10 Furry Facts About Norwegian Forest Cats

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iStock

Norwegian Forest cats are known for their fluffy coats, large builds, and social dispositions. Here are a few other furry facts about the Scandinavian feline. 

1. THEY’RE WARRIOR CATS.

The breed's origins are a source of mystery. Norwegian Forest cats could be related to black-and-white short-haired cats from Great Britain, which the Vikings used as mousers on their ships. But they might also be descendants of long-haired cats brought to Scandinavia by the Crusaders.

These early relatives roamed Norway’s forests, breeding with feral felines and barn cats. Over the years, they evolved into the large, dense-coated animal we know and love today. 

2. THEY’RE MYTHICAL CREATURES.

Norwegian Forest cats aren’t just any pedestrian pet—they’re the stuff of legend. Norwegian myths tell of the skogkatt, a large, long-haired "mountain-dwelling fairy cat with an ability to climb sheer rock faces that other cats could not manage.” Thanks to their size, coats, and tree-climbing prowess, the Norwegian Forest cat may have served as the real-life inspiration for the skogkatt (which translates to “forest cat”).  

The skogkatt was beloved by Freya, the Norse goddess of love and beauty, who some say traveled in a feline-drawn chariot. And in one Norwegian tale, Thor loses a contest of strength to the tricky god Jormungand, who’s disguised as a skogkatt. Thanks to these legends, some breeders today refer to the Norwegian Forest cat as the “Norse skogkatt.”

3. THEY'RE NORWAY'S NATIONAL CAT.

King Olaf V of Norway designated the Norwegian Forest cat the country’s national cat. No word on whether America will ever gain its own national feline, although it’s likely that Grumpy Cat will vie for the title. 

4. THEY NEARLY BECAME EXTINCT.

Farmers and sailors prized the Norwegian Forest cat for its mousing skills. However, fanciers didn’t start noticing and showing the breed until the 1930s.

During World War II, attention paid toward the Norwegian Forest cat waned, and the breed came dangerously close to becoming extinct thanks to crossbreeding. However, an official breeding program helped preserve the furry cat’s lineage for future generations.

In 1977, the Norwegian Forest cat breed was officially accepted as a recognized breed by the Fédération Internationale Féline. Two years later, the first breeding pair of Norwegian Forest cats arrived in America. And in 1987, the breed was officially accepted by the Cat Fanciers' Association. 

5. THEY’RE BIG IN EUROPE.

While Norwegian Forest cats don’t crack the top 10 most popular cat breeds in America, they do have a legion of loyal fans in Europe. It’s not surprising that the breed is well-loved in—you guessed it—Scandinavia. (In fact, Norwegian Forest cats are nicknamed “Wegies,” which is short for “Norwegians.”) They’re also popular in France.

6. THEY’RE HUGE.

Norwegian Forest cats are way larger than most cats—and some small dogs, for that matter. Typical male Norwegian Forest cats can range anywhere from 13 to 22 pounds.

7. THEY HAVE BUILT-IN WINTER CLOTHES.

Although Norwegian Forest cats can be any color or pattern, they do have one thing in common: a long, double-layered coat that repels water. (They also have tufted ears and toes, which work like built-in earmuffs and boots.) These handy physical traits helped the breed survive snowy Scandinavian winters.

8. THEY’RE PRONE TO HEALTH PROBLEMS.

Sadly, Norwegian Forest cats aren't as hardy as their ancient Viking owners. They’re prone to hereditary heart problems, hip dysplasia, and a condition called glycogen storage disease type IV, which causes a harmful build-up of a complex sugar called glycogen in the body's cells. 

9. THEY’RE RELATED TO MAINE COONS.

With their big bodies and bushy tails, the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest cat look like cousins. Appearances aren’t deceiving. Genetic testing indicates that the Maine Coon is descendent of both the Norwegian Forest Cat and an unknown—and now-extinct—domestic breed.

Can't tell the two apart? Look at their features. Norwegian Forest cats have a triangle-shaped face, whereas Maine Coons have a wedge-shaped head with high cheekbones. 

10. THEY’RE GREAT TREE-CLIMBERS.

Ever seen a cat run down a tree headfirst? If you have, it was most likely a Norwegian Forest cat. The cats have sturdier claws than most breeds, allowing them to achieve impressive climbing feats.

