The Forest Cats in Norway
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a breed of domestic cat that comes from Northern Europe and is believed to be descended from the natural landrace of cats brought to Norway by the Vikings. These cats are particularly well adapted for cold climates with a top coat of long and glossy hair with a woolly undercoat to provide insulation.
Some believe the Forest Cat came to Norway from Britain in around 1000 AD when the Vikings brought home longhaired cats that themselves had been bought o Britain by Crusaders. These cats bred with the native cats and evolved to the Forest Cat, with possible ancestors including the Siberian and Turkish Angora. Norse legends referred to the skogkatt, a mountain dwelling fairy cat that could climb rock faces that no-one else could manage and the Forest Cat is known for its particularly good climbing abilities. The early Forest Cats would probably have served as ships cats aboard Viking ships.
The first organisation dedicated to the breed was formed in 1938, the Norwegian Forest Cat Club, in Oslo, Norway. Their work was halted by World War II and the breed reached near extinction during this time. The club helped to bring back the breed by working on an official breed program. The breed remained in Norway and was only registered with the FIFe, the pan-European registry, in the 1970s. It was recognised by the American Cat Fanciers Association in 1994. As of a study in 2003, it was the 5th most popular breed of cat in both Norway and Sweden, with around 400-500 cats born each year.
The Forest Cat is larger than the average cat breed and very strongly built. It has a long body with long legs and a bushy tail. Their coat is a special combination of a glossy, thick overcoat that is water repellent and a woolly undercoat that provides insulation. The coat is thickest at the legs, head and chest and is normally straight.
These cats have a long head with a shape roughly that of an equilateral triangle. Their muzzle is of medium length and eyes are almond shape, coming in any colour. Their ears are large with a tufted top. For pedigree purposes, all colours are accepted apart from chocolate, lilac dilutes of these as well as fawns and cinnamon.
These cats tend to be very good with people, energetic and intelligent. They are demanding of attention and though naturally quiet of voice, they will learn to be louder if competing with other animals. They like to be outdoors and are effective and efficient hunters but can learn to live the indoor life if done from a young age. In the US, cats bought from registered breeders sell for $550-800 and have a lifespan of 14-16 years.
Both kidney and heart diseases have been reported in these cats and there have been incidents of hip dysplasia, a hereditary disease of the hip joint. Most cats are now DNA tested before breeding to ensure that no genetic defects are bred into another generation so occurrence of these diseases will continue to reduce. Because of their large size and high energy levels , they do tend to eat more than most cats but this is natural.