The Norwegian Forest Cat, often called Wegies by their many fans, is quickly growing in popularity throughout the nation. This is thanks to their gloriously long and thick coat and an irresistibly independent attitude. There’s nothing more appealing than a big, beautiful cat that doesn’t need you — but still chooses to be around you to get some much-needed snuggling and head scratches! This large breed might be for you if you love a cat with curiosity and don’t mind some extra shedding.
Norwegian Forest Cat Breed Origin & History
The Norwegian Forest Cat is actually a newer breed in the United States. But, it’s been around for quite some time in Norway, where it’s known as “Skogkatt,” which translates to “forest cat.” They have been featured in folk tales and mythology for centuries, and it’s thought that Wegies often accompanied Vikings to take care of rodents on the ships. It’s possible that someone like Leif Erickson was the first to bring the Norwegian Forest Cat to North America in the late 900s.
For a while, the Wegie was almost lost as a distinct breed as the big cats continued to mate with domestic shorthair strays throughout Norway. But their human admirers didn’t want to see them disappear for good. The Norwegian Forest Cat was exhibited at the Oslo cat show in 1939, but World War II put the breed revitalization plans on hold.
When World War II ended, the focus was back on the Wegie. Cat enthusiasts started to show off the breed around Europe. It also became the official cat of Norway, appointed by the late King Olaf.
In 1977, the Norwegian Forest Cat became recognized as an official breed by Europe’s Federation Internationale Feline. Two years later, the Wegie was exported to the United States and Americans immediately fell in love with the big feline. In 1987, the breed was presented to the Cat Fanciers Association, who gave the breed full champion status in 1993.
Norwegian Forest Cat Breed Personality
While they’re typically friendly and laid back, the Norwegian Forest Cat is known to be very independent. Although they do enjoy human companionship, they are content with just relaxing in a window bed or staring out a window – on their terms. They’ll curl up on your lap, but only if they feel like it! And they’ll leave when they feel like it, too. Wegies love a good head scratch and love to show their appreciation with head bonks.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is also a bit territorial. Because of this, they will need to have space in their home to call their own. Known for climbing everything in the house, providing them with a ceiling-high cat tree can provide them that space they need to feel secure and content. They love heights and have even been known to climb down cat trees headfirst without any fear.
The Wegie is also moderately active and are known to have random bursts of energy. They can entertain themselves with toys, running, hiding, and then ambushing them like prey. When they do get tired, they’ll either sleep atop their cat tree or curl up next to you on the couch for some snuggles.
When you invite someone new to your home, the Norwegian Forest Cat may be a bit reserved at first. They often need some time to get used to new faces, but they’ll be friendly and curious once they’re more comfortable with their presence.
Norwegian Forest Cat Breed Characteristics (Physical)
The Norwegian Forest Cat is often compared to the Maine Coon because they are also large and fluffy. But the Cat Fanciers’ Association has identified many distinctive traits that are unique to this majestic breed. Their eyes, expression, and face shape set them apart from other breeds, as does their glorious double coat.
Norwegian Forest Size
The Norwegian Forest Cat won’t reach maturity until they’re five years old. But by that age, your cat could be anywhere from 13 to 22 pounds.
The Wegie has a long and sturdy body, defined by solid muscles and a broad chest. The CFA describes them as “powerful” in appearance, “large and imposing.” Their tail is also broad, as well as notably long and bushy.
Norwegian Forest Cats’ facial features are what set them apart from the Maine Coon and other larger breeds. Upon their short and heavily muscled neck, the Wegie has an alert and proportionate head with large eyes, a firm and rounded chin, and ears with rounded tips. Lynx tips are desirable although not required by the CFA.
The Wegie’s eyes are large, almond-shaped, expressive, and open. The Norwegian Forest Cat’s eyes should be shades of green, gold, green-gold, and copper. Norwegian Forest Cat’s with white fur may have blue eyes. White-colored Wegies are even known to have odd eyes, where one eye could be blue and the other might be another color!
Legs & Paws
No surprise here, but the Norwegian Forest Cat has straight and muscular legs. This breed typically has hind legs that are longer than their front. They have paws that are described as “toe out” by the CFA. Their paws are large and round, with heavy tufting between each toe.
Insulated and waterproof, the Norwegian Forest Cat’s double coat was originally how this hearty breed withstood Scandinavian winters in Norway. They have long, coarse guard hairs and a dense undercoat. They deal with harsher weather and environments thanks to their ruff, bushy tail, fluffy back legs, and “bib” of fur, along with their tufted paws.
