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    Norwegian Forest Cat

    Norwegian Forest Cat

    Place of origin



    A natural breed of northern Europe, with long, profuse coats evolved to protect them against the harsh winter clime, these hardy cats were used Biblein the development of the Persian breed in Europe and contributed to the ancestry of America's Maine Coon. The Skogkatt, or "Forest Cat" as it is known it homeland, is considered the official cat of Norway.

    Longhaired cats can be found throughout Norse mythology and Norwegian fairy tales. Two large cats, gifts of her husband, Thor, draw the chariot of the goddess Freya across the heavens. The cats are described in various legends as silver, blue, black, or white-good indications of the colors found in the ancestors of Norwegian Forest Cats. In Norwegian folk tales, there are wood-or forest-cats with thick bushy tails called Huldrekat or "Fairy Cat."

    The exact origins of the Norwegian Forest Cat are not known. Some believe Vikings took cats from Britain home to Scandinavia, where they bred with local farm cats. The Norwegian Forest Cat "type" appears to have been documented as far back as 1599. However they originally reached Norway, these cats became well adapted to living in a cold, wet climate. Generations of natural selection have produced a cat with a heavy, weather-resistant coat comprising a long, coarse glossy outer coat; a warm woolly undercoat; a thick ruff; and a long flowing tail. True to its forest cat name, it is an excellent climber and still retains a love of surveying the world-or supervising the household-from upon high. Norwegian Forest Cats are also is known to be accomplished anglers, plucking fish from streams and lakes.

    The resemblance to the Maine Coon has led some to suggest that Vikings originally took Norwegian Forest Cats to North America. However, the absence of domestic cats in North America when European colonists arrived rules this out. Nor is the Norwegian Forest Cat a hybrid with European wildcats or European lynxes.

    The Norwegian Forest Cat appeared in its first official cat show in the 1938, the same year that the first Norwegian Forest Cat Club was formed. The breed had grown scarce over the centuries, and club members were taking the first steps to preserve the breeding. Breeders of the pedigree Norwegian Forest Cat used semi-wild outdoor cats and farm cats to strengthen the Forest Cat, but their work was interrupted by the Second World War. By the end of the war, the breed was in danger of slipping into obscurity. Breeders took up the task of again reviving the Skogkatt.

    Many of the foundation cats came from near the Swedish border. Swedish cat breeders declared that the breed belonged to Sweden as much as to Norway. Norwegian breeders disputed this. Finally, it was agreed that foundation cats must come "straight from the Norwegian forests." It was also determined that while the Norwegian breeding program was under way and breeders were waiting for the Skogkatts to be recognized, no unneutered registered Forest Cats would be allowed out of Norway.

    In 1963, the breed was shown under the name Skogkatt but did not undergo a serious revival of fortune until the early 1970s. In 1972, the Norwegian Forest Cat gained formal breed recognition in its home country. The breed could then to be exported and was recognized by the FIFe in Europe in 1977, by TICA in the United States in 1984, and by the GCCF in Britain in 1987. The cat's popularity has soared since the 1970s. As well as cat fancy recognition, this breed received royal recognition when the late King Olaf made it the official cat of Norway.

    Physical description

    The Norwegian Forest Cat is a strikingly large breed; mature males may reach 12 to 15 pounds (5.5–7 kg) or more. With their lionlike winter ruff, mature cats have a regal appearance. A slow developing breed, the Norwegian Forest Cat can take three to five years to reach full size and maturity and attain a truly spectacular winter coat. The long, dense, water-resistant fur adds to the impression of massive size. The back legs are slightly longer than the front legs, giving a rise to the back and rump. The tail is spectacular both for its length and bushy fur.

    The triangular-shaped head, with a straight profile, large almond-shaped eyes, and medium to large ears, gives the breed a unique and engaging expression. The breed standard was clarified at the end of the 1990s to ensure the head also has depth. A show-quality cat will have lynx tips on the ears and tufts between the toes.

    Colors and varieties

    Although most commonly seen in brown, blue, patched, and red tabby patterns with and without white, this breed occurs in many other colors as well. Eye color is green or gold except in white cats, who may have blue or odd eyes.

    Some purebred Norwegian Forest Cats in Europe produce what appears to be chocolate/lilac and cinnamon/fawn offspring-colors that do not officially exist in the breed's gene pool. This is the "amber" mutation believed to be unique to the Norwegian Forest Cat. It is caused by the Extension gene, which brightens black pigment to reddish brown. Black kittens with this mutation eventually turn a cinnamon color called amber. Blue kittens with the mutation turn a pale beige color called light amber. Amber/light amber replaces black/blue in tabby and tortoiseshell cats who inherit the gene.


    These cats tend to be intensely loyal to their favorite family members but are also friendly toward other pets, children, and strangers. They are intelligent, alert, and adaptable to new environments.

    True to their name, they enjoy looking at the world from a high perch and should be provided with a sturdy indoor "tree" to climb. Some owners report these cats to have a liking for water and to enjoy resting on something cool. They enjoy attention, but in regions where they have outdoor access, they may be independent and resourceful hunters. They are mild-mannered cats who like to interact with family members and enjoy playing.

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    Vocal level


    Special needs

    The coat of this breed is startlingly seasonal, and spring brings an explosion of shedding as the coat transitions to its much shorter summer presentation. During this period, daily combing is essential to remove the shed fur from the coat.


    The Skogkatt has cousins in the Swedish Rugkatte and the Siberian Forest Cat and no doubt in unrecognized longhaired strains of cat in Scandinavia and northern Europe. All of these Scandinavian varieties adapted to a harsh environment to become excellent hunters with weather-resistant coats. Often, people cite the so-called Danish Racekatte as a similar breed. According to Danish cat fanciers, however, there is no such breed: racekatte simply means "pedigree cat."

    Norwegian Forest Cat

    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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