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You have probably seen these types of cats. Majestic, fluffy, and strong-built. More probably than not, these are Norwegian forest cats, one of the most beautiful cat breeds that you can find.
Norwegian forest cats are a hardy breed and are good for first-time cat owners. They are vastly popular, especially in European countries. They are popular in other countries as well, particularly in places with winter seasons and generally colder climates.
If you are planning to own a Norwegian forest cat or are simply interested in this stunningly beautiful and amiable breed, then you should read on.
Origins of the Norwegian Forest Cat
Norwegian Forest Cats, called Norsk skogskatt or norsk skaukatt in Norwegian, were thought to have come to be from two separate breeds that found their way to Norway.
These two breeds were the British shorthair cats which were brought from Great Britain by the Vikings during the 10th century, and the longhaired cats brought by the Crusaders during the 14th century.
Interbreeding between the two as well as with locals eventually evolved the breed into the form that it is today, retaining the cold weather resistance of the British shorthair cats and the fur of the longhaired cats.
Some also believe that Siberian and Turkish angoras are also possible ancestors of the Norwegian forest cats due to them sharing the same furry attributes.
The ancestors of Norwegian forest cats were probably used in Viking ships for their propensity to hunt rats. They were also used in farms for hunting for many centuries.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is prominent in Viking folklore. Six forest cats, likely the breed, were said to pull the chariot of the goddess Freya in Norse mythology.
Norse mythology also mentions that skogkatt, a fairy-type cat that is adept at climbing difficult-to-traverse rock faces along mountains.
In 1940, the Norwegian Forest Cat Club was formed in Oslo, Norway to bolster efforts to preserve the breed. This, however, was thwarted due to the onset of World War 2.
World War 2 caused great famine and, combined with cross-breeding from non-domesticated cats or other felines allowed to roam free during to war, the pedigree of many Norwegian forest cats was heavily diluted and the breed as a whole came very close to extinction.
After the war, efforts were re-established via a breeding program in Norway. In order to expose the breed more and to inspire more conservation efforts, King Olav V also declared the Norwegian forest cat to be the national cat breed of the country.
Norwegian forest cats were introduced into the United States during the mid to late 1970s. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the breed was officially accepted into cat registries, particularly with organizations such as the American Cat Fancier’s Association, the Norwegian Car Club of Britain, and the International Feline Federation in France.
Today, the Norwegian forest cat is considered to be one of the most popular cat breeds, especially in countries such as Norway, Sweden, and France.
Many Norwegian forest cat owners and aficionados also affectionally call these breeds “Wegies”. They are also widely sold in pet shops and by breeders and are very popular adoptees, especially for purebreds.
Typical Appearances of the Norwegian Forest Cat
The typical Norwegian forest cat has a semi-long and thick coat. The top layer is glossy and waterproof while the undercoat is woolly and short. The fur structure makes them much more resistant to cold climates, a condition that is usual in the Scandinavian regions where the breed originated.
Shorter in the summer and spring due to shedding, their coats will fully cover their neck, chest, tail, and legs during winter. There is also heavy tufting between the toes.
Norwegian forest cats come in a variety of colors, ranging from tabby, tortoiseshell, cameo, smoke, calico, white, brown, and others. In some cases, there is also a mix of colors and hues for this breed.
As for eyes, Norwegian forest cats often have green, blue, or gold eyes, although there are individuals with varying eye colors. Eyes are almond-shaped as per the standard of the breed.
Norwegian forest casts can weigh anywhere between 8 to 18 pounds for females and 10 to 20 pounds for males. They are large cats, although not as large as a Main coon, reaching about 36 inches from nose to tail.
Their bodies are stockily built with broad chests. Their heavily muscled bodies and big bone structure, in addition to their oversized coats, give them the appearance of being fat
These cats have long heads, medium-length muzzles, and lynx-like ears that are medium to large, wide at the base, and rounded at the top. Their ears are also likewise heavily furred. Norwegian forest cats’ heads are, by standard, often described to be triangular in shape.
The Norwegian forest cat’s back legs are longer than their front legs, so when standing on all fours the rump is slightly higher than the head.
Known to be very good climbers, Norwegian forest cats also have very strong claws that can climb trees and can also be strong enough to gain traction on rocky surfaces.
The Norwegian Forest Cat’s Personality and Behavior
Norwegian forest cats have a calm and friendly personality. Unless feeling threatened, these breeds can co-exist well with humans, dogs, and other cats with no trouble.
They are also quite calm and laid back, which means that they can be left alone for a long time. Norwegian forest cats are also quite independent, even in the presence of their owners.
Although they can cuddle up and some may even like it, most of these cats often prefer to just be near you rather than be cuddled and nuzzled. This is probably due to their long coats and their tendency to overheat even with the simple body warmth of others.
These cats are known to not be very temperamental and are good with kids. They can often act aloof to strangers and may act up when picked up, although they can warm up to people in due time.
Norwegian forest cats are also a very playful and curious breed. They will explore, pick up toys, and play games, especially with children and other pets. They are highly energetic and need lots of exercise.
