The Norwegian Forest Cat
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.
Built to Match Its Environment
If ever there was a cat built to match its environment, it is the Norwegian Forest Cat. It has developed over many years of natural selection into a breed able to survive the long harsh winters of Norway. It is a sturdy cat with a double coat which has protective, water-resistant guard hairs over a downy, warm undercoat. The coats of the free-roaming cats do not mat because the loose hair resulting from their annual molt is removed by rubbing against such things as tree trunks and brambles. This type of coat is needed to survive the snows and moist, cold air in its native country. The ears are heavily furnished and, although they are moderately large, they are set somewhat low on the head to prevent excessive heat loss. The feet are heavily tufted, which provides a protective layer of fur between the feet and the cold ground and snow. The rear legs are heavily muscled with strong heavy boning on both the front and the rear legs and thick claws on all four feet. The rear legs are longer than the front legs. The cat in the wild spends a great deal of time in the trees so the strength of bone, the heavy muscle and the thick claws are needed to make the climb to its lofty perch in the forests of its native land. It is not uncommon to see the cat descending from tree trunks head first.
Although the Norwegian Forest Cat is a slow-maturing breed which does not reach full development until five years of age, this does not mean that they are not "put together" prior to that time. As with all breeds, some will mature earlier than others. Most will continue to gain heft as they mature, but if the cat is fine-boned as a kitten it will remain fine-boned. Strong boning should be seen even in young kittens. This would be necessary to survive if they were living outdoors. Each year the coat will continue to add fullness after the annual molt. (Yes, they actually molt...one breeder has put it rather nicely: "They unzip their winter overcoats and step out of them.") Even after it has taken off its winter overcoat you will always know the cat is a longhairÉit retains its beautiful long and fluffy tail and the ruff, ear furnishings and toe "feathers" will always be apparent, despite a shorter, less dense coat and ruff.
The head shape on a Norwegian Forest Cat is an equilateral triangle and its ears follow the line of that triangle from the chin straight up to the base of the ears. The Wegies' ears have often been described as pricked forward as though listening although they are not high on the head as in other breeds. The nose profile when viewed from the side is straight to the brow ridge, where there is a slight turn of direction to a flat frontal plane. They have a very short neck that is heavily muscled.
The Norwegian Forest Cat's eyes are one of its prettiest features: they positively glow. They are large and expressive and almond shaped and the outer corner of the eye is tilted up to the base of the ear. The color ranges from gold to deep emerald green, with the darker green color much sought after but not as common as the green-gold eyes usually seen.
A Norwegian Forest Cat in full coat is a sight to behold. It has wonderful long guard hairs that cover a shorter thick undercoat. The guard hairs are smooth and heavy in texture and continue on to the long fluffy tail. The Norwegian Forest Cat holds its tail up as if it were a beacon of light from a lighthouse...it seems to say "Hey, I'm here".
At Home and Play
The Norwegian Forest Cat is very much a homebody. It enjoys being with people and other pets and is excellent with children. They are very patient animals and are not stressed easily. They are fairly intelligent and have a natural curiosity. During the hot months do not expect a lap cat; they are much happier laying at your side than on your lap. Wegies believe that everyone is their friend. We had one cat who, when the cat club meeting was held at "her house," would visit each member's lap...no one was ignored.
Grooming is not difficult on a Forest Cat. Although they will mat if their coat is neglected, they tend not to mat as much as some of the other longhair breeds. As stated earlier they do molt once a year.
One thing that is an absolute necessity if you own a Forest Cat is some kind of climbing device. They like to be up high to survey their kingdom. The best trees I have found are the ones made out of tree branches.
If you are looking for a cat that will be your best friend, enjoy cat shows (remember, they like people and attention), require less grooming than some of the other long haired breeds, and be a basic homebody INDOOR cat, then the Norwegian Forest Cat is the cat for you.