The Norwegian Forest Cat (known affectionately as 'Wegies' by aficionados of the breed) is considered to be the national cat of Norway and believed to have developed from the earliest arrival of cats in Norway. The breed is also known by its native Norwegian name, the Norsk Skogkatt, even in the UK, and one of the two clubs dedicated to the breed here is also known by this early name. The Norwegian Forest Cat is classified as a semi-longhaired variety in this country, and the thick dense coats of these cats are well suited to the harsh Norwegian winters, where they are still popular with farmers as working cats. All the cats of this breed in Britain are descended from stock imported from Norway, with no outcrosses to other breeds. The breed is generally sound, although any experimental breeding for slightly longer bodies and noses could have spinal and dental repercussions.
About the breed
If I had to describe the Norwegian Forest Cat in one sentence I would describe it as "a kind, gentle and loving cat." One sentence, however, cannot possibly describe these beautiful cats. The Norwegian Forest Cat, or "Wegie" as it is affectionately called here in the United States, loves life, people and other animals. It seems to have one aim in life and that is to be a mother to all creatures no matter what their size. It is not uncommon in our household to find one of my Norwegian Forest Cats holding another one down and giving it a complete bath. (The males are just the same as the females in this respect.) They make wonderful companions and can easily become your best friend if you let them. They are also addictive, and those of us who own NFCs subscribe to the philosophy of "bet you can't have just one."
A Little History Lesson
Although the Norwegian Forest Cat is a relatively new breed in the United States, it is a very old breed in Norway. They have been featured in folk tales and mythology for centuries and the Norwegians claim that the cat has been around forever. The Forest Cat was, in all probability, the cat the Viking explorers took with them to keep their ships clear of rodents. Some people believe that these well-traveled cats may have been the early ancestors of the Maine Coon Cat and the long-haired Manx. Their first arrival on the East Coast of North America was probably in ancient times with Lief Erickson or his contemporaries; their modern day arrival was in 1979.
Norwegian Forest Cats were almost lost as a distinct breed through hybridization with the free-roaming domestic shorthairs in Norway. Interest was aroused among Norwegian cat fanciers when they realized that they were in real danger of losing the breed; but World War II put a hold on their efforts. It wasn't until after the war that a group of cat lovers began working to save the skogkatt, as it is known in Norway. (The term skogkatt literally means "forest cat.") Their efforts were successful, resulting in the Forest Cat being not only welcomed into the show ring in Europe, but also designated the official cat of Norway by the late King Olaf. The Forest Cat was not exported from Norway until the late 1970s and the first pair arrived in the United States in November of 1979. They were first introduced to CFA in the Midwest. A third cat, GP Mjavos Sangueetah of Zazzara, arrived in March of 1980 and was the first to be shown in CFA on the East Coast. This cat was one of CFA's first Norwegian Forest Cat Grand Premiers and the oldest to date, having received her grand at the age of 13 years and 10 months. The Forest Cat was officially accepted for registration in CFA in 1987 and for championship competition in 1993. Since their acceptance for championship, they have proven to be a popular cat in the show hall and are well represented in the show finals. To date we have 11 Grand Champions, 13 Grand Premiers and two regional winners. Our youngest grand is GC Redzone's Padraigan Cluvane of Irlu, a female who achieved her grand at the age of 8 months. We have several other cats that are very close to achieving their grand championship/premiership.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a healthy, robust natural breed that developed over hundreds of years of natural selection in a harsh climate. They are a slow-maturing breed that may take up to five years to reach full maturity.
This is a fairly low-maintenance breed, requiring minimal grooming. The Norwegian Forest Cat (or "Wegie") is an interactive, playful, loving member of any household.
Intelligent and resourceful, the Norwegian Forest Cat is a mild-mannered breed that adapts easily to its environment. They are very interactive cats who enjoy being part of their family environment and love to play with any one who enjoys a game!
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a large, heavy boned, yet elegant semi-longhaired cat, the most important features being type and coat quality. Originating in harsh natural conditions, the breed became an outdoor working cat on Norwegian Farms. The appearance of the Norwegian Forest Cat should reflect this natural heritage. The Norwegian Forest Cat matures slowly, and full development of the cat and its coat can take up to four years. A distinctive double coat is required. Coat colour is irrelevant. A cat should not be penalised if apparently wrongly registered, as there are no points for colour. The cat should have an alert expression, be in good general condition and well presented.
- Head: Triangular, where all sides are equal. Long straight profile without break in line. Forehead slightly rounded. Strong chin.
- Ears: Large, not rounded, with good width at base. Ear placement high, and open set so that the lines of the ears follow the line of the head down to the chin. With Lynx-like tufts and long hair out of the ears.
- Eyes: Large, oval, well opened, obliquely set and alert expression. All colours allowed.
- Body: Big and strongly built, long and muscular with solid bone structure. Having a deep chest and powerful neck.
- Legs (and Paws): High on legs, with back legs longer than front legs. Paws large and round, in proportion to the legs. Tufts of fur between toes.
- Tail: Long and bushy, should reach at least to the shoulder blades, but preferably to the neck.
