The Norwegian Forest Cat or ‘Wegies’, as they are affectionately called, have their ancestry rooted in Norway; in fact, it is Norway’s official cat. In its home country, the feline is referred to as Skogkatt, meaning forest cat; however, its present name of “Norwegian Forest Cat (NFC) was acquired when the breed landed in North America. As the kitty has some close resemblance to the Maine Coon, speculations are that there may be blood tie between the two breeds. The NFC has a loving, kind, and gentle nature with a strong nurturing intuition. It is distinguished by its physical attributes which include; a double coat with several patterns and colors, tufted ears and paws, plumed tail, triangular head as well as strong and muscled body. So, if you are in the market to purchase one, continue reading for more information about this cat breed.
History of the Norwegian Forest Cat
According to a Norwegian legend, a cat is seen weaving its way in and out of the forest trees. Just like magic, it appears and disappears, more often than not, you will have a fleeting glimpse of the thick long furry tail of this mystical feline, and it seems to understand what is happening when humans don’t. It even appears to know what is in a person’s heart, this exceptional kitty with the beautiful wagging tail is the Norwegian Forest cat popularly referred as Wegies.
No doubt, the breed originated from Norway with its history going back centuries ago. The cat has featured in several other legends, and fairy tales, among which is the one that recounted how a chariot belonging to Freya – the Norse goddess was pulled by some giant cats which were six in number, but the origin of the cats remain a mystery till date.
The story has always come with variations; one said that the giant felines originated from Turkey as the direct progeny of long-haired kitties which came into the country from Byzantium and were brought in by warriors from Scandinavia, who were under the services of the Byzantine Empire. Some other versions of the tale says that the Wegies have blood ties with the Russian Siberian cat. However, they could have come with the Vikings booty or even be the resultant effect of some natural selection: short-haired feline whose natural adaptations to the unbearable, near-Arctic climate breed progeny equipped with lengthy topcoats as well as woolly undercoats that had the propensity to shed water easily.
For many centuries, the Skogkatt was able to survive in the wild without human impute, offering its services to homes and farmers as a mouser in exchange for some sort of shelter in stables, barns, and homes. The legend of the NFC is just as beautiful and striking as the breed. It sparked the interest of Norwegian breeders who commenced a breeding project to develop the exceptional magical jungle kitty into a breed that would eventually be acceptable to the show bench.
The breed’s debut show was accomplished in a cat exhibition show held in Oslo in 1938 before the 2nd World War. However, any plans of developing them into a full breed was interrupted by World War II, but it was fortunate that they were able to survive the war. For decades, nothing was done about the Wegies till the 1070s. By 1977 the feline was finally registered officially with Europe’s Federation Internationale Feline.
It took quite some time for the Norwegian Forest Cat to be exported to the United States of America, where already, the Maine Coon had pride of place as the native forest cat. The breed was then holding the entire country entranced. It was a couple of years after the NFC was officially registered in Europe that a pair was first exported to the US. The breed has since gained popularity in the United States and Europe, especially with the effort of association of breeders who are dedicated to their course of maintaining the NFC in the show hall. The Norwegian Forest has accumulated an admirable level of following in the US since it was introduced.
Quick Facts About the Norwegian Forest Cat
- The Wegies are Warrior cats
The origin of the breed has remained a mystery; however, many believe that they are descendants of white and black short-haired kitties which were used on Viking’s ships as mousers. There are people who are still of the belief that they are related to long-haired cats which came with the Crusaders to Scandinavia. The NFC’s earlier relatives were known to roam the jungles of Norway, interbreeding with barn cats as well as feral felines. With time, the breed evolved into the big thick-coated flurry cat we know and love.
- The NFC is the national cat of Norway
The Norwegian Forest cat was designated as the national cat of Norway by King Olaf V. It is not known whether the United States will ever gain a national kitty. However, the Grumpy Cat is the most likely to fill the post.
