Get to know the Norwegian Forest Cat
All you need to know about the breed
With a name that’s straight out of a fairy tale, the Norwegian Forest Cat more than lives up to its billing. Known for their almond-shaped eyes, impressive size and lustrous coat, they could indeed be a character in a storybook and look more like a wild animal than a family pet.
Funnily enough, though, while it’s true that they hail from the Norwegian forests after which they are named, the Norwegian Forest Cat may descend originally from domestic cats. In fact, it is widely believed that their ancestors were household pets of the Norwegian Vikings. Later, the breed went on to become established in the wild Nordic woodlands, gradually becoming more feral and growing their longer, thicker coat to cope with the harsh Scandinavian climate.
Today, while they remain a hardy, robust and self-assured animal, the Norwegian Forest Cat also has a lovely, sociable temperament that belies their background. As such, they can get on well with children and other pets – and even with dogs sometimes.
As one of the largest breeds of domestic cat, a fully grown Norwegian Forest Cat can reach a top weight of around 20lb (9kg). A strong, powerful and agile animal, not unlike the Maine Coon, they are exceptionally good at climbing due to their muscular bodies and strong claws. The Norwegian Forest Cat is also one of the only breeds to like water, thanks to their water-shedding hair, so watch out if you have a fishpond – and they may even try to jump in your bath!
While it’s true that they are best suited to an outdoor lifestyle, they can adapt well to life indoors as long as they have plenty of toys and activities to keep them occupied. A highly intelligent breed with a playful personality, Norwegian Forest Cats are very interactive animals who also enjoy games with their owners. The Norwegian Forest Cat has a good life expectancy, too, reaching an average age of 14 to 16 years.
Increasingly popular over the years, they were designated the official cat of Norway in the 1950’s. Nowadays, Norwegian Forest Cats feature among the 20 most popular cat breeds in the world.
2 facts about Norwegian Forest Cats
Things to look out for
From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Norwegian Forest Cat
It’s important to choose a reputable breeder
That way, you will significantly reduce the risk of any hereditary conditions. For example, although it happens only rarely, the Norwegian Forest Cat has a genetic predisposition to a neurological disorder known as ‘glycogen storage disease IV’ (or ‘Andersen disease’). This can occur at birth, with some kittens being stillborn, or it can also manifest at five to seven months with progressive decline. Fortunately, a DNA test can be carried out to establish if a cat is clear, so good breeders will be screening for the condition in the parents in order to reduce the risk. If buying a Norwegian Forest Cat kitten, be sure to check with your breeder about this.
Their teeth need some careful attention too
Like other breeds, the Norwegian Forest Cat can be prone to gum and dental problems. This can occur when plaque on the teeth builds up and becomes mineralised leading to what is known as ‘tartar’. This, in turn, can result in gingivitis (gum inflammation) and periodontal disease (affecting the structure around the tooth). As a result, the Norwegian Forest Cat should have their teeth brushed as often as possible. Regular dental check-ups are also recommended and the right sort of diet can help too. For example, dry food will help remove dental plaque and calcium chelators can prevent the build-up of tartar (see our nutrition section for more on the best diet for your Norwegian Forest Cat).
Be sure to check their eyes regularly for anything unusual
Another thing to be aware of is that the Norwegian Forest Cat can be susceptible to eye complaints. For example, these can include conditions such as conjunctivitis, glaucoma and retinal dysplasia – the last of which can occur when the kitten is still in the womb or newly born. The important thing is to check their eyes regularly for any sign of discomfort or irritation and, if anything doesn’t seem right, have a chat with your vet who will be able to advise on the best course of treatment. They will also be able to offer regular check-ups for your Norwegian Forest Cat in order to head off any issues.