10 Furry Facts About Norwegian Forest Cats

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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.

The Time German and Russian WWI Soldiers Banded Together to Fight Wolves

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iStock.com/567185

During the winter of 1917, Russian and German soldiers fighting in the dreary trenches of the Great War’s Eastern Front had a lot to fear: enemy bullets, trench foot, frostbite, countless diseases, shrapnel, bayonets, tanks, sniper fire. Oh, and wolves.

In February of that year, a dispatch from Berlin noted that large packs of wolves were creeping from the forests of Lithuania and Volhynia into the interior of the German Empire, not far from the front lines. Like so many living creatures, the animals had been driven from their homes by the war and were now simply looking for something to eat. “As the beasts are very hungry, they penetrate into the villages and kill calves, sheep, goats, and other livestock,” the report, which appeared in the El Paso Herald, says. “In two cases children have been attacked by them.”

According to another dispatch out of St. Petersburg, the wolves were such a nuisance on the battlefield that they were one of the few things that could bring soldiers from both sides together. “Parties of Russian and German scouts met recently and were hotly engaged in a skirmish when a large pack of wolves dashed on the scene and attacked the wounded,” the report says, according to the Oklahoma City Times. “Hostilities were at once suspended and Germans and Russians instinctively attacked the pack, killing about 50 wolves.” It was an unspoken agreement among snipers that, if the Russians and Germans decided to engage in a collective wolf-hunt, all firing would cease.

Take this July 1917 New York Times report describing how soldiers in the Kovno-Wilna Minsk district (near modern Vilnius, Lithuania) decided to cease hostilities to fight this furry common enemy:

"Poison, rifle fire, hand grenades, and even machine guns were successively tried in attempts to eradicate the nuisance. But all to no avail. The wolves—nowhere to be found quite so large and powerful as in Russia—were desperate in their hunger and regardless of danger. Fresh packs would appear in place of those that were killed by the Russian and German troops.

"As a last resort, the two adversaries, with the consent of their commanders, entered into negotiations for an armistice and joined forces to overcome the wolf plague. For a short time there was peace. And in no haphazard fashion was the task of vanquishing the mutual foe undertaken. The wolves were gradually rounded up, and eventually several hundred of them were killed. The others fled in all directions, making their escape from carnage the like of which they had never encountered."

Afterward, the soldiers presumably returned to their posts and resumed pointing their rifles at a more violent and dangerous enemy—each other.

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