Norwegian Forest cats are hairy creatures with a long and varied history in Europe, despite their recent arrival in America (in 1987). Whether you currently have a Wegie or are thinking about getting one, you'll enjoy these intriguing facts (along with adorable images!) about these mysterious cats.
01 of 07
Norwegian Forest Cats Have Interesting Origins
Although the Norwegian Forest cat makes frequent appearances in Norse legend, its origins are a bit of a mystery—and surprisingly war-like. Here are the two major origin theories in the books:
- Wegies could be related to British black and white short-haired cats that Vikings used as mousers on their ships and eventually brought to Scandinavia.
- They're descendants of long-haired cats that the Crusaders brought to Scandinavia.
Whether Norwegian Forest cats are descended from short-haired or long-haired cats, it is largely recognized that their early cousins lived in the woods of Norway after arriving in Scandinavia. They bred with wild and farm cats there. They evolved into the huge, winter-ready kittens we know (and adore) today after numerous generations of breeding.Continue to 2 of 7 below.
02 of 07
They're Legendary—Yes, Really
As previously stated, Norwegian Forest cats frequently appear in Norse legend. The skogkatt, a gigantic, long-haired "mountain-dwelling fairy cat" who could scale surfaces no other cat could, is described in old stories. These stories might very easily have been inspired by Norwegian Forest cats, given their size, long, shaggy coats, and incredible climbing ability.
And there's more. Freya, the Norwegian goddess of love and fertility, is said to have had a chariot drawn by two Wegies. People who intended to marry would seek Freya's approval, and because she was frequently represented with Norwegian Forest cats, various stories about marriages and cats arose:
- Gifting newlyweds with a black cat would bring good luck to their marriage (that's good).
- If a bride fed a cat just before her wedding ceremony, she'd have a long, happy marriage (that's good).
- If you stepped on a cat's tail, you wouldn't marry for a whole year (that's bad).
Even though these are just superstitions, they do a lot to remedy the caricature of a sad, single cat lady, right?Continue to 3 of 7 below.
03 of 07
They Have Built-In Winter Wear
Norwegian Forest cats have built-in winter gear to assist them withstand the severe weather because they originated in a frigid area with lengthy winters. They have tufted ears and toes in addition to lengthy, that keep them warm and resist water. By functioning as small, fuzzy ear muffs and boots (ouch! ), these fluffy tufts protect the more sensitive regions of their bodies from chilly winds and wet snow.Continue to 4 of 7 below.
04 of 07
They Love to Climb Trees
They should be quite good at surviving in the forest if "forest" is in their name, right? Norwegian Forest cats have incredibly powerful, broad claws that allow them to cut into bark and readily scale trees since their early ancestors lived in Norway's forests—and often hunted and lived in them. What do you think is the most impressive? Wegies are equally adept at descending down as they are at getting up.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
They're Norway's National Cat
Isn't that correct? King Olaf declared Norwegian Forest cats to be the country's national cat. They are the appropriate Viking cat mascot for the icy Scandinavian country because of their legendary prominence in Norse folklore, thick, winter-ready coats, and intriguing origin stories.Continue to 6 of 7 below.
06 of 07
They Almost Became Extinct—But Were Saved by a Breeding Program
Back in the day, European sailors and farmers loved Norwegian Forest cats for their excellent mousing skills, making them an extremely popular breed.
However, by the mid-nineteenth century, interest in the breed had dwindled, and cross-breeding had practically wiped off Wegies. Fortunately, a breeding program was created to conserve the breed and increase the number of Norwegian Forest cats in Europe. The Fédération Internationale Féline (Europe's counterpart of the Cat Fancier's Association) then recognized Norwegian Forest cats as a breed in 1977.
Despite having a lengthy history in Europe, Wegies did not arrive in the United States until 1979. They were formally acknowledged by the Cat Fancier's Association over a decade later, in 1987, and acquired "full championship status" from the organization in 1993.
Today, Norwegian Forest cats are the 18th most in the United States.Continue to 7 of 7 below.
07 of 07
They're Ancestors to Maine Coons
It's not your imagination. The looks of Norwegian Forest cats and are quite similar. Both are long-haired, big breeds with thick, warm coats and tufted ears and paws. It should thus come as no surprise that Wegies and are related! are descended from Norwegian Forest cats and a now-extinct American breed, according to genetic tests.
Despite their similar appearances, there is one easy method to distinguish the two breeds: Norwegian Forest cats have a wedge-shaped (or inverted triangle-shaped) face, whereas Maine Coons have a more narrow, triangle-shaped face.