Welcome to our complete guide to the Norwegian Forest Cat!
Norwegian Forest Cats are beautiful, regal cats rumored to be descended from mythological fairy cats.
If you want to know all about these amazing creatures you have come to the right place!
What is a Norwegian Forest cat?
The Norwegian Forest Cat is an ancient cat breed originating from Norway.
It is also known as a Norsk Skogkatt, a Wegie, a Norskogkatt, Norskskaukatt or simply Skogkatt in Norway.
Depending on who you ask, the Norwegian Forest cat is anywhere between 500 and 2000 years old.
Some believe this particular feline could date back as early as 1000 AD, although the exact ancestry to support this is unknown.
In the early 1900s the breed was still thought of as a primarily wild cat breed.
What’s more, it was facing possible extinction due to cross-breeding with loose domestic shorthaired cats.
The Modern Norwegian Forest Cat
Thankfully, some enthusiasts decided to save the breed, and began to focus domesticating it.
The Norwegian Forest Cat was first shown in the Norway cat club in 1938, and the Norwegian Forest Cat Club was created in 1975.
The fledgling breed was recognized by FIFe (Fédération Internationale Féline) under the name Wegie shortly after, and soon hopped the pond into the US in November of 1979.
The Norwegian Forest cat was suggested for the Cat Fanciers’ Association in the US in 1987, and was registered for full championship status in 1993.
Since then, it’s status as a well-loved domestic breed has been well and truly sealed.
Norwegian Forest Cat Size
The Norwegian Forest cat is a large cat breed; it is typically larger and stronger than the average cat.
In fact, alongside the Maine Coon and the Ragdoll it is one of the three largest breeds of pedigreed cats in the world.
The Norwegian Forest cat is often compared with the Maine Coon as they have a number of similar characteristics in addition to size.
This majestic animal is considered a sturdy, well-muscled cat although it is a bit of a late developer.
The Norwegian Forest cat does not reach full maturity, or full adult size, until around 5 years old.
Norwegian Forest Cat Weight
Exactly how big do Norwegian Forest cats get?
For a male, a big Norwegian Forest cat would weigh 16 pounds or more, with the average being between 12 and 16 pounds.
An average female is slighter smaller, normally between 9 and 12 pounds when full grown.
To give some perspective, the average domestic cat weighs between 8 and 10 pounds.
Norwegian Forest Cat Appearance
The Norwegian Forest cat characteristics are stunning to the eye.
They have big, beautiful almond shaped eyes and striking features.
Whilst it’s been many generations since they had to use their survival instincts in the wild, it’s easy to imagine them having just walked in out of the snow.
Their impressive coat, worn over a substantial frame, makes them truly larger than life.
Norwegian Forest Cat Coat – Characteristics and Care
This kitty is considered a semi-longhaired animal, with two coats to keep it beautifully warm and waterproofed during Scandinavian winters.
The top coat is a longer, coarse guard coat.
Underneath is a denser undercoat.
And a Norwegian Forest Cat kitten can take up to six months to grow in their top coat, which means they keep that soft baby-fuzz feel for precious extra weeks!
Sporting a mane-like ruff, tufted paws and a bushy tail, the Norwegian Forest cat is made for surviving chilly temperatures.
The Norwegian Forest Cat has a lower-maintenance coat than many long-haired cats.
It only requires one to two grooming sessions per week to protect against matting.
Norwegian Forest Cat Colors
Norwegian Forest cat colors range across the board.
This cat is most commonly found dressed in a white and brown tabby coat.
However, Norwegian Forest cats also come in many different coat colors and patterns, ranging from pure white to jet black.
The only pattern you can’t find on a Norwegian Forest cat is the colorpoint pattern typically associated with Siamese and other breeds.
Is the Norwegian Forest Cat Hypoallergenic?
All cats – including hairless and non-shedding breeds – produce a protein called Fel D1 in their saliva and skin.
This protein becomes airborne when cats groom themselves, and inhaling the airborne particles triggers an allergic reaction in humans who are sensitive to the Fel D1 protein.
Since all cats produce Fel D1, there is no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic cat breed.
And with its longer hair and tendency to shed, this beautiful creature is not an ideal cat for anyone who suffers from cat allergies.
(You can read more about the complex chemistry that causes cat allergies, and why some cats have a reputation for being more hypoallergenic than others here).
Norwegian Forest Cat Personality
The Norwegian Forest cat temperament is one of royalty.
The breed is known to be a social animal, but only on its own terms.
In other words, if you have one of these majestic creatures, expect cuddles only when it wants to, and not when you want to.