It is not recommended to keep Norwegian forest cats inside small homes. As they are natural climbers and explorers, having a yard where these cats can climb trees and expend some energy is a must.
For those without trees or who would like to prevent these cats from damaging their furniture, it is recommended to purchase a sturdy climbing post to satisfy their climbing needs.
Norwegian forest cats also love to hunt, as this nature was bred into them centuries ago. They will stalk birds, rats, and other small animals, and they will definitely kill these creatures if given the chance. These instincts will kick in even while they are still kittens.
They are also known to be quite talkative, making high-pitched squeaking sounds, similar to chirps, to communicate with their owners or other human family members.
Of course, individual cats’ personalities will vary, and these are all generalizations based on the usual traits and characteristics of the breed. Your specific Norwegian forest cat, should you own or decide to own one, may have a completely different personality, which is still deemed to be considered normal.
Taking Care of Your Norwegian Forest Cat
There are no specific ways to take care of a Norwegian forest cat A proper diet, proper grooming, and exercise are all essential to ensure that your cat leads a happy and healthy life.
Norwegian forest cats will shed a lot, so regular grooming is a must. Daily maintenance is done by most owners. This involves constant brushing and combing to avoid tangles. More regular than usual visits to groomers may also be necessary.
You should also ensure that your Norwegian forest cats have plenty of room to roam around. They are natural climbers and explorers so actions must be taken to ensure that this instinctual behavior is not suppressed.
Enclose your yards to prevent them from straying, provide enough toys, spend some play time, and ensure that their nails are properly cut.
You should also make regular vet clinics and watch the weight of the feline as they are prone to obesity especially if they are less active.
Norwegian forest casts typically live to be 14 to 16 years old, but it is not unusual for them to live up to 20 years or even older.
Norwegian Forest Cat’s Common Health Problems
Like most purebreds, Norwegian forest cats are also susceptible to some diseases. Fortunately, these conditions are not that common. On the other hand, many of these problems are genetic and may be passed on to their offspring.
Glycogen Storage Disease Type IV
Perhaps the most serious condition that a Norwegian forest cat can genetically have is a disease called glycogen storage disease type IV. Also known as GSD IV, this disease involves a failure to process glycogen within the body.
This metabolic flaw causes muscular degeneration, damage to the nerves, heart, and liver, and tremors, among others. Some may also experience frequent fevers and collapsing episodes.
Most kittens with GSD IV do not survive long after birth, while some may develop symptoms during their fifth or sixth month. GSD IV has no known cure and is a fatal condition.
DNA testing for GSD IV specifically for Norwegian forest cats is available. Some organizations also provide a database for cats that have undergone tests in order to weed out the possibility of the disease being carried over to future kittens.
Leg Joint Problems
Norwegian forest cats are also prone to joint-related conditions that can affect the hips (Hip dysplasia) or the knees (Patella Luxation). These conditions can cause pain and a higher increase in joint dislocation.
For older cats, this can also increase the risk of arthritis and increased pain without proper management such as medication to reduce inflammation and suppress pain.
Surgery can help alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by these conditions, but generally, these are chronic and will only grow worse over time.
Taking X-rays is the medically accepted way to diagnose hip dysplasia or patella luxation. This must be done at the first sign of any difficulties in walking for early treatment and to slow down the progression of the condition.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a condition that is common in cats, and Norwegian forest cats are no exception. This condition affects the heart muscles, thickening it to the point that the heart no longer beats normally.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can be treated in most cases, especially when it is diagnosed early. Oftentimes, medication and changes in nutrition can get your cat back to normal.
Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency
Also known as PK Deficiency, Pyruvate kinase deficiency is a metabolic disorder that often causes anemia. Symptoms of PK deficiency often include lethargy, pale gums, a decreased appetite, and pale gums, among others.
PK deficiency has no known cure, although there are treatments that can help in managing the disease. Still, there are those with the condition that are still able to live healthy, normal lives without suffering any major symptoms.
Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex
Norwegian forest cats are known to have a high tendency to have an Eosinophilic granuloma complex. These are raised bumps that can appear on the face, abdomen, mouth, or thighs.
These lesions can be itchy, can ulcerate, and be infected. Ointments are the most common methods of treatment but can take weeks or months to fully take effect. Diet changes and checks for any possible allergies may also be done.
This specific breed is also prone to the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. This is because of their habit of roaming outside and eating raw meat.
Symptoms of infection may include fever, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, or lethargy. The condition is seldom fatal but can lead to complications if left untreated. It may also cause blindness or seizures in serious cases.
Antibiotics are the most common ways to treat infection of Toxoplasma gondii. However, there may be other treatments or procedures required to help control symptoms or other complications caused by the parasite.
Norwegian forest cats are big and beautiful with wonderful personalities. They make great pets and are perfect for larger homes with wide open spaces inside or outside the home.
As with any breed of cat, make sure that you can be a responsible cat owner, and these majestic creatures can definitely serve as your loveable companions for the years to come.