Norwegian Forest Cat
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Norwegian forest cats are large, loving felines affectionately nicknamed "Wegies" by fans of the breed. Wegies are popular across the world and especially adored in their native land of Norway, where they go by the name skogkatt.
These kind kitties make amazing pets and are instantly recognizable by their huge size and calm and gentle temperament. Norwegian forest cats are affectionate, undemanding companions. If you can provide lots of love, attentive brushing, and safe surfaces for your cat to climb, the Wegie will make an amazing family pet.
Norwegian forest cats typically cost between $800 and $1,500, depending on age, pedigree, location, and other factors.
Norwegian forest cats are athletic, muscular cats with large bodies. These cats typically weigh between 12–16 pounds, according to The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA)—with males typically being larger than females—and have a long, bushy tail and full coat of fur that makes them appear even larger.
"Average domestic cats weigh 8–12 pounds; Norwegian forest cats are definitely bigger than that," says Bruce Kornreich, DVM, PhD, director of the Cornell Feline Health Center. "They can weigh up to 18 or even 20 pounds in some cases."
Their long coats are shiny and water-resistant, adapted for the harsh Norwegian winters. Wegies have a dense undercoat to help keep them warm, and this means they require regular brushing and upkeep. Their coats do shed—in fact, their winter undercoat will molt in the spring.
The Norwegian forest cat coat comes in an array of colors and patterns. Coat colors include white, black, blue, red, cream, silver, and golden. This fluffy cat's coat can also have solid, bicolor, tortoiseshell, calico, and tabby fur patterns. Their eyes are shades of green, gold, or copper—or a shade somewhere between all three.
Wegies are often compared in appearance to the Maine coon, but Norwegian forest cats are slightly smaller with a more slender frame. Norwegian forest cats also have almond-shaped eyes, whereas the Maine coon has rounder eyes.
This breed is typically described as friendly, calm, and gentle. Norwegian forest cats are adaptable to different families and lifestyles, and are generally good with children and other animals.
These cats are intelligent and alert, and they love human connection and affection. Though they crave attention, they're undemanding and prefer to let you come to them. In keeping with their undemanding nature, Wegies are a quiet breed and don't meow a lot like, say, a Siamese cat. But when they do meow, Kornreich says, their high-pitched meows sound almost like chirps—a funny contrast to their large frames.
The Norwegian forest cat personality is extremely family-oriented. They're playful, sweet, and generally accepting of their surroundings. This outgoing breed wants to be friends with everybody and loves to cuddle.
This breed is slow maturing, which means Norwegian forest cat kittens take about five years to grow into full adults. Because their maturation is longer than usual (in the cat world, anyway), owners will get to enjoy an extended kitten period of their pet's life. This kittenish behavior will manifest in lots of play. They especially love pouncing and practicing their hunting skills—an outdoorsy trait this domesticated breed still holds on to.
Kornreich says it's important to provide your Norwegian forest cat with an outlet for his strong hunting instincts.
He recommends "toys that mimic mice, and even just something as simple as a cat-approved feather toy and dedicating time every day, five to 10 minutes, to play with them," he says. "This allows them to jump around and burn off energy, and kind of get their rocks off, so to speak, in terms of their hunting behavior. And it's good exercise for them as well."
Norwegian forest cats tend to be super friendly with children and other pets. Don't let their size scare you away from taking them into a family full of kids—these cats are incredibly tolerant and well-mannered. This big breed isn't easily stressed out and loves to hang out with humans of all ages. Thanks to their laid-back, undemanding nature, your Norwegian forest cat will also likely do well if left alone for short periods. Though, because he loves you so much, separation anxiety might creep in if you're frequently gone for too long.
Norwegian forest cats are pretty social by nature and typically get along with all the members of a household. In fact—Wegies want to be friends with everybody, so you may need to keep extra tabs on them to make sure they don't head off with an admirer.
Wegies are especially adept at climbing and love to explore high places.
"All cats like to climb and like to be perched up high, perhaps because of their predatory ancestry," Kornreich says. "But these cats in particular really seem to like climbing."
