Buying a pet

Norwegian Forest Cat: Breed info & health advice

Date updated: 12 12 2018

The Norwegian Forest Cat (aka the Weegee) is built to survive in harsh Scandinavian winters - so it’s not surprising that they tend to take life in their stride. Kitted out with that thick, furry coat this breed is fearless, full of energy and willing to explore life to the full. And with their sweet temperament and sense of fun, these gentle giants will settle in quickly to become part of the family…

Norwegian Forest Cat

Average lifespan: 14 to 16 years

Weight: Males: 5.5 to 7.25 kg, Females: 4.0 to 5.5 kg

Height: Males: 37 to 45 cm, Females: 30.5 to 38 cm

Colouring: all colours of Norwegian Forest Cats are recognised by the Cat Fancy Governing Council, with the exception of Chocolate, Lilac, Cinnamon, Fawn, Amber and Oriental Pointed. So you’ll see a huge variety of colourings and patterns, from deep browns through to tortoise and cream. 

Grooming requirements: pretty low maintenance, despite the thick coat!

Average purchase cost: around £500 to £600 for a pedigree Norwegian Forest kitten.

Bet you didn’t know…

  • Forest cats are natural adventurers. That double-layered fluffy coat, wide chest, big bones, long legs and tufted feet all work together to make an effective hunting machine. These characteristics make the Forest Cat (or Skogkatt in Norsk) virtually weatherproof.
  • They’re expert mouse hunters. And they’ve been at it for a long time. It’s thought that Forest Cats were making themselves useful as mousers on Viking longships way back in the 1st Century.
  • Keep your goldfish out of reach! It isn’t just rodents who need to watch out when there’s a Forest Cat about. These guys also enjoy a good swim (especially if there’s something tasty under the water) so take extra care to cat-proof your koi pond.
  • They almost disappeared as a distinct breed. Indiscriminate breeding with free-roaming domestic shorthairs meant that by the 1930s, the Norwegian Forest was at risk of becoming extinct. After World War 2, a specialist intensive breeding programme got underway; the breed obtained official recognition and is now Norway’s national cat.
  • They’re the stuff of legend. Freya, the Norse goddess of love and beauty rode in a chariot drawn by skogkatts. The sea serpent Jormungandr also disguised himself as a skogkatt.

A great breed option for…
Because Norwegian Forest Cats love the great outdoors, they’re a good choice for owners who live in an area where it’s safe to roam and who are looking for an outdoors cat. That said, they adapt well to their environment, so a Norwegian Forest may be kept as an indoor cat.

This is usually a friendly, sociable cat. They’re up for fun and games and the occasional cuddle, but the Norwegian Forest isn’t a natural choice if you’re looking for a lapcat; they’d rather be playing and exploring than spending hours in front of the tv. They’re quick on their feet and not easily fazed, so they make excellent playmates for the kids. They also usually get along well with dogs (especially if they’ve grown up together in the same household). Just be careful of any smaller animals as these guys have a high prey drive!

Behaviour and temperament
The Norwegian Forest will usually choose a favourite person within the family; someone who they’ll follow around more than anyone else. That said, they’re rarely clingy, and if there’s something more interesting happening elsewhere in the home, they’ll be off to explore it. They can be wary around strangers at first, but once intros have been made, this breed makes friends pretty easily.

Being a smart, athletic cat, the Norwegian Forest likes to keep active. They love climbing to the highest point in the room to get a good look at what’s going on. They’re not afraid of jumping either - and will often dive back down, headfirst. Investing in a climbing post is a good idea to keep them entertained.

Lots of toys and games will also go down well with a Norwegian Forest, but this isn’t a breed that needs attention 24/7. With toys scattered around the home, they can cope quite well with being left alone while you’re at work. This self-sufficiency is also useful if you’re heading off on holiday: if you have a neighbour who can pop round at feeding time, you can usually get away without having to book in your buddy into the cattery.

The Norwegian Forest can be let out at night - that thick coat means they’re more than capable of handling a UK winter. But just bear in mind that traffic poses a big risk to even the most street-wise cat. Especially if you live in a busy area, the safest option could be to let your buddy out in the back garden - or keep them indoors at night.

Compared to some other breeds, the Norwegian Forest isn’t usually a fussy eater. But as with all cats, take advice from your vet on quantity and type of feed to give them - depending on age, circumstances and any health issues. Given the chance, these cats will often eat way more than what’s good for them - so go easy on the treats. A strong sturdy build is normal; but pudginess is definitely something to be avoided as it can lead to a whole range of health issues, from joint problems to breathlessness.

That thick, fluffy coat is actually a lot easier to keep clean than it looks. It’s naturally designed to keep your buddy warm and not get matted. So most of the time, brushing twice a week should be enough to get rid of dead hairs and remove any tangles. They tend to shed the most in Spring and Autumn - so step up the brushing to keep on top of it.

Especially if your buddy loves exploring the great outdoors, their ears can be a magnet for dirt. Make sure you take a good look inside once or twice a week - and gently wipe away any debris to prevent infection.

When they’re not exploring or playing, these guys love a good cat nap - so set up a few baskets or blankets in quiet, out-of-the-way places to curl up and snuggle down.

Norwegian Forest Cat

Common health issues to watch out for

  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is the most common heart problem diagnosed in cats. Symptoms can include laboured or rapid breathing and lethargy. Although there’s no cure, quality of life can be improved greatly by treatment to control the heart rate and reduce lung congestion.
  • Pyruvate Kinase (PK) is an enzyme deficiency that damages a cat’s red blood cells. The Norwegian Forest is one of the breeds that seems to be more predisposed to it than others. Early signs include anaemia, increased heart rate, muscle wastage and lethargy. Diagnosis involves a full biochemistry profile. Sadly, a bone marrow transplant is the only treatment. 
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease can affect Norwegian Forest cats. It’s where lots of fluid-filled cysts develop in the kidneys, leading ultimately to kidney failure. Many cats affected by it won’t display symptoms until middle-age or older and although it’s not curable, supportive treatment can help to minimise the impact for as long as possible.
  • Retinal Dysplasia can affect this breed. Often, this is limited to tiny blind spots over the retina that don’t need to be treated. However, if the dysplasia covers a large area, there’s a greater chance of secondary problems such as cataracts or retinal detachment that will require treatment.  
  • Hip Dysplasia is usually an inherited disease that can affect Forest cats. Treatment depends on severity, and in serious cases can involve orthopaedic referral and hip surgery.

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