If you pick your kitty up to snuggle, it may immediately jump down.
However, if you’re sitting with a laptop on your lap, trying to work, and your Norwegian Forest can decides it’s time for attention, it may just lay right on top of your keyboard!
Due to their thick coats and wild good looks, it’s natural to wonder if this cat is happier outside.
They can be entirely happy living the sheltered life of an indoor cat, and may even prefer it thanks to their social nature and desire for company.
Norwegian Forest Cat Behavior
Norwegian Forest cats are very intelligent and moderately active.
A home with some fun toys, a tall perch or kitty tree, a sturdy scratching post and lots of loving attention (when he or she wants it) will keep this cat entertained, well adjusted and happy.
They’re likely to have bursts full of playfulness and energy followed by nice long naps.
They also have a formidable reputation for climbing: your Norwegian Forest cat will enjoy access to high vantage points, and don’t be surprised to find one on top of your kitchen cupboards!
Norwegian Forest Cat Health
The Norwegian Forest cat is considered a healthy breed with few genetic or hereditary diseases.
Compared to other purebred cats, the Norwegian Forest cat tends to have fewer hereditary diseases and disorders.
The most common genetic issues found in this breed are hip dysplasia, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and glycogen storage disease IV.
Hip dysplasia means the ball and socket of the hip joint don’t fit together properly.
This can cause painful rubbing and grinding, leading to weakness, limping or worse.
It is difficult to diagnose this condition in a cat before they reach full maturity.
Which means if you are planning to buy a Norwegian forest cat kitten it is important to have the parents health
checked for this genetic condition.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (or HCM) is a heart condition found in older cats.
It is also more common in males than females.
There is a widely available DNA test for the faulty gene which makes cats vulnerable to HCM.
Only cats screened for the faulty gene should be used for breeding, and your breeder should have copies of the results for both of your kitten’s parents.
Glycogen storage disease IV
Glycogen storage disease IV prevents cats from storing and transporting glycogen (sugar) appropriately around the body.
Eventually it builds up in the liver, muscle and nerve cells, causing organ failure.
It is possible for Norwegian Forest cats to carry the faulty gene which causes glycogen storage disease IV without being affected by it.
Luckily, there is a genetic test available to identify these carriers, and to protect future generations carriers should only be mated with non-carriers.
Your breeder should hold records of the carrier status of both your kittens parents.
Norwegian Forest Cat Lifespan
The Norwegian Forest cat lifespan is quite a lengthy one.
These hardy kitties have an average lifespan of over 12.5 years.
Some research even shows they live between 15 and 20 years.
Norwegian Forest Kittens
Norwegian Forest kittens are normally available for purchase or adoption between 12 and 16 weeks of age.
They should have been vaccinated at 9 weeks and 12 weeks of age, and any purebred Wegie kitten should come with proper pedigree papers.
If you find a Norwegian Forest kitten going cheap on a pet sale website without papers, it may be a cross-breed and not a true Wegie.
Norwegian Forest Cat Price
The Norwegian Forest cat price can vary across a wide range.
Factors to take into consideration are breeder, location, physical characteristics and parentage.
If you’re in North America, you will likely pay a bit more for a Norwegian Forest kitten as they are hailing from
Norway, and even North American breeders may have travelled across the ocean to have them bred.
Norwegian Forest kittens are available in a wide range of colors, but some are more popular than others and therefore cost more.
The more a kitten captures the ideal show qualities of the Norwegian Forest cat breed standard, the more expensive it will likely be.
At the time of writing, typical kitten listings were between $500 and $1000 USD in North America and £400 to £600 in the UK.
Please always remember that a cheaper price isn’t necessarily a better deal!
It is very important to make sure your new kitten is a healthy and well socialized cat coming from a reputable breeder.
Norwegian Forest Cat Breeders
Due to the popularity of this majestic creature, it is unlikely that you will be able to find a purebred Norwegian Forest cat rescue.
They do occasionally end up in shelters, and registering your interest with local rescue centers is a brilliant way to give a Norwegian Forest cat a second chance at a forever home.
But if you have your heart set on a Norwegian Forest cat your most reliable option will be to go with a registered, recognized breeder.
There are a number of ways to find a reputable breeder.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in the US has a Breed Council, and a Breed Council Secretary for each breed who can help point you in the right direction.
If you’re outside of the US, you can contact a member of FIFe instead.
There is also the Norwegian Forest Cat Fanciers Association of America, who keep a directory of breeder members, organised by state.
And the UK equivalent is the Norwegian Forest Cat Club, an affiliate of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF); the largest registration body in the UK for cats.