Your Norwegian forest cat will want to inspect the top of every bookcase, cabinet, and shelf. Consider getting your cat a tall cat tower, installing cat shelves, and adding a cat hammock (or two) to your home so he can explore safely—but be prepared to find your Norwegian forest cat atop any surface he can reach and take proper safety precautions. Delicate vases and knickknacks, unstable shelves, and crowded cabinet tops will need to be cat-proofed—or your stuff will be knocked down.
Because they're built to withstand harsh Norwegian winters, these cats are sensitive to heat. During hot weather, provide your kitty lots of shade, water, air-conditioning, and maybe even a shorter haircut.
Because of their long water-shedding coats and dense undercoats, Norwegian forest cats need a lot of brushing. Brush him at least two times a week, though you'll need to brush even more during times of heavy shedding (typically in the spring and fall).
"Daily combing and brushing is essential if you do not wish to have a close, personal, and frequent relationship with your local groomer," says Nicole Goudey-Rigger, owner and CEO of Pets a Go Go, a pet care provider and groomer in New York and Connecticut. "Often clients will choose to 'lion cut' a Norwegian forest cat, especially indoor cats who do not have access to very intense air-conditioning through the summer months."
When it comes to exercise, make sure your Wegie has plenty of room to run and play. You won't need to go out of your way to get this athletic cat moving, but toys, cat trees, and time spent playing together will help keep him active.
These intelligent cats can be potty trained easily, but they will need an extra large litter box to help them go comfortably.
RELATED: How to Clean Your Cat's Litter Box
Like all cats, make sure to trim your Wegie's nails (otherwise his evening biscuit-baking might be a little too painful). Because he's so playful and adventurous, he might do well with harness training, and he certainly won't complain about time spent outside in a catio!
Feed your Norwegian forest cat high-quality cat food and monitor his diet to prevent him from overeating, as obesity is a risk with this breed. Check with your vet to determine how much and how often to feed your individual cat.
Norwegian forest cats have a lifespan of 14–16 years, and are typically healthy pets. Kornreich says the Norwegian forest cat's greatest health risks include:
- Hip dysplasia: A condition where there's a malfunction in the hip's ball and socket joint, which can lead to arthritis if left untreated.
- Patella luxation: A condition where the knee joint slips out of position, leading to a loose and unstable joint.
- Cardiomyopathy: A type of heart muscle disease where the microscopic structure of the heart is not normal.
- Eosinophilic granuloma complex: A series of skin diseases that look like red, raised bumps on the skin that may ulcerate and crust. This is commonly found on the lower part of the abdomen or inner thigh, but can be found on the cat's face in some cases.
- Glycogen storage disease type IV: A condition where glycogen isn't successfully broken down into glucose to be used as fuel for important metabolic processes. Warning signs include muscle tremors, muscle wasting, and frequent episodes of collapsing, usually in kittenhood.
Reputable Norwegian forest cat breeders will screen for health issues in your kitten, but it's important to have them screened regularly into adulthood.
Take good care of your Norwegian forest cat's health by scheduling regular vet visits and taking the advice of your cat's veterinarian.
The Norwegian forest cat is a natural breed, meaning it's not a mix of others (despite their somewhat motley appearance). Some experts even speculate the Norwegian forest cat has been around for centuries, according to the CFA. Norse oral histories tell of large, long-haired cats adept at climbing, and these kitties certainly fit the bill. Because the dates are estimated through oral histories, it's hard to confirm exact time frames—but if the tales are true, it's possible the Norwegian forest cat has been around for thousands of years.
According to the CFA, it's possible early Wegies were the companions of Vikings and were used on their ships to keep rodents at bay. There is also a theory the Norwegian forest cat may be any early ancestor of the Maine coon, and Wegies could have been first introduced to North America from the ships of early Viking explorers like Leif Erickson.
It wasn't until the 1930s the Norwegian forest cat was first introduced as consideration for a breed—but they came close to extinction in the 1940s. After Wegie fans took efforts to protect the breed, they became mainstream in the 1970s and were formally introduced to the U.S. through importation in 1979.
- Norwegian forest cats are the national cat of Norway, naturally.
- This breed is depicted in Norse mythology as magical, with the ability to climb rock faces, and as being favored by the Norse goddess Freya.
- Because the Wegie-loving goddess Freya symbolized domestic life, many superstitions in Scandinavian culture link cats and marriage, including one that women who like cats will definitely marry, and another that says feeding your cats well will guarantee a sunny wedding day.