- Coat: Semi-long. the woolly undercoat being covered by a smooth, water repellent overcoat; which consists of long, coarser and glossy guard hairs covering the back, sides and tail. A fully coated cat has a shirtfront, a full ruff and knickerbockers. ( A shorter coat in summer is acceptable).
- Faults: Cobby, small or delicate build. Break (stop) in profile. Round or square head. Short tail (not reaching to back of shoulder blades.) Short legs. Dry, knotted coat or too soft a coat. Small ears. Round eyes. Any defect as listed in the preface to the SOP booklet.
- Color: currently in GCCF all listed colours are allowed; except Chocolate, Lilac, Apricot, Caramel, Cinnamon, Fawn and Siamese pattern. Any amount of white is allowed, i.e. white on paws, chest, belly or blaze, locket etc.
Known as the Skogkatt in its native Norway, the Norwegian Forest Cat is a large, semi-longhaired cat whose rugged appearance fits its name. Despite the hardy facade, this breed is very much a homebody that enjoys the company of other pets and particularly their human companions. Their relationship with you can best be described as “on their own terms.” Yes, Forest Cats can be lap cats, but THEY will decide when to get on or off that lap. At a minimum, Forest Cats insist on being near their people in a place of their choosing: chair, bed, or desktop. A scratching post and a cat tree, preferably tall, are musts for the Norwegian Forest Cat home. These are moderatley active cats; there will be bursts of energy followed by long naps. Sensitive yet social, you will find them to be intelligent cats that adapt readily to change. Breeders are often asked if these cats need to be outside. As with all cats, inside the home is quite suitable and is certainly the safest environment. Providing interesting toys, perches with outside views, and most importantly, regular one-on-one time will result in a well-adjusted cat.
To the inexperienced eye, the Norwegian Forest Cat may resemble other semi-longhaired breeds such as the Maine Coon or even some random bred longhaired cats. In fact, there is considerable difference. Without a doubt, the expression of the Norwegian Forest Cat is striking and distinctive among pedigreed cats. Large, almond-shaped eyes with their oblique set and the equilateral triangle-shaped head contribute to the unique appearance of this breed. Viewed from the side, the Forest Cat has a straight profile, i.e. straight from the brow ridge to the tip of the nose. Heavily furnished ears that fit into the triangle finish the look.
The Norwegian Forest Cat has an insulated, waterproof double coat that was designed to withstand the Scandinavian winters of its origin. The texture of this coat also matches that environment – longer, coarse guard hairs over a dense undercoat. A full frontal ruff, bushy tail, rear britches, and tufted paws help to equip this feline for life in a region that borders the Arctic. Surprisingly, this coat does not require the care of some of the longhair breeds: weekly combing along with a little more attention in the springtime should cover it. Often identified by their brown tabby and white coats, Norwegian Forest Cats actually come in most colors, from pure white to deepest coal black, with every possible coat pattern and color combination in between, with the exception of the colorpoint colors as seen in the Siamese or Persian-Himalayan, such as seal point or chocolate point.
The Norwegian Forest cat is a very old natural breed, that has a long, bushy, nearly waterproof coat appropriate to the brisk climate of Norway. These cats may have served as mousers on the ships of Vikings and are present in the fables and folklore of Norway from as early as 1000 A.D. This cat is a very large and powerfully built animal, with notoriously strong paws and claws, making it one of the finest climbers in the cat kingdom. They are tough, somewhat wild-looking, outdoorsy types with excellent hunting skills and survival instincts but their exceedingly long history of domestication makes them people loving and sweet-natured pets. This breed is particularly fond of children and is rugged enough to deal with some potentially clumsy handling without getting hurt feelings.
Norwegian Forest Cat Breed Standards
Head Shape: The head is shaped like an equilateral triangle with all sides of equal length as measured from the outside of the base of the ear to the outside base of the other ear and following down the side of the head to the chin and back up to the ear. The neck is short and heavily muscled. The nose is straight from the brow ridge to the tip without a break in the line. Ears are medium to large, rounded at the tip, broad at the base, set as much on the side of the head as on top of the head – alert, with the cup of the ears pointing a bit sideways. Ears are heavily tufted with lynx tips being very desirable. The eyes should be large, almond shaped, well-opened, expressive; set at a slight angle with the outer corner higher than the inner corner. Eyes are green, gold, or copper in color. White cats may be odd-eyed or blue eyed.
Body and Tail: Body is large, medium to long with lots of bone, a broad, deep chest and flank and wide, powerful shoulders. Legs are medium in length with good bone. The hind legs are longer than the front. The paws are medium to large with a slight toe-out. There should be heavy tufting between the toes. Five toes in front, four in back. The tail is long and bushy, equal to the body in length.
Coat: Full double coat, thick and woolly under and long, flowing and full outer. A neck ruff, toe feathering, ear furnishings and ear tufts are all desirable.
Pattern: Tiger and tabby colors are most common but many colors are acceptable. Points, in particular, are not desirable.
Overall Appearance: This should be a massive, imposing, and muscular cat with a long, powerful torso, and good bone. A gorgeous, wild looking cat with an athletic, powerful presence and a playful, dog-like personality.
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