Brown tabby Norwegian Forest cat
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Meet the Norwegian Forest Cat

Est. read time: 8 min.

The Norwegian Forest cat is a stunning, strong-boned, semi-long-haired domestic cat breed native to Norway. These cats stand out with their rugged appearance and size. In addition to their sturdy bones, their thick hair makes the Norwegian Forest cat appear even bigger, resulting in one of the largest domestic cat breeds.

Norwegian Forest cat ...at a glance
Personality Friendly, adaptable, laid-back
Life expectancy 12-16 years
Weight 8-20 lbs
Coat & colors Semi-long, dense; various colors & patterns
Energy level Medium
Affection level Medium
Friendliness High
Shedding level Medium
Required grooming High

Overview of the Norwegian Forest cat

Norwegian Forest cat

These cats are loving and laid-back. A friendly cat that isn’t in constant need of attention, the Norwegian Forest cat is an incredible companion breed. These cats can work well within big families because they are adaptable and patient with children. If you want a cat that will be tolerant and impactful in your family, they are a great choice. 

Learning about the cat breed you hope to one day welcome into your home can help you prepare for many years of care and nurturing. Having a Norwegian Forest cat is a big responsibility that truly pays off in the love and loyalty that they give. Because these cats are so large with luscious coats, it's important to be prepared for how to properly care for them. 

Weight

The Norwegian Forest cat is larger than the average domestic cat breed. They are a sturdy breed with a very muscular body, which helped them to thrive in the wild for centuries. Now their strength is used to pounce on lasers, climb cat trees, and chase after gleeful children. 

A typical male Norwegian Forest cat weighs between 12 and 20 pounds, while a female Norwegian Forest cat weighs between 8 and 16 pounds. This breed is slow to mature and won’t be full-sized until they are 5 years old. 

Length

The Norwegian Forest cat ranges in length, but their bodies and tails are often very similar in size. They also have long muzzles and long legs; they easily stand out from their feline peers. Typically, they range from 12 to 18 inches long, and some easily surpass that. 

Coat

The Norwegian Forest cat has semi-long hair that is thick, soft, and warm. These cats have a double coat: the undercoat is thick and dense, and the topcoat is glossy and water-resistant.

Nearly every color and pattern known to cats can be presented in the Norwegian Forest cat, other than colors resulting from hybridization. Their coats require constant grooming to maintain.

Life expectancy

Norwegian Forest cats can live for 12 to 16 years. This is a cat that will see you through major life events. They will stick by your side for years to come as long as you keep up their care.

History of the Norwegian Forest cat

orange and white Norwegian Forest cat outside in snow

Known as the skogkatt (which means forest cat or fairy cat) in Norway, the Norwegian Forest cat came from, you guessed it—the Norwegian forest! This breed carries history and magic with them, dating back hundreds of years. While this breed might appear to be unruly and feral, they do not come from a line of wild cats. Instead, they most likely descended from domestic cats that were brought to Europe by the Romans. 

Norse mythology tells many stories about long-haired forest cats that knew more about people than people knew about themselves. There is a magical energy that Norwegian Forest cats bring to the table. They traveled with the Vikings, keeping their ships and villages free of vermin. The Norse goddess Freya was said to drive a chariot pulled by two giant cats

While much is unknown about their history, it’s likely that shorthaired cats made their way into Europe more than a thousand years ago and learned to adapt to the harsher climates, producing long-haired kittens that could better withstand the cold. To survive in a rough climate, the skogkatt learned to be resilient and quick-witted, which has carried over into the domestic Norwegian Forest cats of today. 

Into the modern era 

Norwegian Forest cat fans had to work hard to preserve the breed, as they almost came to extinction in the 1930s due to hybridization with local free-roaming Domestic Shorthairs in Norway.

After WWII, admirers of the Norwegian Forest cat were able save the breed through a careful breeding program. These cats were granted full championship status in the European show ring and elected the official cat of Norway in the 1950s, thanks to King Olav.

They first stepped foot in the United States in 1979. (Though they might have crossed the Atlantic with Leif Erickson in the 900s—we'll never know for sure!) Since their recent reintroduction to North America, they have become a very popular cat breed in all corners of the world.

Characteristics

brown tabby Norwegian Forest cat

What is most notable about the Norwegian Forest cat is their large bodies and long hair. They can have a variety of coat colors, making each Norwegian Forest cat unique. The most common color pattern is tabby and white. As beautiful as their coats are, they need to be groomed and maintained frequently. 

Some color and pattern variations include solid colors (white, black, blue, cream, red, smoke, lavender, and chocolate), calico, and tortoiseshell. Their eye color can vary.

These cats are strong with a powerful appearance. Every part of their body is muscular and broad, adding to their large size. Even their paws, limbs, and ears are on the larger side, allowing them to move quickly and stay alert at all times. Their ancestors might have braved forest winters, but the modern Norwegian Forest cat is more than happy to be living a life of luxury.

Personality

The Norwegian Forest cat is a gentle, friendly companion that is capable of love and independence in equal measure. They are highly adaptable, which might come from their years of wandering the Norwegian forests.

The Norwegian Forest cat enjoys being around people and is not easily frightened by newcomers. Once they have accepted you as their human, they will love and protect you endlessly. It’s in their nature to watch over the house, and so you might notice your cat patrolling the parameters of the house a few times a day. 

They love to play with toys and need to have moderate activity throughout the day. If you want a cat that is loving while also relatively laid-back, then this is the kitty for you. 

Caring for a Norwegian Forest Cat

grey Norwegian Forest cat in library

You will need to provide adequate exercise and mental activity to keep your pet happy and stimulated. Luckily Norwegian Forest cats are good at entertaining themselves, so finding the middle ground is quite easy.

You should have a cat tree and scratching post available to your Norwegian Forest cat because they love hunting and making their home into a playhouse. (After all, these longhaired cats' ancestors were said to climb sheer rock with ease.)

To keep up with proper grooming for a Norwegian Forest cat, you should be brushing their fur weekly—or daily, during shedding season. This can help avoid knots and tangles as well as prevent hairballs. Grooming can even become a part of playtime to make it enjoyable for your cat and easier for you.

Norwegian Forest cats are very particular about their bathroom location, so you will want to make sure you keep a clean litter box that your cat can access easily throughout the day. A self-cleaning litter box like Litter-Robot may be just what you need. 

Norwegian Forest cat health concerns

Norwegian Forest cats are known for being resilient and strong, which means they usually end up with a good bill of health. 

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common form of heart disease found in cats, and sometimes arises in Norwegian Forest cats. This condition causes the muscular walls of a cat’s heart to thicken, which lowers the ability of the heart to function properly.

Besides heart disease, these cats are also prone to kidney disease and hip dysplasia (a hereditary condition of the hip joint).

It’s good to be prepared for some of these issues, but it’s important to note that the Norwegian Forest cat is a very strong-willed feline!

Adopting a Norwegian Forest cat

Finding the right cat for you is about learning what you want out of the companionship. If you want a cat that is loyal, protective, intelligent, and friendly, the Norwegian Forest cat checks all the boxes. As large as they are, they find a way to adapt to any home and make for amazing family pets. 

Everyone will fall head over heels for your Norwegian Forest cat!

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Photo credits:

  • © Gangburgondes / CC-BY-SA-3.0
  • © Pieter Lanser / CC-BY-SA-2.0

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