What is a Norwegian Forest Cat?
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a hardy natural breed, unlike most pedigree breeds which have been developed to fit a breeder or cat fancy’s ideas of the "perfect" cat, the Norwegian Forest Cat developed in the harsh, wild environment of the fjords and forests of Norway, this has produced a cat with all the attributes necessary to enable it to survive in this environment.
Cats resembling the Norwegian Forest Cat have been present in Norway for Centuries, featuring in Norse Mythology, Folklore, and Fairy Tales. The Goddess Freya is said to have had her chariot drawn by two large cats and Vikings were known to take their cats with them on sea journeys to control the rat population on their ships.
Pedigree cat breeders in Norway first started to take an interest in their native breed around the beginning of the 1930's, sadly the Second World Wars stopped their efforts to establish it as an official breed, and almost wiped out the semi-domesticated population, as such it wasn't until the 1970's that the concerted efforts to preserve they breed were taken.
A Breed Advisory Committee was formed and later in the 1970's, a Brown Tabby and White male kitten that had been bred from carefully selected "Novice" cats was chosen by the committee to be the blueprint for all Norwegian Forest Cats. It was on this cat, Pans Truls, that the Standard of Points for the ideal Norwegian Forest Cat was based. Pan’s Truls is the Grandfather of my Stud boy Frodo, in the 12th generation, and the Grandfather of my sister Queens in the 11th generation. Another famous Norwegian Forest Cat, Pans Polaris, can also be found in my cats backgrounds in the 6th and 7th generations.
The Norwegian Forest Cat was first accepted as a Pedigree Breed in 1976 and in 1977 it was officially recognised as an International Pedigree Breed throughout Europe and Scandinavia. Today the Norwegian Forest cat is recognised and accepted as a Pedigree breed by most Pedigree Cat Registries throughout the World.
What is a Norwegian Forest Cat? The Norwegian Forest Cat is a large, strong, active, intelligent, inventive, brave, adaptable, playful and sociable cat - all attributes which have helped it to survive in the harsh environment in which it evolved. Other attributes of the breed include:
- A double weatherproof coat with an outer coat of long, sleek guard hairs to repel snow and rain and a thick, soft undercoat for warmth.
- A very strong muscular body to enable it to catch and manage prey.
- Hindquarters which are very powerful, longer than the front legs, and which are very strong and muscular for running, jumping, leaping through snow, and climbing rocks and trees.
- Large, well-feathered feet which act as snowshoes in the snow.
- Very strong claws which act as crampons in snow and ice and on rocks and trees. These cats can not only run up trees but can run down head first.
- A triangular head with a strong jaw and chin.
- Large, oval, obliquely set eyes for a large range of vision.
- Large, open ears set high and well protected with tufts and furnishings.
- A very long, fluffy tail which is used to wrap around themselves. They bury their nose in their tail to warm the air as it is breathed in thus conserving energy.
In spite of the Norwegian Forest Cats thick double coat, the coat is designed to be maintained in the wild so is easy to care for, with most cats only needing a few quick brushes in the spring to help the old winter coast work its way out, in the wild this would be done by the cat rubbing against bushes and trees and work the loose fur out.
Norwegian Forest Cats today are very strong and healthy cats which are not prone to the common cat ailments such as cat flu and do not have any common genetic illnesses or disabilities.
Although the breed evolved in the wild they are by no means a “wild cat” but love people, including children, and happily interact with other animals, our cats try to nick food off the dog (a very brave thing to do, lol), ride the pigs, and nest with the chooks, as well as rubbing noses with the rabbit and chasing balls and toys around the lounge floor, chasing long skirts, the broom, and untied shoelaces, or just snoozing on a couch or burrowing into beds for a nap.
The breed in general is lively and interactive and they love to be involved with whatever you are doing whether that is gardening, house work, or office work.
The Norwegian Forest cat is extremely athletic and agile and is very well equipped both mentally and physically to take care of itself and to survive in the most extreme environment but also the most comfortable of abodes.
Norwegian Forest Cat’s love being out of doors to bound through long grass or snow, run straight up a tree and then straight down again just for the sheer enjoyment of being able to do so, explore the fishpond (Norwegian Forest Cats are well known for their love of water and fishing ability), and chase butterflies and bumblebees.
