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History of the Norwegian Forest Cat

 

Although in the United States the Norwegian Forest Cat is considered a "New Breed," it is indeed centuries old in its native homeland.  Norse mythology speaks of a cat so huge that even the god Thor could not lift it from the ground.  The goddess of  love and fertility, Freya, had a carriage pulled by two large cats.  National fairy tales by Asbjomsen and Moe mention Troll Cats who were huge and furry; later translations changed Troll into Forest Cat.  In 1912, Gabriel Scott, a renowned Norwegian poet, wrote an entire book about a white Forest Cat, "Snowflakes," who was mobbed by the other cats because he was long-haired.

Until 1938 the Forest Cat was just a domestic cat like any other cat in Norway.  This lynx-like cat was called the "Skaukatt" by people who knew about its existence.   No one really cared about this long-haired stray cat except the farmer, who appreciated this big, beautiful domestic cat.   Forest cats can still be found on the farms in Norway.

No one really knows for sure how long the Forest Cats have existed in Norway.  They may be descendants of the short-haired cats brought in from England by the Vikings and the long-haired cats brought in by the Crusaders.  They do not look like Persians or like long-haired short-haired cats.   They are something very special.  The rough Norwegian climate  has been hard on humans, but it has been a blessing to the cats.   The Norwegian Forest Cat has become what it is today because only the fittest remained alive.   As these cats had to feed and defend themselves from enemies in the the forest, only the ones who were best at hunting and fast to escape from predators survived.  Cats who lived through their first winter were long-legged, springy, intelligent and brave.    This very special breed evolved without any human interference.

In 1975 an association called "Norsk Skogkattring" was established in order to lead the breeding in the right direction.  Strict rules were followed by the breeders.  Only genuine Forest Cats were allowed in the breeding program.  In order to control this, meetings were arranged and cat owners were invited to come and show their cat before the Breed Committee.  Only cats recognized by the breed committee could be registered as such.


In describing the Forest Cat, the foremost characteristic is  
disposition.   They continually exhibit their love of people.  If they have a fault, it is that they want to be with you and love you all the time.  With a Forest Cat in the house you have to close the door to get any privacy.  True to their origins in the forests, they are exceedingly alert and very intelligent.

A Norwegian Forest Cat is a big, muscular and heavily boned cat with a medium - long  body.The legs are in proportion to the body and hind legs are higher than the front legs.   The head is triangular shaped with all three sides equal.  The profile is long and straight from the tip of the nose to the brow with no bump, stop or break.  The chin is firm.  The eyes are expressive, large and almond shaped set at a slight angle with the outer corner slightly higher than the inner corner.   All eye colors are accepted, including blue and odd-eyed whites.  The ears are  large, set on the head so that they follow the line of the triangle from the outer base of the ears down to the chin.  The ears are well tufted and many of the cats have lynx-like ear tips.  The tail is long and flowing and carried high.  The Forest Cat is accepted in all colors and patterns except colorpoints.

The breed is known for its long, rich fur with a woolly undercoat covered by long guard hairs.   This coat is warm and water-repellent requiring less grooming than some other long-haired cats.   The ruff in winter is truly magnificent, exhibiting three separate sections:  a short back of the neck ruff, side mutton chops, and a full frontal bib.   When feeling the coat, one should get the feeling of denseness, especially on the tabbies.   Solids, bi-colors, and tri-colors often have a softer coat.   The length of the coat is semi-long which means that it should not be as long as a Persian coat.

The development of the coat is very special.   As a kitten the Norwegian Forest Cat has a long woolly coat.   At the age of three months the kitten's coat starts to change, and for a long time (sometimes several months) the kitten looks short-haired except for a bushy tail.   The guard hairs start to grow when the kitten is about five months old, but can take some time to develop.  Some of the cats do not have a fully mature coat until they are about two years old.  The Forest Cat sometimes appears almost short-haired in the summer.  The undercoat drops in the spring, and the new undercoat starts growing in the fall.   Shorter days and limited light plus cold temperatures have a major affect on the development of the undercoat.   Although the Forest Cat originated in the forests of Norway the cat is perfectly suited to indoor life.

The overall appearance is of an alert, healthy, firm, muscular, and well proportioned cat.  The males are large and imposing (averaging 12 to 15 lbs) while the females are considerably smaller (8 to 10 lbs).  It should be noted that this breed is not fully mature until five years of age.  The Norwegian females are especially good mothers, keeping their offspring in tow as long as you will let them, and have been known to readily adopt other kittens as well.

November 1, 1979 saw the entry of the first breeding pair into the United States. It was accepted in TICA in 1984.

January 2, 2013:  Data compiled from pamphlets created by the original members of the Norwegian Forest Cat Breeders Consortium (Linda Stebner, Linda Krall, Ro Finn, Patti Andrews & Louise Clair).  Shared here with permission from Linda Krall of Naturskat Cattery - New York.

 

Photo 1: EC Torvmyra's Eviva Solterona, NFO n 09 23, 1979-10-27, mother of Torvmyra's Sagres

Photo 2: EP & CH Timotei, M, NFO n 09 23, 1977-04-01 Another foundation cat bred to Tussi many times.

Photo 3: SGC & EC Torvmyra's Sagres, M, NFO n 09 23, 1984-04-15

These cats can be found in the pedigrees of the first Norwegian Forest Cats in the US

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