Norwegian Forest Cat – Please note: All the photographs illustrating this page (which are generally thumbnails) are by Helmi Flick, a professional photographer of repute. The copyright belongs to her. Please respect that. Sources of information are embedded in the text and referenced by “src:” or at the end of the section concerned.
The Norwegian Forest Cat (“NFC”) is a distinguished and handsome cat. It is also one of the great favourites of people who like and appreciate domestic cats. Over the period of a long and objectively managed poll with a significant number of votes (1,600 at June 2009), this cat breed currently stands at 10th position. The International Cat Association register 45 different cat breeds. There are more on this site. I discuss, below, what it is that makes this cat popular.
It is arguable that it could or should be more popular but the mighty Maine Coon cat may have stolen some of its thunder. This is because the Maine Coon looks like the NFC and may have similar if not the same origins (see below). Another factor is that the biggest domestic cat “market” is America and the Maine Coon is America’s domestic cat.
Other names for this cat are:
- Norsk Skogkatt (Norwegian for “Norwegian Forest Cat”)
- Skaukatt (src: The Encyclopedia of the Cat)
- Wegie (extracted from the word Norwegian)
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The history is long. This cat is a part of Norway’s history and is mentioned in mythological tales. Cats were brought to Norway in around 1000 AD. Oslo was founded by the Vikings in about 1000 AD (src: www.thestar.com.) . At this time the Vikings of Norway where trading with the Byzantine East (the Roman Empire – src: The Encyclopaedia of the Cat). It is accepted that the domestic cat was introduced into Europe by the Romans (e.g. British Shorthair cat). There is evidence that the first Norwegian Forest Cats came from the Roman Empire during the period that the Vikings were trading with the Romans.
The evidence is in the form of Norwegian cats with coat colours that are common in Turkey including what was then Byzantium, now Istanbul. Some of these cats would have been the forerunners of the NFC being longhaired cats. Evolution would then have gently played a part to create the moggie cat companion that became popular with famers (as was the case in America with the Maine Coon). However, some Norwegians, apparently, would prefer that their native cat’s origins go back considerably further to 4000 AD (src: When Cats Reigned Like Kings By Georgie Anne Geyer).
A quick diversion to the origins of the Maine Coon is appropriate. Although the general consensus is that the Maine Coon developed from long haired cats brought by the pilgrim settlers to North America, it is possible that they arrived some 500 years or more earlier when the Vikings discovered North America in AD 1001 or 1002 (src: http://answers.yahoo.com). There is then a relationship between these two breeds.
There is also a connection between cats and gods in Norse mythology. There is a cat that was too big for the god Thor to lift and the cats that pulled the carriage of the goddess Freya.
In 1599 a Danish priest living in Norway described a cat he called the Norwegian Lynx. He was describing, it seems, the Norwegian Forest Cat. He wrote of the cat catching fish and liking water. It seems then that this cat breed was semi-wild or perhaps totally wild at the time.
In 1930 the Skogkatt was first shown in a cat show in Germany. This was the beginning of the NFC as a purebred show cat. The second world war intervened and cat breeding became a low priority. At this time there was also the problem of naturally occurring hybridization through the NFC mating with other domestic cats which diluted the purity of the genes (src: When Cats Reigned Like Kings). That needed to be dealt with by the cat fancy, which is what happened when Carl Frederick Nordane, as the then president of the Norwegian Cat Association (founded in 1963), organized a breed club to manage the pedigree of the NFC and by the 1970s controlled breeding, apparently, got underway.
The first cat to be assessed by the breed council of the time was a brown and white mackerel tabby (src: Legacy of the Cat). By 1977 FIFe had recognized this breed and breeding on a international level began. On 1st November 1979, the Norwegian Forest Cat was imported into the United States and into Britain about a year later. The first litter born in the USA happened on March 21st 1981. The first association to grant championship status was The International Cat Association (TICA) in August of 1984. The Norwegian Forest Cat is now recognized by all the major cat registries, ACFA, CFA, CCA, CFF and GCCF (src: The Encyclopaedia of the Cat).
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a large cat but not the largest domestic cat breed. Adult males weigh 6 to 10 kg (13 to 22 lbs), while females are approximately half that size. The body should be “substantial” with a good depth of flank and long (see Cat Body Types). This cat has evolved naturally over a long period of time to become suited to the cold environment by developing a thick, semi-long, all weather coat. Their coat is essentially waterproof due to its coarse outer layer and dense underlay. The fur makes this cat look larger that it is. Norwegian Forest Cats have tufted ears and a long bushy tail. Their hind legs are longer than their front legs.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is accepted by the cat associations in all traditional colours. Here are some important points on apperance:
- the eyes are wide set, open, large and almond shaped;
- the head should be triangular. In fact all three side of the triangle should be equal. The profile should be straight and the chin strong. The profile should be straight from the forehead to the nose;
- the ears should be wide at the base, wide apart, set high on the head and have heavy ear furnishings (ear hair) with lynx like tufts at the tip;
- a full ruff is preferred and what is called “britches” meaning longer hair on the hind legs;
- the coat should be smooth and water repellent (so that it beads up when wet);
- the body should be large, the bone structure solid and there should be good musculature;
- the eye colour is unrelated to coat colour;
- the tail, as mentioned is bushy and long. It should be the same length as the body.
