Norwegian Forest Cat

Norwegian forest cats are large, loving animals who make excellent family pets. Learn more about this friendly, gentle cat breed.
By Hilary Braaksma
August 24, 2020
Norwegian Forest Cat
Coat Length
Pattern
Other Traits
Temperament
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Norwegian Forest Cat

height
  • 9 to 12 inches
weight
  • 12 to 16 pounds
life span
  • 14 to 16 years
good with
  • children
  • seniors
  • dogs
  • cats
  • families
temperament
  • sociable
  • affectionate
  • bold
intelligence
  • high
shedding amount
  • frequent
playfulness
  • high
activity level
  • active
vocalness
  • quiet
coat length
  • long
colors
  • white
  • black / ebony
  • red / orange
  • blue / gray
  • lavender / silver
  • cream / beige / tan
patterns
  • solid
  • bi-color
  • tabby
  • calico / tri-color
other traits
  • easy to train
  • requires lots of grooming
  • friendly toward humans
  • friendly toward other pets
  • friendly toward strangers
  • tolerates being alone
  • high prey drive
  • high potential for weight gain
  • tolerates being picked up

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 surprisingly calm and gentle considering their intimidating size. Norwegian forest cats are affectionate, undemanding companions. If you can provide lots of love, 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.

Appearance

Norwegian forest cats are athletic, muscular cats with large bodies. These cats typically weigh between 12 and 16 pounds—with males typically being larger than females—and have a long, bushy tail and full coat of fur that makes them appear even larger.

Their long coats are shiny and water-resistant, adapted for the harsh Norwegian winters. Wegies have a dense undercoat to help keep them warm—this means they require regular brushing and upkeep. Their coats do shed—in fact, the winter undercoat will molt in the spring. Because of their high-shedding coat, the Norwegian forest cat is not considered hypoallergenic, though some owners with allergies do find they have fewer allergic reactions to this breed.

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 sometimes a combination of the 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.

Temperament

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 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.

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, but they’re not really lap cats. Wegies prefer to lay beside you, especially during warm weather when these winterized cats need space to cool off.

Living Needs

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.

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 laidback, undemanding nature, your Norwegian forest cat will also likely do well if left alone for short periods.

Wegies are especially adept at climbing and love to explore high places. Your Norwegian forest cat will want to inspect the top of every bookcase, cabinet, and shelf. Consider getting your cat a tall cat tower 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.

These cats are sensitive to heat, since they’re built to withstand harsh Norwegian winters. During hot months, provide your kitty lots of shade, water, air-conditioning, and maybe even a shorter haircut.

Care

Because of their long water-shedding coats and dense undercoats, Norwegian forest cats need a lot of brushing. Brush at least two times a week; you’ll need to brush even more during times of heavy shedding. 

“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 house trained easily, but they will need an extra large litter box to help them squat comfortably.

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 or engage in play with a more aggressive animal.

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.

Health

Norwegian forest cats have a lifespan of 14 to 16 years, and are typically healthy pets.

The Norwegian forest cat’s greatest health risks include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), hip dysplasia, and the inherited metabolic condition known as glycogen storage disease type IV. Reputable breeders will screen for health issues in your kitten, but it’s important to have them screened regularly into adulthood. HCM and other health problems can go undetected until later in your cat’s life.

Take good care of your Norwegian forest cat’s health by scheduling regular vet visits and taking the advice of your cat’s veterinarian.

History

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. 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.

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.

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