Many people think of cats as coming in one standard cat-like shape. After all, most cat breeds have not undergone the extensive genetic picking-through that dogs have to create animals that can fill a specific purpose.
Cats, more often than not, are bred for their own appearance and occasionally for their health as well. Most cats are bred to highlight one specific trait about them that is well loved, such as the Abyssinian’s ruddy coat or the Persian’s bountiful fur. However, there are the occasional cats that have a characteristic appearance that did not come from selective breeding. For example, there is the Norwegian forest cat.
These massive cats have enough fur to rival Persians and Maine Coons. These large, inquisitive cats have a curious history to them that dates back thousands of years ago. These cats, which are sometimes referred to as skogcatts in their native language (denoting “forest cat”), used to be a wild cat until they were adopted by people. While these cats are not well-known, they are immediately recognizable once you know more about the breed. If you are looking to adopt a large, friendly, and beautiful cat, then you should look no further once you have found the Norwegian forest cat.
Where Did the Norwegian Forest Cat Come From?
Unlike many cats, the exact origins of this breed aren’t known. In fact, it isn’t even known when exactly these cats began to mingle with humans and become a domesticated pet. Some people speculate that it may be a cat in a Norse myth about the goddess Freya.
In this myth, Freya’s chariot is pulled by six massive cats that are speculated to be the Norwegian forest cat, given the location, although there are a handful of other breeds it could be. Some people believe that these cats originated from the Vikings, being taken to Europe as loot from a Viking raid somewhere. Other people believe that it was natural selection that created these cats as naturally short-haired cats adapted to the harsh arctic weather that Norway has.
What is known is that, at some point in time, people came to accept the Norwegian forest cat as a pet. These cats would catch mice and other vermin around farms and homes, and in return, they would be allowed to sleep in barns, stables, and even houses. It is not quite known when exactly people accepted these cats into their lives, although plenty of people agree that it was at least a few hundred years ago.
To help increase the popularity of the breed, there were plans to show it off at a cat show in Oslo, the capital of Norway, but the concurrent World War II interrupted these plans and put a delay on developing these cats as a formally recognized breed of their own.
While the numbers sharply decreased over wartimes, these cats did manage to survive. It took several decades for them to really come back into people’s lives again, as people were more focused on recovering from the war. They wouldn’t be heavily thought about again until the mid-1970s. In 1977, Europe finally recognized these cats as their own breed through the Federation Internationale Feline. Two years after that, these cats were imported to the United States of America where they were quickly accepted and loved. From there, these cats have remained popular breeds throughout both continents.
What Does the Norwegian Forest Cat Look Like?
These cats are hefty, stylish, and curious creatures. As slow-growing cats, they reach their adult height and weight at about the age of five, so you will notice them continuously growing until then. They can easily weigh up to 22 pounds when they are full-grown. They can be between 12 and 18 inches long from head to butt, with their long, flowing tails adding more to that. They have a thick, solid, and muscled body that you do not often see in typical cats. They have a broad chest with deep flanks. Males tend to have a wider, more imposing figure, while females will be smaller and daintier (relatively speaking).
These cats are well known for their coat of fur. They have a massive double-coat of fur that will often be exceedingly long. Their fur is water-resistant, glossy, and dense. The chest, neck, and tail tend to be the areas where the fur is both the longest and the densest.
Without regular clipping and grooming, their coats can easily grow several inches long in length, potentially even more than that. Their tails tend to be bushy, much like a squirrel’s. Their coat may appear fuller during the cooler seasons, which is when the dense undercoat fully develops to protect the cat from cold temperatures.
How Does the Norwegian Forest Cat Behave?
These cats are quiet, reserved, curious, and gentle creatures. They love to explore your home from top to bottom, climbing on desks, shelves, and anywhere they can manage to jump. They love to watch the typical house activities from the highest point they can sit, sometimes brushing up against the ceiling just to get the perfect vantage point.
Their muscular body can easily take the long jump down. They are not overly affectionate cats and can even come off as aloof at times. They are independent cats, more than other breeds. Rather than being held, cuddled, and coddled, they prefer to simply share the same room as you, looking over to know that you are still there, but are content with you being several feet away.
If you are not home often, then you don’t have to worry, as these cats can often make entertainment for themselves if left alone. Of course, they appreciate you playing with them when you do have the time. They do have periods of moderate activity that come in bursts between long naps. If properly introduced to each other, they can easily get along with dogs, other cats, and children who are old enough to know how fickle cats can be.
What Kind of Grooming Does the Norwegian Forest Cat Need?
Because of how long and dense these cats’ coats are, there is a lot of time and care that needs to go into grooming these cats. Remember that it is important to start grooming your cats from a young age so that they get used to the sensation of being brushed and will not fight it when it is time to be brushed as an adult cat. First things first, you will need to brush the cat’s coat at least twice a week to remove simple tangles and any dead fur that might be there. When it comes time for shedding, you should consider brushing the cat every other day to keep up with the increased amount of loose fur.
These cats produce a special oil to create their waterproof coats, and this oil will need to be washed away to keep the coat healthy and shining. There are specialized shampoos out there for you to try out with your cat. Remember that, much like brushing your cat, you will need to get it used to baths from an early age to reduce potential resistance later on in life.
Since cats groom themselves regularly, bathing does not need to be extremely frequent. Typically, you should bathe your cat if its coat is beginning to look greasy, rather than glossy. The rate this happens depends entirely on how much oil your cat produces, which varies per cat.
How Is the Norwegian Forest Cat’s Health?
As with all animals, your cat is going to develop health conditions as it ages. Its genetics may play a role in this and you should always talk to the cat breeder about the parent cat’s health before adopting. Responsible breeders will be happy to discuss this with you, and you should stay away from breeders that won’t discuss their cats’ health.
Generally, the Norwegian forest cat is prone to a few things. They have a tendency to inherit a condition called Glycogen Storage Disease IV. While rare, it is fatal, meaning you need to be aware of it. These cats can also develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is an inherited heart condition that is more common in mixed breeds. Because of this cat’s size, they have the tendency to develop hip dysplasia as well. While this condition is seen more often in dogs, the size of these cats presents an exception to the rule. When properly cared for, these cats have the potential to live between 14 and 16 years.