Norwegian Forest Cat Breed Profile

norwegian forest cat
Norwegian Forest Cat, Heikki Siltala, catza.net

Friendly, gentle, and easy-going, the Norwegian Forest Cat makes a great family pet.

The Norwegian Forest Cat has a lynx-like appearance with its muscular heavy-boned body, large tufted ears, and impressive ruff. Built for survival in all weather, this cat has a water-repellent semi-long coat that includes a woolly undercoat, long silky guard hairs, and a fluffy tail. The coat may be any colour or pattern other than Siamese shades and point markings.

The Norwegian Forest Cat’s head is triangular, with a strong chin and large almond-shaped eyes of any colour. It has large paws for traversing rocky, mountainous terrain, and its toes are tufted for extra warmth during cold Nordic winters.

Male Norwegian Forest Cats range from 12 to 15 pounds when full grown, but females are smaller. These cats can take as long as 4 to 5 years to reach full size and maturity, compared to 1 to 2 years for most breeds.

As kittens, Norwegian Forest Cats have long woolly coats that change to shorthaired with a bushy tail at around 3 months of age. At 5 months, the guard hairs begin coming in but the impressive fluffy coat takes some time to develop, in many cases up to 2 years.

During the spring, the Norwegian Forest Cat’s coat is shed to the point where it almost appears to be a shorthair again, but it grows back in the fall. Outdoor Norwegian Forest Cats develop thicker, woollier undercoats than indoor cats.

Norwegian Forest Cat History

Felines that may have been based on Norwegian Forest Cats have featured in various Norse myths. The goddess Freya rode in chariot drawn by two cats, and legend tells of a cat so large that even the mighty god Thor was unable to lift it. Huge furry Troll Cats also feature in Peter Christen Asbjørnsen’s Norwegian fairy tales.

norwegian forest cat
Norwegian Forest Cat, Heikki Siltala, catza.net

No one knows for sure how long Norwegian Forest Cats have existed in the region, with estimates ranging from hundreds of years to thousands. It has been speculated that the Vikings brought shorthaired cats from England and that longhaired cats were transported to Norway by Crusaders. Alternatively, all cats brought to the area may have been shorthaired, with the long-furred trait evolving for survival during long cold Nordic winters. Of the cats deposited on Norwegian shores, only the strongest, bravest, healthiest, and most intelligent would have survived the harsh northern climate. Thus, the breed evolved naturally, without any help from humans. Interestingly, Vikings also arrived on the shores of Newfoundland, Canada, before other Europeans, and many believe that a few Norwegian Forest Cats jumped ship there and evolved to become North America’s Maine Coon breed.

Prior to the late 1930s, Norwegian Forest Cats (known as skogkatts) lived as strays, appreciated only by farmers for their rodent-catching abilities. During the 1930s, cat fanciers worked to achieve distinct breed recognition, but reduced cat breeding during World War II combined with widespread interbreeding with the hauskatt, Norway’s domestic shorthair, subsequently threatened the Norwegian’s cat’s existence. Fortunately, the breed eventually rebounded with help from various cat fanciers.

In 1975, Norsk Skogkattring, a Norwegian Forest Cat association, was established to enforce guidelines on Norwegian Forest Cat breeding, and the first breeding pair was recorded in the United States in 1979. Today there are more than 500 Norwegian Forest Cats in the U.S., and the breed has been accepted by every major North American cat association.

Norwegian Forest Cat Temperament

The Norwegian Forest Cat has a pleasant, friendly, easy-going disposition. These affectionate cats love to socialize and are quick to purr. They want to be with people at all times and tend to love everyone equally rather than favouring any particular person, though there are certainly exceptions to this rule.

Tolerant, gregarious, gentle, and sweet-tempered, the Norwegian Forest Cat is a great family cat that usually gets along well with children and other pets. These cats are active and playful, making them fun companions for kids. They also love to explore high places and should be provided with cat trees or other perches.

Norwegian Forest Cat
Norwegian Forest Cat, Heikki Siltala, catza.net

The Norwegian Forest Cat tends to be relatively quiet. It’s not a chatty cat like the Siamese, but despite being the strong silent type, it’s listed among the breeds rated highly for intelligence.

Norwegian Forest Cat Health

Because they evolved without human intervention to live in a harsh climate, the majority of Norwegian Forest cats tend to be quite healthy and hardy, but the breed does suffer from a higher-than-average prevalence of Glycogen Storage Disease Type IV. This glucose metabolism disorder causes either stillbirth or fatal neuromuscular degeneration in kittens beginning at around 5 months of age. Because the disease is recessive, kittens only inherit it if both parents are carriers.

Another condition that may be slightly more prevalent among Norwegian Forest Cats than the general cat population is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), though evidence is weaker for this association.

Norwegian Forest Cat Grooming

Norwegian Forest Cats require less grooming than other longhaired cats because their coats are not prone to tangling, but combing them regularly during the shedding seasons (fall and spring) to remove loose hair is recommended. The spring moult is particularly excessive, so if owners don’t do any grooming, they’re likely to find all of their furniture covered in cat hair.

Adopt a Norwegian Forest Cat or Kitten

Among the less expensive purebreds, Norwegian Forest Kittens typically cost between $800 to $1,500, depending on markings, bloodlines, and other factors. A list of Norwegian Forest Cat breeders can be found on the Fanciers Breeder Referral List. You might also find Norwegian Forest Cats in need of permanent homes on Petfinder’s Norwegian Forest Cat page.

For more cat breed articles, visit the main Cat Breeds page. For a full list of cat articles, see the main Cats page.

References:

    • American Cat Fanciers’ Association. “The Norwegian Forest Cat.” ACFACat.com, n.d.
    • CFA Norwegian Forest Cat Breed Council. “Norwegian Forest Cat History.” NorwegianForestCatBC.org, 2009.
    • Choron, S.; Choron, H.; & Moore, A. Planet Cat: A CAT-alog. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007.
    • Clark, E., Cat Fanciers’ Association. “Breed Profile: Norwegian Forest Cat.” CFA.org, 4 July 2010.
    • Feline Advisory Bureau. “Norwegian Forest.” FABCats.org, n.d.
    • Jaymlynkatz. “About NFCs.” JamlynCats.com, 2011.
    • Norwegian Forest Cat Club. “Standard of Points.” NFCC.co.uk, 2011.
    • Petfinder.com. “Norwegian Forest Cat.” 2011.
    • Vanir Cattery. “Norwegian Forest Cats.” VanirCats.com, 2011.

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