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Cat Breeds: The Norwegian Forest Cat

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Have you ever met a Norwegian forest cat? They are friendly, lovable, and perfect for a family. Similar to the Maine coon cat, they are well adapted for cold weather. Though they are a relatively new breed to North America, these cats have lived in Norway for centuries.

Here are 5 facts to know about the Norwegian forest cat.

1) They have a mysterious past.

This cat breed may have descended from longhaired cats from Turkey, who were brought home by Scandinavian soldiers. Or they may be related to a breed of short-haired cats that the Vikings brought to Norway around 900-1000 A.D. In that case, the breed must have adapted to the colder climate to develop thick, woolly coats. In Norway, this cat breed is commonly known as “skogkatt,” which translates to “forest cat.” True to their name, these cats lived in the forest and hunted for their food. Others caught mice to earn their keep in barns, stables, and country homes.

2) They almost disappeared as a breed during the mid-1900s.

Because Norwegian forest cats were not an official breed, they were often hybridized with domestic shorthairs. In the 1930s, local cat fanciers recognized that the breed was at risk of disappearing. They entered the cats in an Oslo show in 1938, but the arrival of WWII put their official plans on hold. After the war, they resumed their efforts. Happily, they were rewarded by seeing the Norwegian forest cat recognized as an official breed and also named the official cat of Norway by King Olaf V. In November of 1979, the first pair arrived in the USA. Since then, they’ve earned a place for themselves in cat shows and competitions across the country.

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3) They have a warm winter coat.

One of their most distinctive features is their double-layered, thick winter coat. Each cat has “mutton chops” on his face, a collar, and a frontal ruff of fur. Its hind legs have full britches of fur as well. Tufted ears and paws help insulate its sensitive spots from the cold.

4) They are fond of climbing.

“Wegies,” as they are affectionately nicknamed, have a remarkable penchant for climbing. You may even see a Wegie descending from a tree headfirst. With their waterproof coats, these cats also enjoy fishing for dinner in nearby ponds, rivers, or lakes. As a breed, Wegies are naturally athletic and strong.

5) They are easy to get along with.

This cat breed is relatively laid-back and relaxed. While they enjoy human company, they won’t beg for constant attention. Wegies are patient with children and will put up with their youthful antics. “They can be very playful when they want to be but are typically under control enough to suit older owners. They don’t get upset easily, so they can be good with kids,” says expert Michael Shelton of Featherland Norwegian Forest Cats. They also tend to interact well with other pets. Intelligent and playful, Norwegian forest cats are the perfect choice for a family pet.

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