Norwegian Forest Cats often have a brown and white tabby patterned coat, but they can come in most colors — from pure white to dark black — and every coat pattern.
Norwegian Forest Cat Care
While the Wegie has quite an impressive coat, they surprisingly don’t need a lot of coat maintenance. The CFA recommends weekly brushing. Some Norwegian Forest Cat owners will tell you that they brush twice a week with a bristle or slicker brush or a stainless steel comb. This helps get out any tangles, reduces shedding, and helps your Wegie avoid hairballs.
Norwegian Forest Cats luckily don’t need to be bathed too often. But if they ever need that extra cleaning, keep in mind that their coats are very waterproof, making it near impossible to get them wet enough!
Brushing your cat’s teeth weekly — or daily, if possible —will avoid periodontal disease. You should also wipe the corners of their eyes daily with a damp cloth to remove any discharge you see. Remember to use a different part of the washcloth for each eye to avoid a potential infection spread. Check the Norwegian’s ears weekly to ensure there’s not a wax or dirt buildup. If they look a bit dirty, use cider vinegar and warm water on a cotton ball to lightly wipe them out.
While Norwegian Forest Cats were bred to endure cold weather and harsh climates, you should consider keeping your kitty indoors. This will protect them from diseases spread by other cats, like FIV, and keep them safe from dogs, coyotes, and cars. Since your Wegie will be big and beautiful, it may even get catnapped by other people.
Norwegian Forest Cats can live 12 to 16 years on average if they’re given adequate care. Always make sure you’re adopting from a breeder who offers health guarantees on kittens. It should be noted that there are a few hereditary diseases that are more common in Wegies than other ailments.
One is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a common heart disease found in cats. The heart muscle will thicken, causing them to not pump blood as effectively. While it seems to happen without cause, you’ll notice your Wegie is lethargic or has leg swelling. If you see any concerning signs of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, make an appointment with your vet.
Hip dysplasia is also common in cats. It’s a defect of the hip socket that can eventually lead to severe lameness and joint discomfort if left untreated. You’ll notice that your Norwegian Forest Cat is moving slowly or avoiding jumping. If your Wegie is not trying to climb on just about everything in your house, you might want to bring them in for a checkup.
While Norwegian Forest Cats are quite large, they shouldn’t be obese. Like all cats, they should be fed the recommended serving size for their weight each day. So this might be a bit more than the average cat.
The commercial cat food that you pick should have a named protein source, like chicken or salmon, as well as the proper amount of taurine. This is an essential amino acid that cats need to remain healthy and active.
You may even want to consider cat food that is formulated for hairballs or digestion, due to the Wegies’ thick coat.
Norwegian Forest Cats have been known to regulate their intake, cutting down on food or increasing their exercise if they feel it’s necessary.
Children & Other Pets
Norwegian Forest Cats are not a needy breed. They’re known to be quite independent, so a feline companion is not required. However, if you prefer multiple cats in your household, the Wegie is easygoing and can learn to share their space. Just make sure they have a space to call their own. This can be somewhere high off the ground, so they don’t feel insecure.
Because of their size and temperament, Norwegian Forest Cats are a great playmate for dogs. They are an adaptable breed that often goes with the flow, meaning they won’t get too bothered by a dog’s antics. They are also happy to interact with children, although you should always make sure you’re there to supervise to avoid tail pulling or playful scratching. Kids will love watching a big Wegie jump out from behind a corner and bound towards a toy.
More About This Breed
The origin of the Norwegian Forest Cat is a bit of a mystery. Some say they are descendants of Siberian cats found in Russia. Others say they are just cats who adapted to the Arctic through natural selection. The mystery of the Wegie is nothing new. There are Norwegian legends and myths about a long-haired “mountain-dwelling fairy cat” that climbed trees and rocks with ease.
This cat, known as the “skogkatt,” was a favorite of Freya, the Norse goddess of love and beauty. The Wegie is also found in a Norwegian tale about Thor, who loses a strength contest to the tricky god Jormungand while he’s disguised as a skogkatt.
So by now you probably can tell that the Wegie is known for its size and giant coat. But some people are shocked to find out that young Norwegian Forest Cats won’t get their infamous fluff until they’re two years old. They won’t even have their recognizable adult coat until they are three months old, meaning you may start out with a short-haired kitten!
Thinking a Norwegian Forest Cat seems like the right fit for your family? A Wegie may set you back about $1,500. But the hefty price tag is worth it if you’re looking for a big, fluffy cat to rule your home from the highest perch in the building.
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Written by Olivia Richman at www.holistapet.com