The Norwegian Forest is a domestic cat breed that originated from Northern Europe. It is the official cat of Norway where it is known as the “skogkatt” which means “forest cat”. That is the reason why it was named the Norwegian Forest Cat when it came to North America. But since the name is quite long, it is affectionately referred to as the “Wegie”. This cat breed resembles the Maine Coon cat and there might be a chance that they are related way back. But the Wegie is a distinct breed with its own unique characteristics. Read on to know more about the history and characteristics of the Norwegian Forest cat.
The ancestors of the Norwegian Forest cat include black and white shorthair cats that were brought to Norway from Great Britain by the Vikings, and longhaired cats brought to Norway by Crusaders sometime after 1000 AD. These cats could have reproduced with farm and feral stock and eventually evolved into the Norwegian Forest cats we see today. They are believed to have accompanied the Vikings on their journeys to keep their ships free of rats.
The thick and water-resistant coat of the Norwegian Forest cat developed to protect it from the harsh, cold environment of the Scandinavian woods. Their original landrace lived in the Norwegian forests for many centuries and they were later prized for their hunting skills on Norwegian farms. In the early 20th century, they were discovered by cat enthusiasts.
The Norwegian Forest Cat Club is the first organization devoted to the breed. It was formed in Oslo, Norway in 1938. The breed was then exhibited at a show in Oslo. However, its movement to preserve the breed was interrupted because of the Second World War. The Norwegian Forest cat became endangered and nearly extinct but the Norwegian Forest Cat Club helped the breed make a comeback by developing an official breeding program.
Fortunately, the Norwegian Forest cat survived the war. However, there were still some difficult decades ahead and only a little was done with them until the 1970s when it was registered in Europe. It was recognized in Sweden in 1978 and was accepted as a breed in the United Kingdom in 1989 by the Norwegian Cat Club of Britain.
It was in 1979 when the breed was imported to the United States and in 1994, it was registered in the American Cat Fanciers Association. It was eventually recognized by other cat registries throughout the years.
The Norwegian Forest cat is a popular breed in Sweden and Norway. And it also has been the 5th most popular cat breeds in France since 2003, having more than 400 births per year.
Characteristics of a Norwegian Forest Cat
Average weight: 9 – 22 pounds
Life span: 12 – 16 years
The Norwegian Forest cat is known to have a long, thick, beautiful coat and large size. It has an inverted triangle-shaped head that is pointed at the chin and then widening on each side up toward its medium to large ears that are heavily tufted. Wegies have large, almond-shaped eyes that can be green, gold, or copper. White cats, on the other hand, may have blue eyes or odd eyes where one is blue and the other eye is of another color.
Their moderately long body looks powerful because of their broad chest and heavily muscled thighs. Their paws are large and round and have tufts of fur between the toes. Their tails are bushy and are as long as their bodies.
The Norwegian Forest cat has a semi-long, water-resistant double coat that it puts on and takes off depending on the weather condition. During the winter season, it is protected by a dense, woolly undercoat, a full ruff, and a long, flowing tail to keep itself warm. In the summer, its undercoat disappears, giving it a different look. They come in almost every color and pattern, with or without white except chocolate, lavender, or a pointed pattern like the Siamese cat.
The Norwegian Forest cat is a gentle and friendly pet. It is fond of family members but it does not demand constant attention and petting. If no one is home, it can entertain itself and it can also be satisfied to be in the same room with people. But even though it appreciates human company, it can also be a bit reserved with visitors. It is also not much of a lap cat but it will welcome a nice scratch between its ears or beneath the chin. It has a quiet voice that is reserved only if it needs something like food.
This breed is also a climber and you can often find it at the highest point of your home that it can reach. It is a smart, independent cat who can learn quickly and also has an alert nature. Since it has a friendly and laidback personality, it is a great choice for families with children. Norwegian Forest cats are also happy to live with other cats and even with cat-friendly dogs.
Caring for a Norwegian Forest Cat
To keep the Norwegian Forest cat’s long coat beautiful, brush or comb it once or twice a week using a bristle brush, wire slicker brush or stainless steel comb. If there are tangles, gently run across them and work them out so you won’t hurt your pet. It is rarely necessary to give them baths and since they have waterproof coats, it can be very challenging to get them wet enough for a bath.
The rest of their grooming needs is basic care such as brushing their teeth daily, trimming their nails weekly, and checking their ears for any signs of redness and bad smell. Always keep the litter box of your pet clean to keep its fur clean as well.
Norwegian Forest cats can certainly survive the cold climate but it is still better to keep them as indoor-only cats to protect them from diseases spread by other cats, attacks by dogs, and from being hit by a cat outside. Since they are playful pets, it’s better to build them a large outdoor enclosure where they can enjoy jumping around safely.
To know the best diet and foods for your Norwegian Forest cat, it’s better to consult your local vet. Also, make sure that you always provide it with fresh and clean water to keep your pet hydrated.
If your family is looking for a gentle and friendly pet, the Norwegian Forest cat might be the perfect choice for you. It is fond of family members but won’t demand constant attention and petting.