Norwegian Forest Cats are large, semi-longhaired cats that have a long history in their native Norway, where they’re called ‘skogkatt’ (which literally translates to forest cat!). These cats have been recorded in Norway for at least 500 years but have been around for 1,000 to 2,000 years and have been seen as mythical creatures that brought peace. With their beautiful coats, large frame, and striking almond eyes, it’s not hard to see how these forest cats were considered mythical!
The breeding history of these cats isn’t completely known, as the breed has been around for such a long time. Their ancestors could be piebald short hair cats from Great Britain, as those cats were used on Viking ships as mousers. But these cats also might be descendants of long-haired cats brought by Crusaders to Norway and Scandinavia. However, one thing that is known for sure about the breeding history of Norwegian Forest Cats: they are definitely related to Maine Coon cats! Norwegian forest cats were bred with an unknown domestic short hair in New England that lead to the Maine Coon. There are some differences between a Norweigan Forest Cat and a Maine Coon Cat, despite how similar these two breeds look. Norwegian Forest Cats are more compact and straight in their body and have almond-shaped eyes. Maine Coon cats, on the other hand, are more plump in profile and have oval-shaped eyes.
Norweigan Forest Cats have a thick, water-resistant double coat and tufted ears and paws, all of which allow for these cats to live happily in cold, snowy places! Their tufted ears and paws act like earmuffs and boots in the winter snow and their coats can have any color or pattern. Because of their long coats, they will need regular grooming to keep their coats and skin healthy and unmatted. Weekly brushing year-round should help but you may need to brush a bit more during the spring when they shed their winter coats.
In addition to a relatively high-maintenance coat, these cats are also prone to other health problems. Potential problems include hereditary heart problems, hip dysplasia, and a glycogen storage build-up condition. However, regular cat care (like activities, nail trimming, etc) and a good diet can help keep a Norwegian Forest Cat happy and healthy! These cats are large, often weighing 10-15 pounds. They’re also smart and need a moderate level of exercise and activity. You can even try training a forest cat different tricks and/or you can give them a puzzle toy that rewards them with treats if manipulated correctly. Plus, having a tall cat tree for a forest cat to climb will give them a place to perch and be up high. And while they won’t be excessively vocal, they will chirp or meow at you on occasion.
Despite their name and size, Norwegian Forest Cats are far from wild or feral. In fact, they’re often quite friendly and loving! Like many other breeds, they may prefer to do things on their own terms but they’re still quite gentle and nurturing. They also often get along with others, including people, dogs, and other cats! As long as you treat a Norweigan Forest Cat with gentle respect, they’ll be a wonderful addition to your house.