers began to promote the skogkatt and its popularity as a pet began. Cross breeding quickly reduced the stock of ‘pure' forest cats but a concerted effort from breeders in Norway during the 1970s halted the decline.

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