Why You Should Never Squish a Stink Bug

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iStock.com/drnadig

Commit the insect you see above to memory. That’s the brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive species originally from Asia that’s made inroads across large sections of the United States, including the Mid-Atlantic.

If you come across one, don’t squish it. In fact, don’t even nudge it. A stink bug’s pestilence can survive after death. And you can probably guess how.

According to The State, stink bugs release a secretion that smells absolutely awful when they’re disturbed or feel threatened. Stomping them just expedites the liquid. Those who have had the unfortunate opportunity to get a whiff have described it as resembling skunk odor or rotten cilantro.

In winter, the bugs tend to find their way indoors, where their half-inch bodies tend to catch the eye of homeowners. Fortunately, they’re largely harmless, and are not known to carry diseases or be destructive to pets or property. (Crops are an exception: The stinkbugs can prove damaging to agriculture.) While exterminators can treat houses, some recommend just ignoring them.

If you want a DIY approach, you can try vacuuming them up or leaving out trays with soapy water. The mixture will kill the bugs and minimize any post-mortem secretion.

Since the bugs were first spotted in Allentown, Pennsylvania around 1998, they’ve been spotted in 43 states. Generally, you probably won’t see more than a few in your home, though they’ll definitely congregate if conditions are right. One wildlife biologist in Maryland suffering from an infestation counted 26,000 stink bugs in his residence.

The good news? Scientists have determined that the stinkbug’s natural predator, the samurai wasp, is in hot pursuit. Entomologists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture had made plans to bring the wasp over from Asia to help control the bug population but discovered in 2014 that the wasp had somehow made the journey on its own. Their idea of population control is injecting their own eggs into a stinkbug’s, its larvae eating the pest. The parasitic wasp is in 10 states and climbing.

[h/t The State]

New Study Reveals 'Hyper-Alarming' Decline of Rainforest Insect Populations

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iStock/jmmf

Climate change is decimating yet another vital part of the world's ecosystem, according to a startling new paper. Rainforest insects are dying off at alarming rates, according to a new study spotted by the The Washington Post. In turn, the animals that feed off those insects are decreasing, too.

In the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a pair of scientists from the Rensselaer Polytechnic University in New York and the National Autonomous University of Mexico studied populations of rainforest arthropods (an invertebrate classification that includes insects and spiders) in the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. They compared the number of insects lead author Bradford Lister found on trips in 1976 and 1977 with the number he and co-author Andres Garcia found on trips they took between 2011 and 2013.

Lister and Garcia used nets and sticky traps to collect insects on the ground and several feet above the ground in the forest canopy. They dried these captured bugs and measured the mass of their haul against the mass of insects found in the 1970s, finding that the modern net sweeps captured only an eighth to a fourth of the insects captured in the '70s. The mass of insects captured by sticky traps on the ground declined by 30 to 60 times what they were a few decades ago. They also tracked populations of lizards, frogs, and birds that live off those rainforest insects, finding that those populations had declined significantly, too, at levels not seen in other rainforest animals that don't rely on insects for food.

Tropical insects are particularly vulnerable to climatic changes, since they can't regulate their body temperature. During the time of the study, average maximum temperatures in El Yunque rose by almost 4°F (2°C). The warming climate is "the major driver" of this decline in arthropod populations, the study authors write, triggering a collapse of the forest food chain.

The paper has other scientists worried. "This is one of the most disturbing articles I have ever read," University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, who wasn't involved in the research, told The Washington Post, calling the results "hyper-alarming." Other studies of insect populations have found similarly dire results, including significant declines in butterflies, moths, bees, and other species. One recent study found that Germany's flying insect populations had decreased by as much as 75 percent in the last three decades. Scientists don't always attribute those population losses directly to warmer temperatures (habitat loss, pesticide use, droughts, and other factors might play a role), but it’s clear that insect populations are facing grave threats from the modern world.

Not all insect species will be equally affected by climate change, though. While we may see a sharp drop in the populations of tropical insects, scientists project that the number of insects in other regions will rise—leading to a sharp increase in crop-eating pests in some parts of the world and broadening mosquitos' geographical range.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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