Breed Introduction: Norwegian Forest Cat
The gentle and friendly Norwegian Forest Cat, known as Wegie, for short—is fond of family members but does not demand constant attention and petting. He is satisfied to be in the same room with people and will entertain himself if no one is home. Although he appreciates human company, he can be a bit reserved with visitors. Even with family, he is not much of a lap cat, but a nice scratch between the ears or beneath the chin is always welcome, and he’ll usually reciprocate with a nice head butt or cheek rub.
Not surprisingly, this large and athletic cat is a climber. You will often find him at the highest point he can reach in the home, and unlike some cats, he doesn’t have any qualms about descending trees or other heights headfirst. This natural breed is adapted to a very cold climate, with top coat of glossy, long, water-shedding hairs and a woolly undercoat for insulation.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is native to Norway, with a history going back hundreds and maybe thousands of years. He appears in fairy tales and legends, one being that the Norse goddess Freya’s chariot is pulled by six giant cats. Where or how the cats originated remains a mystery. They may be the descendants of longhaired cats from Turkey, brought back from Byzantium by Scandinavian warriors who served the Byzantine Empire, or they may be related to the Siberian Forest cat from Russia.
In 1938, the cats were exhibited at a show in Oslo, but World War II interrupted any plans for developing them as a breed. Fortunately, they survived the war, just barely, but there were still some hard decades ahead and little was done with them until the 1970s. In 1977, they were finally registered as a breed with Europe’s Federation International Feline.
These are big cats. Males can weigh 13 to 22 pounds or more, with females somewhat smaller. The Wegie matures slowly and isn’t full grown until 5 years of age.
Brush or comb the Norwegian Forest Cat’s long coat once or twice a week, using a bristle brush, wire slicker brush or stainless steel comb. If you run across tangles, work them out gently so you don’t hurt the cat. A cat bath is rarely necessary, which is a good thing. With the Wegie’s practically waterproof coat, it can be very difficult to get him wet enough for a bath.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is notable for his long, thick, beautiful coat and large size. The head has an inverted triangle shape, pointed at the chin and then widening on each side up toward the medium to large ears, which are heavily tufted. Large, almond-shaped eyes are green, gold or copper, although white cats may have blue eyes or odd eyes.
Kidney and heart diseases have been reported in the breed.
As they are heavy-boned and tall, they require more food than most other domestic breeds.
The friendly, laidback Norwegian Forest Cat is a perfect choice for families with children and cat-friendly dogs. He loves the attention he receives from children who treat him politely and with respect, and he doesn’t mind playing dress-up or going for a ride.