Known as skogkatt in their native Norway, Norwegian Forest Cats are generally bigger felines with regal features and semi-long-haired coats. Their larger builds and rugged looks lead many to assume the Norwegian Forest Cat prefers to live outside full time, but this playful and social cat typically prefers to be inside with its human companions. Norwegian Forest Cats are often affectionately called “wegies” by their admirers.
Norwegian Forest Cat Breed Traits
Weight Range (Male vs. Female)
Once they reach full maturity, which can be as late as five years of age, both male and female Norwegian Forest Cats possess significant muscle and bone mass. Males weigh on average between 12 and 16 pounds, with females typically ranging from 9 to 12 pounds.
Norwegian Forest Cats will have either blue, orange or green eyes.
Coat Color and Grooming
Norwegian Forest Cats are known to sport very diverse coat colors and pattern variants, including:
- black tortoiseshell
- blue tortoiseshell
- light amber
While certainly not the most demanding of cats when it comes to grooming, the wegie’s long, thick coat certainly benefits from frequent brushing. Fortunately, wegies are not particularly heavy shedders, but they will need consistent brushing to prevent knotted fur and hairballs when self-grooming.
Phenomenal as family pets, Norwegian Forest Cats are regarded as playful, affectionate, sweet and human-oriented. They tend to be fairly quiet, and are not prone to keeping their owners up at night with excessive meowing.
Norwegian Forest Cats are thought to have been brought to Norway centuries or even millennia ago, and even appear in Norse mythology. They are considered a natural breed, having developed without intentional breeding. The domestic wegie enjoyed a relatively understated place in the family home until 1938, when a striking individual was presented at a cat fancy show and left quite the impression.
Shortly thereafter, passionate fans of the breed formed the Norwegian Forest Cat Club to protect and promote this unique cat. During World War II the breed nearly became extinct due to cross-breeding, but members of the NFCC rallied to establish breeding programs and restore the feline’s popularity in Norway and beyond. In the 1950s, King Olav V declared them the official cat of Norway, and the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) granted the breed official worldwide recognition in 1977.
Though generally rare in the U.S., Norwegian Forest Cats are popular as pets in most of Scandinavia, France and China. Wegies are believed to be an ancestor of the Maine Coon Cat, and are sometimes mistaken as such. They are still a relatively new cat breed on the international cat show circuit, especially in the U.S. — but when they do make appearances, they are usually a crowd favorite.
Norwegian Forest Cat Health and Care
Like most domestic cat breeds, Norwegian Forest Cats can live anywhere from 12 to 20 years, depending on their overall health and quality of care. Though generally healthy, this naturally muscular breed can fall victim to obesity and other weight related problems like diabetes and joint issues as they age. They can also be susceptible to glycogen storage disease, heart or kidney disease and retinal dysplasia. As with all cats, regular vet checkups and vaccinations should be maintained.
While breeding sometimes raises concerns around animal welfare, breeding Norwegian Forest Cats does not compromise the animal’s health or wellbeing. The breed is not based on a genetic mutation (as are Scottish Folds, Sphynxes and Munchkins), nor is it a hybrid (like Bengal or Savannah cats). They are not bred for size or other physical extremes, as Maine Coons and Persians sometimes are. In the hands of a quality preservation breeder, breeding Norwegian Forest Cats is about preserving the natural beauty of Norway’s official cat rather than creating a new breed. The only concern that sometimes arises from preservation breeding is the limited gene pool, which can result in health problems (see above).
Diet & Activity
True obligate carnivores, wegies do best on a meat-rich diet with lower carbohydrate levels. Since wegies are prone to obesity, it’s important that their owners provide plenty of opportunity for exercise. Wegies have a reputation as great mouse hunters, so they will naturally engage in chasing-type play with balls or a laser pointer. They are also big climbers — as Michael Shelton of Featherland Norwegian Forest Cats notes, they “live up to the ‘forest’ cat name… They like to be in high places!”
Fun Facts About Norwegian Forest Cats
Some additional interesting facts about the beloved wegie breed:
- They’re Norway’s official cat.
- They appear in Norse mythology, as the cats that pulled the chariot of Freya, goddess of love and beauty.
- They age slowly compared to other cat breeds.
- They can weigh up 22 pounds — larger than most cat breeds, and even some smaller dogs.
- The breed narrowly escaped extinction post-WWII.
- Genetic testing has shown that the Maine Coon is a descendant of the Norwegian Forest Cat.
Norwegian Forest Cat FAQs
Q: Are Norwegian Forest Cats hypoallergenic?
A: The Norwegian Forest Cat’s saliva actually contains lower levels of Fel d 1 (the protein that triggers human allergic reactions) than most cats’. However, wegies can carry allergens in their long coats, which can trigger human allergies and prevents the breed from being truly hypoallergenic.
Q: Do Norwegian Forest Cats get along with children?
A: A wonderful family cat, the playful wegie does well with attention from children. Of course, it’s always important to make sure a child knows how to be gentle and respectful of any pet, especially in early interactions, where adult supervision is advised.
Q: Do Norwegian Forest Cats get along with other pets?
A: The Norwegian Forest Cat’s gentle and playful nature usually extends to other pets in the home as well. But since multi-pet households essentially require that animals of different breeds and species cohabitate, potential personality drama is never completely off the table. Ideally, the introduction of a new pet should be made gradually and in neutral environments and supervised by a pet parent.