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
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
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
Temperament / Living with a Forest
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
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
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