- please click on the link for a look at the various breed standards (in outline) with a large format slide show of photographs.
Being a forest cat the hind legs are powerful. This cat is a fine jumper able to climb trees well and climb down them equally efficiently. In fact, they sometimes come down from a considerable height head first running down the tree trunk as if on the flat. I have seen this myself as I lived with a NFC hybrid.
Tabby Norwegian Forest Cats and bicolour NFCs are frequently seen in non purebred cats (moggies or random bred cats) and as this breed originates from that sort of cat and without the breed standard encouraging otherwise (all colours and all divisions – TICA breed standard), tabbies and bicolours are frequently encountered (src: The Encyclopedia of the Cat) – see the mackerel tabby below:
The silver tabby and white can look tarnished, which is not considered a flaw in the Norwegian Forest Cat but it is in other breeds (src: The Encyclopedia of the Cat). Characteristics such as:
- cats that are too small and finely built;
- heads that are rounded or too square;
- a profile with a break;
- eyes that are round;
- ears that are too small or narrow at the base;
- legs that are short and/or thin;
- a short tail;
- too cobby or too long a body or
- a dry coat or a coat that is too silky;
…are frowned upon (src: TICA breed standard)
They are very intelligent, playful cats that enjoy human company. They have the ability to adapt to new surroundings and may be able to find their way through closed doors. The Norwegian Forest Cat is alert and they make good hunters (src: Medical, Genetic & Behavioural Aspects of Purebred Cat – see below).
Perhaps a good way to look at this cat’s personality is to see what other people think by reference to their comments regarding my video on my YouTube channel (see video below). These are not taken verbatim as I do not have copyright. They are, in fact, summarized and rewritten – the meaning is the same:
“They are the best cat breed. They are very friendly, funny and kind cats. Mine loved the snow and he liked to be cradled like a baby. He would meow for food and showed great persistence. He was a very sweet cat.”
“Such beautiful cats”
“The Norwegian Forest cat prefers to be in the warm and anyway most of Norway is not covered by snow! A powerful jaw is important in the appearance of this cat breed.”
“Despite being rude, biting me on my heels, destroying my leather sofa he was my favourite animal ever.”
“A Norwegian Forest Cat’s personality means that this cat needs to be outdoors preferably in a forest.”
“These cats are not only special because of their looks, their personality is much more special.”
“They are awesome!”
This is my comment about living with a half-Norwegian Forest cat:
“I still love her. I still think about her. She was very loving and immensely athletic. She had a very quiet voice. She died in an car accident 15+ years ago aged 4.” (as at June 2009).
In addition to the above, Gloria Stephens in Legacy of the Cat says that the Norwegian Forest Cat:
- knows their mind;
- are “free thinking”;
- very quiet;
- not generally interested in playing games;
- and dependable;
A cat’s health is the most important aspect of the cat but something that is not readily visible. As a semi-wild cat this cat was pretty robust. I would have expected this breed to the same as any other mixed breed cat before she became a show cat. TICA says that the Norwegian Forest Cat is a healthy, robust, breed. The book, Medical, Genetic & Behavioural Aspects of Purebred Cat edited by Dr Clark, DVM (published 1992) says that at that time few medical problems were known. The book also says that a few instances of flat chests, pectus excavatum have been reported. I would doubt if this is significant.
One disorder however seems to be particular to this cat breed, namely Type IV glycogen storage disease (type IV GSD). This is a disease found in humans too. It is called Andersen disease or amylopectinosis. It is a rare disorder linked to an autosomal-recessive gene. It results in a deficiency in the behaviour of an enzyme. The enzyme is required to produce glucose. It is an inherited disease in this cat breed. As the disorder is due to a recessive gene (autosomal – sex related) both parents have to carry the gene for the disorder to be present in the offspring which are sometimes still born and if not die at about 4-5 months due to “neuromuscular degeneration”.
Also retinal dysplasia may be present more frequently than normal in this breed of cat. It results in the malformation of the retina. The symptoms can be more or less severe, causing a small blind spot (relatively minor) or blindness. This disease can be inherited. There is no treatment currently.
This cat is fairly low maintenance (little grooming). They take about 5 years to reach maturity.
- see Cat Health Problems
- Genetic Diseases in Purebred Cats
There are two videos. The first is probably quite well known. It simply celebrates this fine cat. The second is about a Norwegian Forest Cat family. It is a video of a mother and her offspring. The link below the video takes you to a page about the family and a bit more.
Go to Norwegian Forest Cat Family for lots more on this family and on the breed. There will be a bit of overlap because this site is evolving.
Here is a selection of still photos (thumbnails) some of which you might have seen in the videos:
Tabby and White
Tabby and White
Norwegian Forest Cat Club UK – established 1987.
No other clubs come to hand, readily, on either a Google.com or co.uk search. Please contact me if you’d like to be listed.
Do you have a personal story about the NFC or your NFC? Please share it by making a comment – thanks!
***Please scroll down to see the submissions***
What Other Visitors Have Said
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page…
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