The Norwegian forest cat is renowned for its impressive size, fluffy coat, and friendly demeanor. However, their history remains shrouded in mystery, with various theories attempting to explain their origins. Some suggest that their ancestors were black-and-white short-haired cats that Vikings brought aboard their ships as mousers, while others believe they may be descendants of long-haired cats brought to Scandinavia by the Crusaders. These early relatives roamed Norway’s forests and eventually evolved into the large, dense-coated cats we know today. These remarkable felines have even made their way into Nordic mythology as the “skogkatt,” a mythical mountain-dwelling fairy cat with an exceptional ability to climb sheer rock faces. Some speculate that these legends inspired the breed’s evolution, as their size, coats, and tree-climbing prowess are reminiscent of the skogkatt. Norwegian forest cats hold a special place in their home country, where they are cherished so much that King Olaf V of Norway designated them the national cat. It is unfortunate that these cats almost faced extinction at one point. However, breeders took steps to preserve the breed, and fortunately, it is now thriving throughout the world. Who knows? perhaps one day America will have its own national feline.
Farmers and sailors in Norway highly valued the Norwegian Forest cat for its exceptional hunting abilities. Despite this, the breed wasn’t recognized until the 1930s by cat enthusiasts. Sadly, during World War II, interest in the breed dwindled, and crossbreeding almost led to its extinction. Fortunately, an official breeding program was established to save the lineage of this fluffy feline for future generations. It was officially recognized as a breed by the Fédération Internationale Féline in 1977. The first breeding pair arrived in America two years later, and it was accepted by the Cat Fanciers’ Association in 1987. The Norwegian Forest cat is very popular in Europe, especially Scandinavia, where they’re affectionately known as “Wegies.” They are also popular in France. These cats are large, with males weighing between 13 and 22 pounds, and their thick fur keeps them warm during winter, making them ideal for cold climates.
The Norwegian forest cat breed is known for its unique and varied colors and patterns, but what sets them apart is their long, water-resistant double coat which helped them survive the harsh Scandinavian winters. The tufted ears and toes of this breed serve as natural earmuffs and boots to withstand the extreme cold. However, despite their resilience, this breed is prone to certain health problems like hereditary heart conditions, hip dysplasia, and glycogen storage disease type IV. Interestingly, genetic testing has shown that the Norwegian forest cat is related to Maine coons, with the latter descending from both the former and an extinct domestic breed. To distinguish between the two breeds, take note of their facial features; Norwegian forest cats have triangle-shaped faces while Maine coons have wedge-shaped heads with prominent cheekbones. Lastly, this breed is known for their excellent climbing skills, thanks to their sturdy claws, and can even run down trees headfirst.