The Norwegian forest cat is a well-known breed that is recognized for its size, fluffiness, and friendliness. However, there is more to these felines than what meets the eye. The origins of these cats are shrouded in mystery, with some theories suggesting that their ancestors were brought to Norway by Vikings as mousers aboard their ships, while others speculate that they might be descendants of long-haired cats brought to Scandinavia by the Crusaders. These early relatives evolved into the large, dense-coated cats we know today by roaming the forests of Norway.
These cats are so remarkable that they have even made their way into Nordic mythology as the “skogkatt,” a mythical mountain-dwelling fairy cat known for its extraordinary ability to climb sheer rock faces. It is believed that these legends inspired the breed’s evolution as their size, coats, and tree-climbing prowess are reminiscent of the skogkatt.
Norwegian forest cats are highly valued in their home country to the extent that King Olaf V of Norway designated them as the national cat. However, these cats almost faced extinction at one point. Fortunately, breeders took steps to preserve the breed, and now they are thriving around the world. Who knows, perhaps one day America will have its own national feline?
The Norwegian Forest cat was highly esteemed by farmers and sailors due to its remarkable hunting abilities. However, it wasn’t acknowledged as an official breed until the 1930s by feline enthusiasts. Unfortunately, the arrival of World War II caused a decrease in demand for the breed, resulting in crossbreeding that nearly led to their extinction. Luckily, a breeding program was established to preserve the lineage of this adorable cat for future generations. In 1977, the Norwegian Forest cat was recognized as an official breed by the Fédération Internationale Féline, and two years later, the first pair of Norwegian Forest cats arrived in America. The Cat Fanciers’ Association also accepted the breed in 1987. These fluffy felines are especially famous in Europe, particularly Scandinavia, where they are affectionately referred to as “Wegies.” They are also highly popular in France. Norwegian Forest cats are large in size, with males weighing between 13 to 22 pounds. Additionally, their thick fur ensures they stay warm during winter, making them perfect for colder climates.
While Norwegian forest cats are available in a wide range of colors and patterns, their primary feature is their lengthy and water-resistant double coat. These felines managed to survive the harsh Scandinavian winters due to their tufted ears and toes, which serve as natural earmuffs and boots. Despite their resilience, they are prone to certain health problems like hip dysplasia, hereditary heart issues, and glycogen storage disease type IV. Interestingly, Maine coons are related to Norwegian forest cats, and genetic testing shows that the latter breed descends from the former and an extinct domestic breed. To differentiate between the two, observe their facial features; Maine coons have wedge-shaped heads with prominent cheekbones, while Norwegian forest cats have triangle-shaped faces. Lastly, these cats are proficient climbers, thanks to their sturdy claws, and can even run down trees headfirst.