The Norwegian Forest Cat has been captivating people’s hearts for centuries. These cats, nicknamed “Wegies” (WEE-Gees), are more common in Norway (the country of their origin) than in the US. They make purrrfect family pets!
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a very old breed. It is suspected that cats traveled with the ancient Romans as they spread across Europe with some eventually ending up in Norway. Through the process of natural selection and many years, the short haired cats from the Mediterranean area became sturdier, longer haired cats that could withstand the harsh Norwegian winter.
Norway has a wealth of myths that was originally handed down by word of mouth, but eventually written into a set of poems called the Edda (800 – 1200 AD). In the Edda, the goddess Freya is described as riding in a chariot that is pulled by two large, long haired cats. While it is a controversial topic, many believe that the cats described are Norwegian Forest Cats. This part of mythology as well as other tales of cats in their folklore suggest that cats have been in Norway for hundreds, if not thousands or years.
Vikings were very fond of the Norwegian Forest Cat. These kitties were used as mousers on the vikings’ ships! It is said that the Norwegian Forest Cat may have traveled to the Americas along with famed viking explorer Leif Erikson and his contemporaries in the 900’s.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is considered so precious in Norway that it was named the official cat breed of Norway by the late King Olaf. However, before World War II, the purity of the breed was at risk due to hybridization with other breeds. A dedicated group of breeders began work reviving the breed, but were interrupted by the war. Once the war was resolved, breeders started again on their task and they didn’t let go of their cats easily. The first breeding pair of Norwegian Forest Cats to make it to the US didn’t come over until 1979.
The Rugged Norwegian Forest Cat
The Norwegian Forest Cat’s look is very representative of it’s adaptations to survive in Norway’s cold climate. They are large and muscular cats. They have 2 layers of hair: a dense undercoat and long, coarse guard hairs over top. The neck has a thick ruff of hair, there is long hair over the tail and britches, and there are tufts of hair between the toes and coming out of the ears. The coat is waterproof and easy to groom. This coat will require extra grooming in the spring as it sheds to become lighter for the warmer months. The Norwegian Forest Cat’s coat can be found in any color or pattern. Brown tabby with a white belly is very common.
As far as looks go, there are many similarities between the Norwegian Forest Cat and the Maine Coon. However, the Norwegian Forest Cat has some distinct differences in the face. Their face is shaped like an equilateral triangle (all 3 sides the same length). In profile, their brow line to the end of their nose is a straight line. Their eyes are large and almond shaped while the ears are wide and arch forward.
For the most part, this is a very healthy breed of cat. They have had to survive a lot of harsh conditions! The only genetic problem that this breed seems to have is Polycystic Kidney Disease. As mentioned, most Norwegian Forest Cats will be healthy, but it is not a bad idea to have your veterinarian keep an eye on those kidneys.
Rough on the Outside, Cuddly on the Inside
If you are looking for an outgoing, but not overbearing cat, the Norwegian Forest Cat is for you. These kitties love to be with their humans! They don’t just attach to one person either, they like to make friends with everyone. Anywhere you are in your home, they will want to be near you. They may even choose to be in your lap. Like many cats, they like to live on their own terms.
A Norwegian Forest Cat isn’t the type of cat that will wear you out. They typically have short bursts of energy that are followed by long naps. During those burst of energy they are very athletic, love to climb, and enjoy playing games. They are very intelligent! Even though they are homebodies, they do adapt to changes fairly easily. These kitties will get along great with other pets and children.
If you are considering adding a Norwegian Forest cat to your family, check out the adoptable ones on PetFinder!
Do you know any Norwegian Forest Cats?
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