- The Wegies nearly went into extinction
The Norwegian forest cat is prized by both sailors and farmers for its exceptional mousing skills. However, the breed did not attract the attention of fanciers till the1930s. Even the little attention that the Feline was beginning to attract waned with the advent of the 2nd World War, which made it come dangerously close to extinction from the resultant effect of cross-breeding. Then came an official breeding program which primarily served to preserve kitties for the future.
The breed’s recognition and acceptance came in 1977 by the Fédération Internationale Féline. After a couple of years, a breeding pair of the NFC was exported to the United States of America. However, its official acceptance by the Cat Fanciers’ Association became a reality in 1987.
- The breed is big in all of Europe
Despite the fact that the Norwegian Forest cats don’t come anywhere near the top 10 felines in America, they are well-loved all over Europe. And it does not come as a surprise that the breed gained so much popularity in Scandinavia. In fact, the kitty’s nickname of Wegies was actually derived from the word Norwegians. Another European country where the feline has so much popularity in France.
- They are relatively huge
Relative to the other members of the feline population, the Wegies are rather large. Many are known to come larger than some dogs that are small in nature. The normal body weight for a typical male NFC ranges from 13 to 22 pounds. They are, no doubt, a breed of large cats, highly intelligent and also independent. Very loving of its human family but not so demanding.
- They are friendly
This is one of those easy-going cats that can effortlessly blend with everyone, including other felines and dogs. The breed adapts well with humans who will spare it some attention like combing its gorgeous coat weekly or two times a week.
- They are naturally equipped with built-in winter coats
Though they differ in color, the NFC does have one uniting characteristic – all of them came with an extensive double-layered coat which functions to repel water. Other things they have in common are tufted toes and ears that function like built-in boots and earmuffs. All these attributes aid the kitty to survive the harsh winter of Scandinavian.
- The breed is prone to health issues
Though they were able to survive for centuries in the wild, the Wegies are still susceptible to health issues. They tend to suffer from hip dysplasia, hereditary heart conditions, and glycogen storage disease type IV.
- They have blood ties with the Maine Coons
Looking at the large body and bushy tail of the NFC, you will agree that it looks like the Maine Coons. In fact, both can be taken as cousins, and true to appearance, indications from genetic testing clearly shows that the Maine Coon is a direct descendant of the NFC and an unknown domestic feline which is currently extinct. Despite the similarities in appearance, the Maine Coon and the NFC can be distinguished by looking at their faces. While the former has high cheekbones with a wedge-shaped head, the latter comes with a triangle-shaped face.
- The breed is good at tree climbing
The Wegies are naturally equipped to climb as well as run down a tree, aided by their claws which come sturdier than other breeds of feline. These specialized claws allow the breed to accomplish really impressive climbing feats.
- The NFC is best described as mythical creatures
The Wegies are no ordinary cats; in fact, their origin can best be described with myths and legends. According to the Norwegians, they are originally called Skogkatt – big, long-haired feline that dwelled in the mountains, with the natural capacity to scale sheer rock faces which is impossible for other felines to accomplish. The NFC can achieve this because of their coat, body size, and natural prowess in the art of tree climbing. It is possible that the cat served as a real-life motivation and inspiration for the skogkatt, which generally translates to mean “forest cat.
The legends also tell of Freya – the Norse goddess who loved the skogkatt and would have her chariot drawn by six strong ones. Another Norwegian myth tells of the deceptive god Jormungand who had to go under the disguise of a skogkatt in a bid to win a contest of strength with Thor, which he managed to accomplish. Thanks to these myths, several breeders refer to the NFC as the “Norse skogkatt.”
Things You Should Know About the Norwegian Forest Cat
Even with their long life expectancy of 14 to 16 years, the NFC still suffers from diseases like;
- Glycogen Storage Disease IV – This is an uncommon heritable disease which affects glucose metabolism. Affected kittens die shortly after birth or may come as stillborn. Some live as long as five months but will still die after the symptoms start to show.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – This is a disease of the heart which is hereditary in some breeds like the Maine Coon. However, there is no proof of heritability in the NFC.
- Polycystic kidney disease – A genetic diseases that target the kidneys and destroys it within a short time.