Of course, while the Norwegian Forest Cat really enjoys the freedom of being outdoors due consideration must be given to all the many dangers to your beloved kitty; cars, dogs, cat-hating neighbours, Gareth Morgan supporters (sorry couldn’t help that one!) and cat thieves!
Norwegian Forest Cats come in a wide range of colours from pure white to solid black and all Tabby colours but they are not available in the Pointed (Siamese) patterns as this, being a created pattern, would involve crossbreeding to achieve. They may or may not also have white in varying amounts from a single locket or tail tip to predominantly white with colour on just the head and tail.
What is the difference between a Norwegian Forest Cat and a Maine Coon?
I am often asked the difference between a Norwegian Forest Cat and a Maine Coon, one day I plan to be able to show people these differences by ownng my own ‘Coon but for now I will attempt to answer this question in words alone.
I will apologise in advance to any Coon owners if I get anything wrong here, as I have not yet had the pleasure of owning a Coon myself I am relying on what I have been told by others.
First off I will say that I am not going to argue which breed is best as both are different so neither can be ‘best’ it just depends what works for you. Obviously what works for me is my gorgeous Wegies.
So what is the difference between Norwegian Forest Cats and Maine Coons? Superficially they are generally thought of as being alike but as you get to know them you will realise they really are quite different, just with a few similarities, these similarities though can be put down to the general belief that the Maine Coon as it is today was contributed to BY the Norwegian Forest Cat.
Historical rumour has it that the Vikings visited North America (around the time they settled small colonies in Greenland), landing in what is nowadays known as the State of Maine and while the Vikings themselves did not stay a few of their cats did get left behind and interbred with the local cat population.
Both breeds are described as large in their respective Standards with Maine Coons generally being slightly larger, however! This size difference does not equate to a weight difference with both breeds weighing between 6-11kgs. This size difference seems to come more from the fact that Maine Coons are generally more slender, with longer legs than Norwegian Forest Cats who are quite ‘stocky’. Obviously you do get the occasional exception to the rule with a very small or very large cat popping up from either breed but that’s the average.
As both breeds have developed without a lot of human intervention most cats of both breeds are exceptionally healthy and robust, neither breed is generally considered to be prone to genetic weaknesses though hip-dysplasia and heart problems seem to be becoming more common in Maine Coons, this appears to be related to modern breeders attempting to breed cats larger and larger.
Both breeds have a "semi long" coat, this means their coat is not as long or as plush as a created breed such as a Persian, this is directly related to making both breeds coast easier to care for in the wild.
The Norwegian Forest Cat has quite a woolly coat with long glossy guard hairs, during spring quite a bit of the woolly undercoat will get shed, in some cats (or in some areas) this can make the cat look almost medium haired for a few months before next winters coat starts growing in.
The Main Coon in comparison has quite a silky coat that tends to lay flatter against the body, as such when they shed their ‘winter coat’ it doesn’t make quite so much a seasonal contrast as the Norwegian Forest Cat.
The most obvious physical difference between the two breeds would have to be head shape. When observing the Norwegian Forest Cats head (on the correct angle) there should be a triangular shape with the base of each ear and nose forming the three points, the profile of the Norwegian Forest cat (when viewed from the side) should be as straight as possible from the forehead to the end of the nose. The Maine Coon however has a square muzzle and high cheek bones and a distinct dip in its profile when viewed from the side. In reality though, you do get some not-so-good examples of either breed that can be hard to tell apart.
Although both Norwegian Forest Cats and Maine Coons originate from harsh outdoor environments they are more than happy to live indoors. While both breeds are good strong climbers I have yet to have one of my Wegies attempt to climb curtains or jump on bench tops, they prefer to keep their feet on the ground unless climbing a very sturdy tree.
Character-wise, both breeds are relaxed and good natured; both would be a pleasure to live with. Both breeds are quiet vocally, communicating mostly in soft trills and chirps than loud meows, Norwegian Forest Cats do however tend to have quite a distinct meow that they like using at feed times, it really does sound like they are asking you to go hurry up and give them their dinner ‘now’!
Both breeds are very affectionate but neither are considered lap cats, which is probably a good thing going by their size, they generally prefer to sit next to their favourite person rather than on top of them.