Norwegian Forest Cat

Norwegian Forest Cat Breed

@wikaatje / Twenty20

The Norwegian Forest Cat, called "wegie" for short, is both independent and an affectionate member of the family who loves attention but does not demand it. A natural breed, wegies are long-hared, have inverted triangular heads, and almond-shaped eyes that can be any color. They are bigger than most house cats, with males growing significantly larger than females.

True to their forest roots, they love to climb.

The back of the sofa will just be the first step on wegie's journey to find out how high it can go in the house. While the Norwegian Forest Cat sports a double coat that offers excellent protection in the winter, it's more suited to being a playful indoor cat.

They can be shy around strangers, but are generally easy-going. Wegies are known for being great with kids and patient with other animals. A bit more independent than a lap cat, the Norwegian Forest Cat still enjoys affection and responds with a loving purr and the press of a head against your hand. This may be one of the few times you'll hear from your wegie, as they do not vocalize as often as other cats.

Breed Overview

  • Size:
    • Weight: 13 to 20 pounds
    • Height: 12 to 18 inches
  • Growth: Fully grown at around 5 years of age
  • Colors: Ranges from white, black, red, cream, tabby to cinnamon
  • Life Expectancy: 14 to 16 years

Characteristics of the Norwegian Forest Cat

Affection LevelMedium
FriendlinessMedium
Kid-FriendlyHigh
Pet-FriendlyHigh
Exercise NeedsMedium
PlayfulnessHigh
Energy LevelHigh
TrainabilityMedium
IntelligenceHigh
Tendency to VocalizeLow
Amount of SheddingHigh

History of the Norwegian Forest Cat

The wegie arrived in Norway hundreds, and perhaps even thousands of years ago. Some believe Turkish traders brought their favorite cat up north with them when they came to trade, while others believe the cat was one of the many treasures brought back during the Crusades.

The cats may have obtained their distinctive double coat of long fur by mating with regional cats. They were known as great mousers and helped protect barns and houses, even catching rides on Viking ships because of their hunting skills.

Also known as the Skogkatt, the Norwegian Forest Cat is a favorite animal among Norse mythology and tales. The goddess Freyja was said to have the giant cats pulling her chariot—even into battle!—and Thor once lost a contest of strength to Loki's son, Jormundgand, who was disguised as the forest cat at the time.

The Norwegian Forest Cat drew some attention to itself in 1938 when it was exhibited at a show and the Norwegian Forest Cat Club formed to help preserve the breed, but these plans were interrupted by World War II. The breed almost went extinct during the war due to crossbreeding, but the Norwegian Forest Cat Club worked to save the breed. In 1977, the breed was registered with Europe’s Federation Internationale Feline, and a few years later wegies began showing up in the United States.

The Norwegian Forest Cat is the official cat of Norway.

Norwegian Forest Cat Care

The Norwegian Forest Cat has a double coat of long fur. Luckily, it doesn't need to be washed except in special circumstances, which is good because their coat is water resistant.

However, they should have their coat combed through weekly with a stainless steel comb or slicker brush. They also shed one coat in the spring and one in the winter, at which time their coat should be combed through two or three times a week.

Like all cats, the wegie needs regular dental care. Brush the teeth at least once a week to help prevent periodontal disease. Cats also appreciate a clean litter box that is cleaned out several times a week. Once a week, wipe the corner of the Norwegian cat's eyes to clean it of any discharge. Use a new, clean cloth for each eye to avoid cross contamination.

Common Health Problems

The Norwegian Forest Cat is a natural breed and doesn't have the health problems that sometimes pop up in mixed breeds. It is generally very healthy, but there are a few conditions to keep in mind.

  • Glycogen Storage Disease IV: This is a heritable condition that is often fatal. Fortunately, it is rare. Kittens are usually stillborn or die soon after birth, but it can present up to 5 months later. A DNA test can ensure a healthy kitten.
  • Hip Dysplasia: While more common in dogs, this large cat can be at risk for it as well. Hip dysplasia is hereditary and worsens over time, leading to a cat who avoids jumping and may move slower than healthy cats.
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: A common heart disease among cats, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy causes a thickening of the heart muscle. This condition is hereditary and may be more common in mixed breeds.

Diet and Nutrition

Norwegian Forest Cats are descended from hunters and prefer a high-protein and high-meat diet. They can sometimes be picky if their food doesn't comply to this preference. They should stay away from carbs as they aren't meant to eat them and don't process them as good as dogs or other animals.

Wegies will eat more than a normal cat due to their larger size. If the cat becomes a difficult eater, a different brand of cat food that is high in protein and meat can be tried. There are also brands of cat food made specifically for Norwegian Forest cats.

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

Before you decide on the wegie, do your research. Speak with people who own one, or join an Internet message forum or Facebook group and ask about them. Reputable breeders are also a great source of information and answer any questions you have about these lovable cats.

Other cats you may be interested in include:

There are many cat breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.