The History of the Breed

The Norwegian Forest Cat ( NFC ) is truly a natural breed, originating from the farms of Norway. Its exact origins will never be precisely established, but one thing is certain, the Forest Cat was produced by Mother Nature.

There are many tales about Forest Cats to be found in Norwegian folklore. It is even reputed that these cats were the family pets of the Vikings.

Over the years, there have been many references to Forest Cats. Mention of Forest Cats can even be found in a number of folk tales where they are referred to as "Huldrekat" which translates as "Fairy Cat."

They are also known as "Eventyrkatten" which means "Fairytale Cat", which is most appropriate as it is in Norwegian Fairytales that many of the first references of Forest Cats can be found.

Some tales have described the Cats as "wood" or "forest" cats with thick, bushy tails. Possibly the first documented Forest Cat was in a children's book. The Norwegian author Gabriel Scott wrote a book in 1912 entitled "Solvfaks." The main character in this book is actually a Forest Cat that was called "Solvfaks."

The Norwegian Forest Cat as we know it today has developed through natural selection, as only the toughest cat, with the thickest waterproof coat, longest legs, etc. would be able to survive in Norway's harsh climate.

It was not until the 1930's that the Forest Cats were looked at with interest. But, with the outbreak of War, this interest was put on the back burner. In the early 1970's, interest was once again shown in the Forest Cats. By this stage it had become apparent that Forest Cats were facing extinction, and that if they were to be saved from disappearing altogether a specialised breeding programme had to be developed. In 1975, enthusiastic Norwegian breeders formed the Norsk Skogkattring (the first Norwegian Forest Cat Club).

In those early years, many difficulties arose in establishing a breed standard. Carl Frederick Nordane (Freddy) was a driving force in getting the breed recognised. Freddy (a member of the specially formed Breeder's Committee) saw photographs of a cat called Pans Truls.


These photographs made the Breeder's Committee believe that a widely accepted and agreed official standard was achievable. Pans Truls lived with the Nyland family near Oslo. Freddy and other members of the Breeder's Committee went to see the Nylands and Pan's Truls (a brown tabby and white kitten). After seeing Truls in the fur, it was soon apparent that Pan's Truls was indeed the cat that they were looking for. Pan's Truls became the "model" cat and a standard of points was formulated. This standard is still in effect today.

Physical Attributes

The best description of a Norwegian Forest Cat is a large semi-longhaired cat, the most important features being type and coat quality. As the breed originated as a natural outdoor working cat on Norwegian farms, the appearance of the Norwegian Forest Cat should reflect this natural heritage. The cat should have an alert expression, be in good general condition and well presented.

The Norwegian Forest Cat matures slowly, and full development of the cat can take up to four years. The cats should be well built, and both the males and females have broad chests. The entire females can weigh between 8-12 lbs., and the entire males between 14-16 lbs. Neutered cats can weigh a few pounds more. (Please note, these weights are approximations, based on the average cat, but much bigger cats could soon be the norm).

Probably one of the NFC's most important features is its distinctive double coat. Without this, the cats would not be able to survive the harsh climate of Scandinavia. The coat colour itself is irrelevant, but NFC's do actually come in a large number of colours - over 64 colours are recognised.

Temperament / Living with a Forest Cat

Alert, inquisitive, fearless, courageous, intelligent, friendly, mischievous, strong, loving, playful and adaptable. These are all terms that are regularly used to describe NFC's, but are they true?

Ask anyone who has lived with a NFC and they will agree that yes, a NFC is indeed every one of these things (they will probably also give details of other terms that they use, that probably could not be printed here !).

NFC's are indeed very friendly, and they love their human companions; whatever amount of love you give to your NFC, it will come back to you ten times over. They are inquisitive and very playful, and although they ideally like lots of space, they will happily tolerate smaller spaces, provided that they have lots to do, things to climb, places to hide.

Forest Cats make ideal family cats, they are happy to get on with children and animals alike, but beware, they will probably want to be number one, and somehow the rest of the household usually lets them. No matter how happy they are with other animals, they do especially love their human friends; they may even follow you from room to room as you move about your home.

These days, many cat breeders advise keeping cats indoors. NFC's will happily live indoors and have their exercise on the end of a harness (Forest Cats can be trained to walk on a harness) or if preferred, an enclosed run can be built in the garden.

Whichever way you choose to keep your NFC, they will easily adapt, and even though you may be concerned about keeping them indoors all the time, they will quite happily take to this life.

The important thing to remember if you do keep you NFC's indoors is that they will need to be kept occupied and active. Not only will this benefit your cats, but it will also benefit your furniture! Ideally, they should have something to climb up and scratch on, a variety of toys to keep both their minds and bodies agile (an empty cardboard box is highly regarded), and if possible, a perch high up and out of the way that they can call their own and feel secure in.

Indeed, in Scandinavia, many breeders live in large cities, and quite often in apartments; it is therefore considered the norm that the cats live indoors. I myself have six NFC's who all live happily indoors together. As both my husband and myself work full-time, we have provided the cats with a variety of climbing poles and activity centres in different rooms around the house. When we are at home, the cats also have access to a small outdoor run that is attached to the house, even then you will often find one or two curled up in their favourite spots indoors.

Forest cats are low maintenance cats, their naturally robust natures tend to make their lives healthy and uncomplicated. Although they do have thick winter coats, these are usually maintained by the cats themselves. The annual moult usually takes place in Spring and at this time the cats will probably appreciate some extra grooming. General grooming is probably only required once or twice a week, but many new owners find that daily grooming of their new kittens is a good way of building up a special relationship with their new arrival, and indeed, it is very rewarding to hear the contented purr of a happy cat. Grooming is also a good way of keeping in touch with your cats condition and any changes can then be picked up very quickly.

Copyright Đ 1996-2001 Norsk Skogkatt Society
Affiliated to The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy
and the Feline Advisory Bureau