Affectionately known as the Wegie (pronounced wee-gee, like Bee Gee), the Norwegian Forest cat is a large, long-haired cat with a somewhat uncertain past. Known locally as the Norsk Skaukatt or Norsk Skogkatt (which means Norwegian forest cat), the breed is a naturally occurring cat. The exact history of the breed isn’t known for sure. Historical records indicate that these longhaired cats have been present in Norway for hundreds of years.
It has to be assumed that longhaired cats are descendants of cats brought to Norway by the Vikings via various trade routes. Turkish Angoras and Siberians are likely candidates for these founding cats, all have similarities to the Norwegian Forest Cat.
Once there and living in the wild, due to the harsh climate, they adapted by growing larger and developing a water-resistant, thick coat to survive. A relationship would have formed with local farmers who utilised their hunting skills.
Not much was said about the breed until in the 1930’s when the cat fancy began to really take off. Cross breeding with shorthaired cats almost wiped out the Norwegian Forest Cat and efforts were made to save the breed and in 1938, the Norwegian Forest Cat Club was established. However, WWII broke out and breeding programmes pretty much ground to a halt during this time.
Breeding began in earnest in the 1970’s and the Norwegian Forest Cat gained official recognition with the international cat bodies in 1977. The first breeding pair arrived in the United States in 1979. In the 1970’s, a cat by the name of Pan’s Truls (see left) was to become the benchmark of the Norwegian Forest Cat breed standard. FiFE officially recognised the breed in 1977 and the CFA in 1987.
The Norwegian Forest Cat was declared the National Cat of Norway by the late King Olaf.
Appearance of the Norwegian Forest Cat:
This breed is slow to grow, taking 4-5 years to reach full maturity. The Norwegian Forest Cat is a large, powerfully built cat with a long body. The hind legs are longer than the forelegs. The feet are strong, with tufts, which makes walking on snow easier. The tail is long and thick.
The head is wedge-shaped, with a straight nose, and almond-shaped eyes. The ears are broad at the base and set high with long tufts growing out of the ears. The face has a sweet expression.
The double coat is semi-long, thick and waterproof. It has a dense, woolly undercoat and smooth guard hairs. Males tend to have a thicker coat than females. The fur around the neck (mane) is thick and long.
An adult can weigh between 6 – 10kg (13 – 22 pounds).
The Norwegian Forest Cat comes in almost every colour with the exception of color point and the dilute colours chocolate and lilac.
Personality of the Norwegian Forest Cat:
The Norwegian Forest Cat is an active breed of cat. They are easy going, mild mannered and friendly.
Norwegian Forest Cats are known for their excellent climbing ability, they love to be up high. So it is important to provide them with a high perch (or two). Wegies are a playful breed, well into adulthood.
They are incredibly intelligent, make ideal family pets and get along well with children. They are extremely affectionate like nothing more than being stroked and given attention.
Animals with a double coat such as the Norwegian have a big moult once a year, so be prepared. Five minutes of daily grooming will go a long way in keeping the coat in good condition.
All cats need to have their teeth looked after either by regular brushing with a cat toothbrush or by giving him raw chunks of steak or chicken necks.
As with all breeds of cats, some are more prone to developing certain conditions than others. The Norwegian Forest Cat is one of the healthiest breeds of cat, but health conditions which are seen more often in this breed include: