The Norwegian Forest Cat

A complete breed guide

Last Updated 29 SEPT 2019

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski BVSc.

This large, fluffy breed of cat is sure to turn heads wherever it goes. One of the largest cat breeds, the Norwegian Forest Cat (affectionately known as 'Wegies') absolutely oozes magnificence with its nordic fluffy mane, big yellow or green eyes, and strikingly massive build.

We've put together a complete guide with everything you need to know before adopting a Norwegian Forest Cat. If you need any further info, check out our Discover Education Portal or our complimentary Ask a Vet service.

Place of origin: Life Expectancy: Other names:
Norway 13-16 years 'Weegies'
Energy level: Tendency to vocalise: Coat colours:
Moderately active High A wide variety of colours (tabby, ginger, white, blue, multi coloured)
Coat type: Average Weight: Coat markings:
Semi-long haired coat, fluffy with a water-resistant overcoat. 4.5-8.0kg (males), 3.6-5.4kg (females) A variety of colours including black, brown, cream, blue, red, as well as patterned such as tabby, tortie, solid, and smoke.
Shedding factor: Overall grooming needs: Temperament:
High Moderate maintenance - one brush per week is ideal Social, brave, vocal, playful, easy-going, placid, dog-like, intelligent.

2. History

The Norwegian Forest Cat

The Norwegian Forest Cat first appeared in history in around 1,000CE in Norway with the Vikings. They were known to travel with the Vikings, keeping the ships free from vermin.

It is believed that these early cats were the inspiration for the Skogkat, a mythical 'mountain fairy cat' in Norse mythology. The Norse goddess of love, Freya, was said to travel in a skogkat-drawn chariot.

This fluffy breed was quite popular in European farms throughout the centuries following, but dropped in popularity around World War II and almost became extinct thanks to cross breeding. Thankfully the breed was restored and continued by a few keen breeders, and in the 1970s it was named the national breed of Norway by King Olaf. The Norwegian Forest Cat was fully recognised as a breed in 1990.

3. Distinguishing features

One of the most noticeable things about the Norwegian Forest Cat is the size. These gentle giants can reach 8kg (males) and can be very tall from head to tail when stretched out in a big 'wegie' hug!

Their magnificent thick fluffy coat is probably the second feature they're known and admired for. It comes in a variety of striking colours, including red, black, brown, cream, blue, and patterns such as tabby, tortie, solid, and smoke.

With a fabulous waterproof double coat, it's easy to imagine their wilder ancestors stalking prey amongst a snowy Scandinavian forest.

4. Personality

Credit: Mr Torden from @thunderandmist on Instagram

The Norwegian Forest Cat is a social, gentle, friendly cat who likes being around family members. Known for following their family around the home, they love company from people they know. While not usually a clingy lap cat, the Norwegian Forest Cat loves a good head scratch and will be sure to respond with a head bunt and a purr. They are known for getting on well with children, and are great with dogs as they are a bit dog-like themselves.

As they are quite gentle and placid, they are also appropriate for a single person or an elderly owner. Talk about being a cat for all households!

As they are large and athletic, this breed loves to climb and explore. However, they are highly adaptable to any environment, and can be just as happy indoors as they are outdoors. If you want to keep these floofballs indoors, just be sure to provide them with a nice tall cat tree.

The Norwegian Forest Cat's high level of intelligence means they require lots of mental stimulation. They thrive on games and puzzles, so be sure to provide a couple of interactive toys.

As they are quite a clever breed, the Norwegian Forest Cat is typically quite easy to train. Many Wegie owners even train them to walk on a leash and harness.


5. Grooming

The Norwegian Forest Cat has long fur designed for insulation against snow. However, despite this dense fur, their grooming requirement is surprisingly low maintenance as they are generally adept at grooming themselves. They may benefit from brushing once per week, and we recommend using a wire bristle brush. Try to start as early in life as possible so they become accustomed to the sensation of being brushed.

Kong Zoom Groom

This gentle rubber brush is perfect for high-shedding cats as it removes excess fur while providing a gentle massage.

Furminator

This clever de-shedding comb helps reduce the risk of hairballs in long-haired breeds.

Style it Slicker Brush

This wire-bristled brush is perfect for removing loose fur in long-haired breeds of cats.

Hill's Wet Varieties

This innovative 'glove brush' is the perfect tool for encouraging bonding while grooming your kitty.


Nutritional Requirements

The Norwegian Forest cat is a unique breed, but is still taxonomically within the domestic feline species, so their nutritional demands don't differ too much from other cats. A kitten diet is required until they are fully grown, which may be slightly older than 12 months of age as they are classified as a large breed.

Because they can be prone to hip and joint issues, it's important to keep their weight in check. An indoor cat diet might be perfect for indoor wegies, or a general calorie-reduced recipe.

Recommended food for the Norwegian Forest Cat:

Royal Canin Indoor

This diet from Royal Canin is specially formulated for indoor cats. With high digestibility, adapted calorie content, and specific fibre content, it is perfect for less active indoor weegies.

Canidae Pure Sea

This all natural, limited ingredient food for cats is made with salmon and menhaden fish meal, so it's naturally high in omega fatty acids for healthy joint maintenance.

Ziwi Peak

This premium, high-meat cat food is available in cans (pictured) or freeze-dried formulas. The natural ingredients and a high meat content are perfect for the outdoor or active Norwegian Forest Cats.

Advance Light

A light formula food is perfect for a Norwegian Forest Cat, as they can be prone to weight gain.

7. Common Health Problems

The Norwegian Forest Cat is a mostly healthy breed but they can be prone to obesity and joint issues due to their large size. They can also be prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a heart disease), hip dysplaisa, and a glycogen storage disease.

Due to their large size and predisposition to joint problems, we recommend regular play to keep them active, maintaining a healthy weight on an indoor or light cat food, and considering joint care supplements.

Fun Facts about the Norwegian Forest Cat

  • They are officially Norway's national cat, as decreed by King Olaf V in 1977.
  • With stronger claws than most breeds, they are exceptionally good tree climbers, and have been known to scoot down a tree head-first.
  • They were the inspiration for the mythical skogkatt - a large forest dwelling fairy cat - in Nordic legend. Can you imagine a couple of these pulling Freya the goddess of love in her mythical sled? (Well, I can... and it's a fabulous image.)
  • They were used as mousers on Viking ships.
  • The breed almost went extinct after World War II, but were restored thanks to an organised breeding program.
  • Their ears and toes contain 'tufted' fur which acts like earmuffs and mittens, helping to keep them warm in the snow.
  • They're a cousin of the Maine Coon. As both breeds are similarly large, magnificent floof beasts, it's easy to see the resemblance.