For centuries, the Norwegian Forest Cat has been a common character featured in many Norse folk tales and mythology. Fondly known as the Norsk Skogkatt by the natives, i.e., the Norwegians, this breed is a fairly new breed in the United States. A breed of Mother Nature, the Norwegian Forest cat is a domestic breed that did not undergo any forms of selective breeding.
In all probability, the Romans were considered to be the ones who brought the domestic cats into Northern Europe. From there, settlers and traders transported the cats to Scandinavia and its surrounding regions. The popularity of the Norwegian Forest Cat began thriving in the 1930s. Breeders made the efforts to introduce this breed into the cat Fancy and the first Norwegian cat club was actualized in 1934. Four years later, the cat show is Oslo received the first Norwegian cat for its exhibition.
While its popularity is flourishing, the Norwegian Forest Cat as a distinct breed was also under the threat of being lost through hybridization with the stray domestic shorthairs in Norway. Fanciers and breeders tried to salvage the situation, but their efforts were impeded by World War II.
It was not until the 1970s, when doors were opened for opportunities to begin a serious breeding program for the breed. Efforts were focused on promoting the original characteristics and beauty of the Norwegian Forest Cat. This purpose was fulfilled with the initiation of the Norsk Skogkattring (the Norwegian Forest Cat Club) in 1975.Stringent requirements were set out by the club where the committee would examine, approve and register only cats that are up to the standard for its breeding program.
Their efforts paid off and led to the late King Olaf donning the Norwegian Forest Cat as the official cat of Norway. Also, both Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) and The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) of great Bratain accepted the breed for championship in 1977 and 1997 respectively.
The first exportation of the breed into the United States in November 1979 appeared as a pair. The pair was introduced to the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) in the Midwest. GP Mjavos Sangueetah of Zazzara was the third cat that arrived in March 1980. It became the first Norwegian forest Cat to be shown in CFA on the East Coast and also one of the first Norwegian Forest Cats to receive the Grand Premiers under the association.
The International Cat Association (TICA) was the first to recognize the cat breed in 1984. Following suit, the CFA officially accepted the breed in 1987 and entered the breed into its championship competition in 1993. According to the 2012 registration totals of the CFA, this stunning breed had claimed the fourth position of the most admired longhair and the 13th most well-liked breed. The Norwegian Forest Cat is now recognized by all North American associations and has gained global acceptance and acclaim for both its physical appearance and temperaments.
Physical appearance and attributes
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a considerably large cat with an impressive bearing. Males can weigh an average of 10 – 16 pounds or more and the females weigh between 8 -12 pounds. This breed takes approximately five years to attain its full maturity. Its body is a solid built with substantial bone structure. The imposing disposition of the breed is reflected by its broad chest and moderate body length that is also of a significant girth. Such a body carriage is governed by muscle strength rather than flabbiness. This is also evident in its medium-length legs with heavily muscled thighs. The longer hind legs bear its rump higher than its shoulders. This breed has paws like snowshoe; they are large, round, firm and heavily tufted. Females would however have a more refined comportment. Its fox-like tail that runs the length of its entire body from the base of its neck added the element of elegance to its deportment. Incomparable to a fox’s tail, however is the tail hair that lengthens into a gorgeous plume.
Norwegian Forest Cat has an equilateral triangle head when measured from the outermost edge of the ear base to the base of the chin. The head is carried on a short and muscular neck. Viewed in profile, the cat has a long straight nose that extends from the brow ridge without a break. A flat forehead will also be evident. With no pronounced whisker pads or whisker pinch, its muzzle extends the imaginary straight lines towards the base of the ears. The chin is gently rounded and firm. Set atop the head is a pair of medium to large beautifully tufted ears. They are broad at the base, cupped and taper into a rounded tip. They face slightly outwards to give it an alert appearance. Its soulful eyes are large and almond shaped. The outer corners are set slightly higher than the inner corners. Eye colors can come within the range of green to gold or copper. Blue or odd eyes are exceptional to the white cats.
The opulent and luxurious coat is one the most distinguishing features of the Norwegian Forest Cat. Double coated, the coat is developed to be all-weather resistant. The undercoat is dense and woolly. It is covered by long glossy guard hair that hangs down smoothly from the sides. A cat that is fully coated would have a gorgeous ruff around its neck and full britches. This would usually develop in the winter.
The type and quality of the coat are prized more than the colors and patterns. The Norwegian Forest Cat is accepted in all colors and patterns except those that are the result of hybridization. This would usually be reflected in colors of chocolate, cinnamon, fawn, lavender, lilac, sable, pointed patterns or any of these colors with white.
Personality and temperament
This seemingly formidable breed carries an unlikely temperament of mildness and composure. It does not demand for attention, but has a heart packed with affection and devotion, which it readily displays to its favorite people in the home. Winning the heart of the Norwegian Forest Cat would also win you a faithful companion that will choose to stay by your side whenever possible.
Moderately active, this breed would enjoy the love and warmth from a cuddle by your side as much as the adrenaline from the climb on tall perches. In fact, its strength and agility empower it with the potential of scaling unexpected heights. Smart and courageous from its well-honed hunting instinct, this breed is eager to learn tricks and to explore its surroundings.
The mildness of the Norwegian Forest Cat makes it a compatible pet for families with children or other pets. The versatility and skill acquired from surviving in its natural world had developed it into a highly adaptable breed for any possible situation. This trait is also what makes the Norwegian Forest Cat a charming and delightful companion.
Care and health issues
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a hearty breed with a possible lifespan of between 15 – 20 years. A few health issues concerning this breed include a congenital problem called Polycystic Kidney Disease. Glycogen Storage Disease type IV is also another health concern. This disease affects the storage of glucose and the metabolism of the body. Kittens with this disease could either suffer death shortly after birth or be stillborn. The symptoms include stiff joints, difficulty in walking, weakness, muscles tremors and spasms. These symptoms would usually start developing when the kitten is a few months old and could deteriorate into severe disability and eventual death.
It is important to obtain the cat that comes with a written health guarantee from a qualified breeder. Professionals would usually help identify any potential genetic diseases or defects as well as other common cat health issues before breeding the cat. Thus, this would help ensure that the cat is healthy before it is being obtained.
Grooming the Norwegian Forest Cat takes a little more effort than other cats. Its semi-long, double coat comes on and sheds off, according to weather conditions. This breed would require brushing about 2 times a week to prevent matting. Frequency increases during shedding periods. Other basic care should include weekly nail trimming and regular ear checks for odor or infections. Frequent teeth brushing with vet-approved product is also necessary to prevent periodontal disease.
The ideal home
Most breeders would encourage that the cat be kept indoors for safety. However, the Norwegian Forest Cat would not reject an escape-proof and well-equipped outdoor garden where its courage, skills and agility can be encouraged to reach its potential.
While indoor living is possible, an adventure zone would be necessary for a hearty growth. Provide it with interactive and whirling feather toys, as well as cat trees for climbing and scratching. Softballs or items for the fetching game would be ideal too.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a loyal breed that enjoys the love and care from the whole family. It returns the affection unreservedly. Its playful and courageous personality coupled with its composed and adaptable temperaments make it an endearing pet for any homes.