History of the Norwegian Forest Cat

Domestic cats can be really cute and adorable. Their usually soft, calm nature coupled with their beauty makes them the second most owned pet in the world, with dogs coming in first. The Norwegian Forest cat may not be the most popular breed in the world, but in Europe, it is definitely one of the most talked about. In fact, it has been Norway’s national cat since the 1950’s when King Olav V made the declaration. 

The breed isn’t only popular in Norway, but in other Scandinavia countries including Sweden. In France too, Norwegian Forests are also quite popular, having many loyal fans like those in Norway. They have even gone as far as giving them the nickname “Wegies”, which means “Norwegians”. Click here to learn more interesting facts about this breed. 

History

While this big cat may have a feral appearance, you may be surprised to learn that they are not descendants of any wild cat, but are rather a natural breed. Since they have adapted to surviving the harsh Norwegian weather, their ancestors may have beenblack and white shorthair cats that were brought to Norway from Britain by Vikings, a while after 1000 AD. 

Wegies may also be connected to the longhaired cats that came into Norway in the 14th century with the Crusaders. Between then and when they began to be noticed by cat enthusiasts, they reproduced and evolved into the breed we know today. Other breeds like the Turkish Angora and the Siberian from Turkey and Russia, respectively, are also considered as possible ancestors. 

In Norse mythology, a cat breed is mentioned, and referred to as skogkattwhich dwelled in the mountains and can climb rocks that other cats struggled to or couldn’t at all. Known to be an adept climber, Claire Bessant, an author, believes that the legend may be referring to the ancestors of the modern-day Norwegian Forest cat. Today, the modern breed is still called the Norse skogkattby some fancier organization and breeders. 

It is believed that the ancestors of Wegies may have been used on Viking ships to deplete the number of rats aboard their ship. Those on land that roamed the Norwegian forests had excellent survival and hunting skills, and so were used by farmers to ward off rodents, until they were discovered by cat enthusiasts in the early twentieth century. 

In 1938, the Norwegian Forest Cat Club was established in Oslo. It was the first institution that was devoted to preserving the breed. However, like many other things that the second World War affected negatively, the club’s vision took a heavy hit. During the war, Wegies cross-bred with other cat breeds so much that the breed nearly became extinct. After the war, the club developed a breeding program aimed at reviving the species; the fact that the breed still exists today is proof that it was a success. 

The popularity of the Norwegian Forest cat was evident in Norway, however, this popularity soared when in the 1950’s, King Olav V made the breed the official cat of the country. The cat didn’t leave the country until the 1970’s and as a result wasn’t registered in many institutions including the Federation Internationale Feline (FIFe). It remained this way until efforts to register it were made by a Norwegian cat enthusiast, Carl-Fredrik Nordane. However, it wasn’t until 1994 that the breed was made official in the United States and registered in the American Cat Fanciers Association.  

Appearance

Wegies are larger than the average domestic cats and have a strong build. Their body is well-balanced, with a broad chest and noticeable girth. This gives them a really powerful appearance, one that other breeds may find intimidating. Adult females typically weigh between 8 and 18 pounds (3.6-8kg), while males being slightly larger weigh between 10 and 20 pounds (4.5-9kg). 

Their head is long and mimics the shape of an equilateral triangle. Wegies have a short, muscled neck and a straight nose. Their chin is firm and well aligned with the front of the nose, giving the overall structure of the face a symmetrical look. The Norwegian Forest cat has ears that are easy to spot and identify. The ears have a broad base that narrows at the tip with a tuft of hair, resembling that of a lynx. 

Their eyes are large and almond shaped and can have any color. However, shades of gold, green, or green-gold are more common. Having evolved in the cold Norwegian climate, these larger-than-average cats have a dense coat that helps keep them warm. The coat is double with the undercoat being wooly, while the long, outer layer is water resistant and has a glossy look to it. 

The coat in the chest region has a noticeable ruff and is toughest on the limbs. During winter, the coat becomes considerably denser to help keep the body warm. The tail of this breed is usually long and bushy. 

Personality

Wegies are natural athletes that are playful and active both as kittens and adults. They are intelligent and are generally considered to be good with people. Their impressive appearance suggest that they may be aggressive, however, owners of these cats tell a different story. They are sweet and friendly and have no problem sharing their love with a large family. 

When with their favorite humans, they purr a lot to express their love and happiness; but don’t let their sweet nature fool you into thinking these cats can’t hold their own. Their strong, athletic build, coupled with a cat’s naturally sharp reflexes makes them more than capable of defending themselves in a fight. By checking out holistapet breeds list, you can find out more about these wonderful animals. 

Final Thoughts

While these cats are sweet and friendly, they may not be the best choice for new cat owners. Their dense coat requires regular grooming to keep them looking their best and brightest. Also, because of their size, they tend to eat a lot and are prone to several health issues that a first timer may have a hard time dealing with. 

Leave a Comment