Norwegian Forest Cat breed: a favourite character in Scandinavian fairy tales who brings sweets to children

László Enikő

2023. October 17 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

Although its appearance does not indicate this, the Norwegian Forest Cat does not have the blood of wild cats in its veins. Its nature is very dual: it is a pet who likes to snuggle at home but a brave hunter in nature.


The Norwegian Forest Cat is one of the few cats that evolved naturally without human intervention. Interesting legends and myths speak about its origin, but despite its popularity, there was a time when it was feared that this special breed would disappear.


Although the Norwegian Forest Cat is a relatively new breed, it has been around in Norway for a very long time and has featured in folklore and mythology for centuries. The word skogkatt (the Norwegian name of the breed) means “forest cat”. It was probably the cat that the Viking explorers took with them to keep rodents away from their ships. The breed performed the same work there as in the stables in the Norwegian countryside. Its fur was perfectly adapted to the harsh conditions, and this is why its claws became so strong.

The Norwegian Forest Cat as a distinct breed has almost completely disappeared as a result of hybridization with the free-roaming domestic shorthair cats in Norway. In addition, it was also a serious problem that many people hunted them for their fur. The breed attracted the interest of Norwegian cat lovers, who were determined to save it from extinction, but World War II put a stop to their efforts. The post-war efforts were ultimately successful, resulting in the Norwegian Forest Cat not only being welcomed into the European show ring, but named the official cat of Norway by the late King Olaf.

They were not exported from Norway until the late 1970s, and the first pair arrived in the United States in November 1979. Their hunting was banned by the Norwegian government, but by the 1980s only 480 pairs remained. In February 1987 it was submitted to the CFA Board of Directors for registration acceptance and in 1993 for full championship status. Fortunately, the stock of the breed has been increasing since then, and the situation seems to be settling down. It is particularly popular in Norway and Sweden, but it is also often found in France.

It has been the subject of many legends

In a Norwegian folk legend, this kitty brought sweets and gifts to children attached to its tail. And other stories describe the Norwegian Forest Cat as a fairy godmother. Old Norse myths described its size as so huge that even the mighty gods could not lift it. According to one such story, even Thor, the god of thunder, could not lift it. The breed was also worshiped by Freyja, the goddess of love, beauty and fertility. The goddess is often depicted riding a chariot pulled by several cats or surrounded by kittens. Farmers believed that if Freyja passed through their fields, or if they put milk out for her cats, they would have a bountiful harvest. Since Freyja was also the goddess of love, people believed that girls who loved cats had a better chance of a happy, successful marriage.

Breed standard

The Norwegian Forest Cat is a large breed with medium long hair. Its body weight is 5-8 kg. Its body structure is powerful, the body is long. The head is triangular, the chin is strong, the nose is long and without a stop. Its ears are large, wide at the bottom, and end in a point. There is a tuft at the end of the ear, and the inside of the auricle is also hairy. Its eyes are large, slightly slanted and oval. The limbs are proportional to the body, strong, the back ones are longer than the front ones. Its coat is medium long, double-layered, with a woolly undercoat. It is water-repellent, shiny and delicate to the touch. Its color can be very varied: cream, black, red, blue, with or without a tabby pattern, with white spots, or with a silver or smoky undercoat. Expected lifespan is 14-16 years.


Although it appreciates human company, it can be somewhat aloof when it comes to visitors. But with a little stroking and scratching, you can get into its heart. Its quiet voice only comes into play when it needs something — perhaps dinner — and only speaks when it is ignored.

Not surprisingly, this large and athletic cat is a real climber. It is often found at the highest point of the home, and unlike some cats, it has no difficulty descending from trees or other heights headfirst. It is a smart, independent cat who learns quickly, has an alert nature and loves to play.

Ideal environment

It tolerates being left alone at home relatively well, but you need to make sure there are plenty of places for it to climb and see its territory. This cat likes to snuggle at home, but when it goes out into nature, it becomes a daring hunter. However, care must be taken that it cannot get outside the fence. If you can’t supervise it outside, the Norwegian Forest Cat will do just fine indoors. Buy a few cat trees, climbers and toys. With the help of these, the cat will not get bored even when it is alone at home. In addition, it is relatively easy to get used to a harness and leash, so it can safely explore its surroundings.

Thanks to its farm cat heritage, not to mention its waterproof fur, it doesn’t mind fishing for its own dinner. Therefore, it must be kept away from aquariums and garden ponds. It easily adapts to different life situations, making it ideal for both singles and families. Can be kept with other breeds and cat-friendly dogs.


The Norwegian Forest Cat’s impressive coat needs to be combed once or twice a week with a bristle brush, wire brush or a stainless steel comb. It rarely needs a bath, its waterproof coat is very difficult to wet. In order for it to get used to the necessary grooming routine and feel comfortable during it, it can be helpful to acclimate it to such operations at a young age. As all cats are sensitive to the cleanliness of their litter, make sure that its box is always spotless. From time to time, its claws need to be trimmed. The cleanliness of the ears should be checked weekly. If they look dirty, wipe them with a cotton pad or a soft, damp cloth moistened with a 50-50 mixture of apple cider vinegar and warm water. You also need to clean its eyes from time to time. To avoid infections, use a separate area of the cloth for both eyes.

Common health problems

Heart and kidney diseases are the most common health problems for the Norwegian Forest Cat. The Glycogen storage disease type 4, which sometimes occurs in the breed, is a rare hereditary condition that affects glucose metabolism. The majority of kittens with the disease are stillborn or die within a few hours of birth. But occasionally, a kitten will not show symptoms until about 5 months of age, and will usually die within a few months. A DNA test is available to identify affected and carrier cats.

(Literature: János Szinák – István Veress: Cat Guide, Laura Aceti – Viola Autieri: Our Best Friend, the Cat)

breed description Norwegian Forest Cat semi-long-haired cat

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