Choosing a Norwegian Forest Cat Kitten
As the popularity of this cat increases, more breeders seem to be popping up.
Make sure that whichever breeder you consider is open and willing to answer any and all questions you have about the kitten, parents and breeding history.
Ensure your prospective comes from a clean environment with plenty of opportunities for socialization.
Ask to meet their mum, and dad if possible – both parents should clearly be adored family pets.
Is a Norwegian Forest Cat Right for Me?
This breed tends to have a stable, calm temperament, with patience and little aggression.
With proper socialization, this makes a healthy happy Norwegian Forest cat a suitable pet for families with other pets and children.
Do you want a large, beautiful cat, that will demand attention whenever it pleases him or her, and enjoys regular play time and snuggles on its own terms?
Do you want a cat that has medium to high energy levels, loves climbing, and is very intelligent?
Can you provide it with a safe outdoor space, and plenty of love and care?
If so, the Norwegian Forest cat might just be right for you!
Do You Already Have a Norwegian Forest Cat?
We love to hear about your cats, so please share your story in the comments section below!
References and Further Reading
Egenvall, A. et al. Mortality of Life-Insured Swedish Cats during 1999–2006: Age, Breed, Sex, and Diagnosis. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 2009.
Fox, P. Feline Cardiomyopathy. WINN Symposium. 2014
Jenssen A. Breeding Traits and Hereditary Disorders of the Norwegian Forest Cat During Breed Development (A Review Of Literature). Institute Of Animal Breeding, Nutrition and Laboratory Animal Science Department For Animal Breeding And Genetics, 2012
Lyons, L. Update on Genetic Tests for Diseases & Traits in Cats: Implications for Cat Health, Breed Management, & Human Health. Tufts’ Canine and Feline Breeding and Genetics Conference, 2013
I’ve had the honor of being the caretaker of one majestics weggie.
Clearly an ascendant of the Pans Polaris bloodline. With same georgious features but sadly also the same poly cystics kidneydesease.
His name is Rakker (dutch for Rascal) and was quite a Topcat of the neighborhood. He feared nothing and no one. Even the biggest of the neighborhoods dogs would cross the street when he was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk.
Visiting dogs would soon learn why (grin)
Never aggressive or ill mannored but allways “not impressed by anything”
So sweet and cuddly and lovable when interacting with children. even on the street.
Often found high up on anything climable and visually enjoying the view and silence.
At home .. he was, on his terms, very cuddly and lovable. allways right next to you but rarely on your lap. and when crossing paths .. you would allways feel his soft wet nose or a soft headbud. with a singing purrr. because hahaha this badboy could meouw (one exception.. when going to the vet lol)
With pain in my heart he died because of the kidney desease. But even untill dead not showing weakness pain or panic never fealing sorry for himself.
And allthough i am not a believer of miracles in any form….
Rakker loved the snow and would go baserk when it was snowing. An hour after the vet called that he passed away…. it was snowing outside .. a soft gentle snowfall without any wind blowing.. like in the movies …. and it was not forcasted it was absolutely not expected that day….
Now 14 months later i’m typing his story with very wet eyes, locked up throat, banging heart …. missing my greatest friend ever (had 16 great and fantastic cats in my life but not even one other coming close to him).
He was a member of the family and not a pet, he was my friend.
Never ever will i forget this once in a life time weggie companion.
He cannot be replaced but needed to heal my heart… now we take care of (never owning… its a living creature!!) a crazy lovable Bengal and one loyal and stubborn Coon.
Loving them like crazy but still .. not one day goes by without missing Rakker.
I wish everybody could experience the loyalty and love of a weggie
So happy you had such a wonderful friend. A few years ago I adopted an Akbash dog who is my shadow and as you I have had wonderful dogs but this one is totally devoted though with a streak of independence that at times can be frustrating. This past week I adopted a rescue we have named Cosmo. He looks just like a Forest colored wegie. It seems like he waited around around for me to decide and is also totally devoted. Hopefully he will always be kind to our other adopted cat who is half his size but after 6 years as an only cat is not too happy with this intruder. Cosmo thought he needed the Akbash dog dish at feeding time. Danny disagreed and growled long and low about 2 feet distant. Cosmo just sat there unflappable as if he was hard of hearing. I diverted with food for Cosmo and all ended well though Danny does give him his space+. They are my buddies and all about 1 foot away at the moment!
Lesley Tyler says
Well last year we lost our Apple head chocolate Siamese. He was a part of our family for over 10 years and he was around 4 or 5 when we adopted him. It was deeply heartbreaking when he passed away.