- Retinal dysplasia – Though it doesn’t degenerate the cat’s vision, it is an eye defect that gives rise to spots on the kitty’s retina.
The Wegies have the natural tendency to adequately control their nutrition, reducing intake, and increasing exercise when it feels the need. All you are required to do is present the kitty with enough room to roam and run as well as sufficient playtime, and the need to keep it on a nutrition plan will not arise. However, the best diet for the NFC is animal protein, which is also the best for every other cat.
The litter box should be clean at all times as the NFC is no different from other felines that are particular about their bathroom sanitation – no doubt, a clean litter box makes for a clean fur.
The NFC should also stay indoors to avoid incidents like theft, car accidents, diseases, or attacks by other animals like coyotes and dogs. What is recommended is a big outdoor enclosure where your kitty can safely enjoy the elements.
Brush the kitty’s long coat with the aid of stainless steel comb or slicker brush; this should be done once a week or twice. However, brushing time should be increased when the cat is in its shedding season. Though the breed enjoys its grooming time, you should try to have it integrated into playtime. Tangles can hurt the cat, so if you happen to run into tangles while brushing, try to get it disentangled gently. In the same way as every other dense coated kitty, a hairball remedy may be necessary during the shedding period.
It is a good thing that baths may not be needed; besides, the cat can never get soaked enough for a bath because of its coat which is practically waterproof. To avoid periodontal disease, the NFC’s teeth need a daily brushing session. However, if it proves difficult, you can make do with weekly brushing. The ears and eyes need to be wiped with a soft, wet cloth daily to get rid of any discharge. Each eye should be wiped with a different side of the cloth to prevent spreading infection. Equally, the ears should be given weekly inspection and cleaned with a damp cloth or cotton ball if found dirty. This should be accomplished with a mixture of warm water and cider vinegar in equal quantity. Cotton swabs should be avoided, in case it damages the inner ear.
The breed’s relationship with its human family is usually on their own terms. It is easy to train them as lap cat, but when to get off the lap is solely their decision. However, the kitties love to be close to the family that adopts them but in a place of their choice, which can range from chairs to desktops or even beds. One thing that you must never fail to acquire for the Norwegian Forest cat is a scratcher or scratching post. The breed is moderately active, but they also love to have long naps. They are very sensitive felines, yet they can be rather social. Those who have adopted them as pets have attested to the fact that the NFC is an intelligent breed that readily adapts to changes.
The feline can go outside, but the safest place to keep them is indoors. The breed is undemanding as it can comfortable stay home alone when no one is around, the only thing that you need to do is to provide your furry friend with fascinating toys and playthings, possibly perches where they can get some outside views, and most important of all is that you should make out time for some regular one-on-one encounter with them and you will be rewarded with a well behaved as well as well adjusted kitty.
Thought the breed loves human company, it does not blend well with strange faces, and sometimes it wouldn’t want to be a lap cat. However, a gentle scratch in between the ears will always be welcome, and the kitty is known to respond with a nice cheek rub or head butt. Its communication is accomplished with typical Scandinavian restraint. The cat has a rather quiet voice which it only employs when it happens to need something – perhaps dinner on time. The only time the cat tends to rise is when it feels that it is being ignored.
Despite their huge body size, the Norwegian Forest cat is a competent climber; their best positions are always at the highest points in the home. Unlike most felines, the kitty finds no hardship in descending trees or any other great heights, and it usually goes headfirst. The Wegies owe this feat to their heritage as a farm cat as well as wilderness cats, and with the aid of their waterproof coat, the kitty feels no qualms about fishing in the water for its meal.
The feline is a fast learner with a nature that can be best described as alert. Its friendly disposition makes it the perfect companion for families that have kids and cat-friendly dogs. The kitty appreciates the attention of kids that treat him with a lot of respect and politeness and does not mind going for rides in baby buggies or even playing dress-up with the children.
As a territorial creature, the NFC loves to have enough room to herself as she is known to enjoy vigorous activities like running, climbing, hiding as well as ambushing her toys. It is your duty to provide your furry companion with perches and also enough room to exhibit her running skills.