Photo by Eva Prokop

Norwegian Forest Cat - Breed profile:

Origin: Norway

Colours: Any colour

Size: Medium to large
Coat Type(s): Longhair
Grooming: Weekly
Talkativeness: Quiet
Activity Level: Average
Attention Requirement: Average
Overall: Easy to handle

This is a very old breed developed by Mother Nature rather than selective breeding. Norwegian Forest cats have a natural adaptation to the cold climate of the Northern Europe region. At first sight, these cats look nearly the same as the famous Maine Coons, but in fact the two breeds evolved separately. Norwegian Forest cats are a bit smaller than Maine Coons and they have a historical background as a farm cat. They are also known as Wegies (Wee-jees).

Physical characteristics

Norwegian Forest cats are large and strong. They have a long body and long legs with heavy paws. Hind legs are generally longer than front legs. Their triangular shaped head has a long, wide and straight nose. The eyes are large and almond-like; they are set at a slight angle. Adult males may weigh from 6 to 10 kg (13 to 22 lb). Females are usually half that weight.

Temperament

Just like Maine Coons, Norwegian Forest cats are basically robust, intelligent, and playful. Very affectionate. They enjoy the human company, as well as the company of other pets. Sometimes they look for company if the owners haven't given them enough attention. But they can always amuse themselves if you are momentarily distracted from your primary job as cat entertainer. Due to their background, they also like the outdoors very much. Moreover, some owners are strongly convinced that these cats do have to spend time outdoors. Wegies are great hunters. This instinct cannot be ignored so you had better keep other vulnerable pets (such as birds and rodents) appropriately housed for their own safety. Besides, don't forget to provide your cat with soft balls for fetching and interactive toys; whirling feather toys are always popular.
Photo by Lone Recht
Wegies may be quite friendly with other cats in your neighborhood. Moreover, it is not easy to stress Norwegian cats since they are rather patient. This makes Norwegian Forest cats great for a family that has children. They love high vantage points and enjoy climbing trees. If they are indoor cats, they appreciate climbing on appliances, bookshelves, and other similar surfaces. So you may want to buy a special cat tree. These cats can be quite vocal if they want, but perhaps less insistent than the Siamese.

Coat and grooming

Norwegian Forest Cats have a dense fluffy double-layered coat coming in nearly all colours and patterns (except lilac, vanilla, chocolate, colourpoint pattern and any of those combined with white - these colours are generally not accepted for the breed). Wegies have tufted ears and a long bushy tail. This luxurious fur, being waterproof, protects them against the northern cold, rain, and snow. Brushing is necessary at least once a week, but frequency will never be excessive because it will help to prevent furballs. These cats moult very heavily in the spring and summer. Outdoor Norwegian cats groom naturally by rubbing against trees to remove loose fur.

Health

The breed doesn't have many health problems. The ones the owner may face, though, are Glycogen Storage Disease Type IV and Retinal Dysplasia (RD).

Other interesting facts

- Norwegian Forest Cats are described in Norse mythology and many Nordic fairytales.
- In early tales, these cats were thought to have supernatural powers because they, as well as other mythological creates such as trolls and the seductive "huldra", were shy creatures that liked to hang out where humans lived.
- It is very likely that these were the cats that accompanied vikings on their trade routes and in their raids, keeping rat infestations at bay. Therefore, it is possible that Wegies were known in America a thousand years ago thanks to viking explorers, and in 1979 the breed was re-introduced to the US by Norwegian enthusiasts.
- Over time, they became domesticated as farm cats, but a part of the population has always been wild. They haven't been truly wild though, as they have always preferred to live alongside humans for various reasons (company, food supply, safety, etc).
- Since Norwegian Forest cats have always been "out and about", roaming freely around farms and in spacious backyards of Norwegian villages, there has been a lot of crossbreeding. The standards and regulations of the breed weren't adopted until 1979. The three most easily recognizable requirements are:
- A triangle-shaped face with three equal lines running from the tip of the jaw to the tip of each ear,
- A thick, two-layered coat,
- A short, strong neck, and a long tail (ideally as long as the rest of the body).