A couple days before he passed away there was a cat hanging around the neighborhood. He liked hanging around our place the most and after our Siamese passed he just filled the space as if it were meant to be. We’ve always talked of having a Main Coon over the years.
The family called him by the name given by the neighborhood of Max. Well I wanted something a bit more dignified and cat-like. So his middle name is Springer because in one bound he went from floor to tops of book shelves and recliners. His last name is Underfoot. Being his social nature he is forever underfoot and freely gives escorts in and out of the bathroom at all hours of the day.
Max Springer Underfoot
Now when he hit puberty he about drove us crazy and all the blinds in the house suffered terrible losses due to his mad ravings. We had him spayed and that all calmed down. Because of fleas and fear of him being injured we decided it best to keep him inside. We allow him out on the porch for short bits of fresh air or actually carry him around in our arms out to the mail box and back. I’m toying with the idea of harness training him.
So we figure his about a year and a half since he went through puberty right before Christmas. Looking forward to watching him grow and mature over the next 4 years.
He looks every bit of a pure breed, but I don’t know that there is anyway to test that. I don’t think he is just because he was a stray older kitten. What I’d like to do is to have him registered if possible.
Phil & Debbie says
My wife and I usually take a stroll down this path and last December I said let’s go across the street and stroll back that way. Well low and behold, there is a rescue kitty organization, and there was a picture of Turbo, a Norwegian Forest Cat! I could not believe my eyes!! Next day we went there and were introduced to him; him and I put our heads together and instantly connected! Obviously he is now part of the family! We love him to death. In the past I always had cats, Birmans and strays when I lived on a chicken farm, however, my wife never did. She said this is the best thing that ever happened to her and us!! As a typical NFC, he is loving when he wants to; always wants to be around us, but does not like to get picked up. He is estimated to be around 2 years old so far and weights 13 pounds! Wish I can add a photo of him; he is just plain HANDSOME!! Already trained him to take treats out of my hand and be brushed for the treats. Sleeps with us and meous every morning at about 0630/0645 at my bedside to feed him. No need for an alarm clock!! Tomorrow will be getting his nailed trimmed. Hope it will not be an emotional experience for him!
JoAnna Johannesen says
I have had my Norwegian Forest Cat for about 4 years now and she is a bit unusual. She has a condition called CH (Cerebellar Hypoplasia) It seems that she is a survivor of Distemper and this has caused the CH in her. She walks like a horse trotting, she runs like a drunk rabbit, her head shakes like a bobble head when she is excited and she sometimes falls over, She also does not jump well, but she has learned to climb quite well. When she eats, she looks like a bird pecking at her food. Her name is Casper and she is white and grey. She does not like to be picked up, she runs from strangers, but loves to climb in my lap when I am in a recliner…she also likes to lay on my stomach when I sleep, if I am laying down on my back…but I have awaken with her on my hip when I fell asleep on my side a few times.
My sweet Keisa was rescued from a flood by my firefighter friends. Their son gave her to me because they had more rescued pets than the law would allow without a kennel license. I thought she was a 3 to 4 month old kitten because she was so small. After a year had gone by, and she hadn’t grown into a full grown cat, I figured she was a runt or some sort of breed that would never grow. Two years later she bloomed into this majestic furry beauty. I realized that she had to be more than just a normal domestic cat. I wondered why it took her so long to mature and began researching cat breeds. Low and behold, I discovered the Norwegian Forest cat’s existence. The pictures looked just like her and I even found some pictures with her same color pattern. She is a sweetie pie who loves to hang out with me. However, she is not a lap cat. She will let me pick her up for a few rubs for a minutes or less. She prefers to hang out in her recliner beside me to watch television. I now know that she was approximately two years old when I got her. That was 17 years ago. She is around 19 years young now and is as healthy as an ox according to our vet. I hope she lives for many, many more years.
Jen Scocca says
I adopted a 1 year old Norwegian Forest Cat (I named Elliot) about 6 months ago. He is all black with a grey undercoat, a truly gorgeous and stunning creature. When I first got him he had started getting these grey tufts behind his ears and now they have fully grown in and get very fluffy when he’s excited. I can confirm NFC’s love attention but on their own terms and not generally a lap cat. He’s about 13 lbs now but I do expect him to get larger in size since I feel like he’s growing more and more each day. I do feed him the best quality food available however we did come to realize he does have some food allergies, mainly poultry. He loves dogs and is very friendly to humans. Elliot is also super strong and loves to play but will definitely nap for hours at a time. He’s very smart and intuitive and loves to supervise everything I do including hiding his treats so he can mastermind a plan to retrieve them. I would 100% adopt another NFC again!