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King in the North: The Norwegian Forest Cat
CatsBreeds

King in the North: The Norwegian Forest Cat

Charlie, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Oct 22, 2020

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The magnificent Norwegian forest cat is an ancient large breed from Scandinavia. Their size is close to that of a wild cat or a lynx, and they have adapted to live in the harsh climates of the deep European north. Nonetheless, they are domesticated animals that love to be indoors and can establish deep bonds with their humans. Commonly called "Wegies" by cat aficionados, they're not to be confused with Maine Coons, despite their striking resemblance.

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1

Norwegians are independent but sociable

Red norwegian forest cat in the garden

Norwegian forest cats love humans but are also very independent. While they like to spend quality time playing around with you with cat toys, they also want to be left alone. These cats do things only on their terms and don't require too much attention. This doesn't mean that they won't curl up on your lap, because they will. Just not all the time.

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2

They're beautiful and brilliant

Norwegian forest cat outside undefined undefined / Getty Images

With their almond-shaped eyes, long lavish coats, and pointed lynx-like ears, there's no doubt that Norwegian forest cats are really beautiful creatures. Their size and stealthy feline elegance set them apart from other house cats. They are also very intelligent. They adapt quickly to any kind of environment and learn fast to work around the habits of their human companions. This makes Wegies a very low-maintenance cat breed.

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3

The Norwegian's appearance

Two Norwegians forest cats on a window undefined undefined / Getty Images

In terms of coat colors, Norwegian forest cats fit everyone's taste. They can be tabbies, meaning their coats are striped. These stripes can be black, brown, silver, blue, red, or cream. They can also be fully red, and females can display the three-colored variation called tortoise. More possibilities include solid black, white, smoke, or white spotting.

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4

Give your cat space to climb

Norwegian forest cat on tree Astrid860 / Getty Images

If you want your Wegie to be truly happy, give them something to climb. They love high places and have strong, muscular paws that allow them to jump up to 6 feet. Bookcases, cat trees, closets, or even real trees if you have a backyard will quickly become their realm. These are also quite energetic animals that take great pleasure in exploring and hunting, so be ready to see them roaming around doing their thing, or playing on their own.

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5

Norwegians are a large breed

Red Norwegian forest cat Phil Lewis / Getty Images

In terms of size, Norwegian forest cats are among the largest domesticated feline breeds. Females weigh between 8 and 18 lbs, while males can be up to 20 lbs. Only ragdoll cats can get that big, while Maine coons and Siberian cats tend to be a little smaller. This significant size is the outcome of an evolutionary process made necessary by the cold climate in which these cats live.

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6

They shed a lot

Norwegian forest cat on carpet krblokhin / Getty Images

Wegies' water-proof coats have a double layer that can keep them warm in the harshest temperatures. They even have hair between their toes, and their tails sport long, fluffy fur. Unlike other cats, the hair on their bodies is a uniform length to ensure heat preservation. However, this means that when they shed, they shed a lot. Expect two shedding seasons, one in the spring and one in the winter.

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7

Grooming your forest cat

Norwegian forest cat on bed krblokhin / Getty Images

Such a rich coat needs some taking care of. During shedding season it's better to brush them twice a week, while for the rest of the year once a week is enough. Dental care is also recommended, as well as cleaning their litter every couple of days. Aside from this, they don't need much else, since they are quite self-sufficient animals.

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8

What to feed your Norwegian forest cat

Norwegian forest car on lawn undefined undefined / Getty Images

Given their past as professional hunters, Norwegian forest cats prefer a high-protein diet. They need no more than 5% carbohydrates per day and should be fed primarily wet food. Another option is to feed them raw meat, which is closer to what their ancestors ate. In any case, it's best to consult your vet on the matter and follow her advice closely. Always remember to have a bowl of fresh water next to your cat's food, or even better a water fountain.

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9

Health problems they may have

Norwegian forest kittens Nynke van Holten / Getty Images

Norwegian forest cats are a natural breed, meaning they aren't a man-made mix, so they don't present too many health issues. However, despite them being generally very healthy, kittens can rarely be born with glycogen storage disease IV, a hereditary and fatal condition. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is another possible disease they might develop, even though it's more common in mixed breeds.

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10

They have a long history

Norwegian forest cat on fence Astrid860 / Getty Images

The legend goes that Norwegian forest cats were brought to Norway by Vikings more than 3000 years ago, and they were put to work as rat and mice hunters on Viking ships. These large animals have such a special place in Scandinavian culture that they appear in a number of Norse myths. For instance, Thor, the god of thunder, had to demonstrate his strength by lifting a huge cat, while Freyja, the Norse goddess of love, used to travel in a carriage led by two big, long-haired cats.

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