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This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to author Roby Sweet. Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Norwegian Forest Cat: The Official Cat of Norway

Norwegian Forest Cat: Made in Norway!The Norwegian Forest Cat is a cat after my own heart because it has been around for a long time and has appeared in the mythology of its country of origin. Obviously I am speaking of Norway, and the mythology is Norse. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s meet the cat first.

A sturdy, affectionate, and gregarious breed


Norwegian Forest Cats are known for being affectionate, gregarious, and intelligent. They will even greet their people at the door. “Wegies,” as they are called in some circles,[1] adapt to change more easily than many other cats.

Norwegian Forest Cats, or Wegies, are well
adapted to cold weather.
Photo by Pieter Lanser [CC-BY-2.0],
via Wikimedia Commons.
They are sturdy cats, and generally healthy. With their insulated double coat that has water-resistant guard hairs over a warm undercoat, Wegies can be happy going for a stroll in the snow. Their tufted paws are also helpful in snow. They have a ruff, a bushy tail, and ears that  are heavily furnished (which means they have hair growing from inside their ears—an undesirable trait in humans, but a desirable one in some cats!). Wegies’ almond-shaped eyes can be gold to emerald green in color. Their coat can be nearly any color, but so far as we know, there are no chocolate, lilac, or pointed Wegies.

Norwegian Forest Cats are slow to mature, only reaching full size at about 5 years old. For females, “full size” is typically 9–12 pounds; for males, 12–16 pounds. They don’t need as much grooming as you might expect (a once-a-week brushing is usually enough), though they do shed their winter coat in the spring, so more grooming is needed at that time (the Cat Fanciers’ Association describes this as the “annual molt”). Wegies like to be with people and are good with children. In the wild, they spend a lot of time up in trees, so they would like to have something nice and tall to climb on at home.


And now, the history and mythology

The Norse goddess Freya in her chariot pulled by two
blue cats. They don't look much like Skogkatt here,
but that is what they are believed to represent.
© Patrimonio | Dreamstime.com - FreyaNorse Goddess Photo
In Norway, where it is a naturally occurring breed, the Wegie is called Skogkatt (“forest cat”). They have been around a long time and apparently arose from shorthaired cats brought into parts of northern Europe by the Romans. The thick coat, furry paws, and other features typical of Skogkatt developed over a period of some years as the cats adapted to their environment.


Norse mythology has several references to large cats that we think must by Skogkatt. For example, the Prose Edda (ca. 1179–1241) mentions that the goddess Freya has two large cats that pull her chariot (these cats happen to be blue; see our post “The Goddess Freya’s Cats” for more). Another story features a cat so huge, even the great god Thor could not lift it. Cats were important in Norse culture and were often given to young women as wedding gifts, presumably because of their association with Freya, the fertility goddess.

The Norse goddess Freya in her chariot pulled by two blue cats named Bygul and Trjegul. © Patrimonio | Dreamstime.com - FreyaNorse Goddess Photo
Norwegian Forest Cats love to climb!
If you get one, you must provide
climbing opportunities.
Photo via Adobe Stock.
The Danish clergyman Peter Clausson Friis (1545–1614) lived in Norway and described three types of lynx: a wolf lynx, a fox lynx, and a cat lynx. His “cat lynx” is thought to be the Skogkatt.  Somewhat later, in the 19th century, the cats appeared in fairy tales penned by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe. These authors wrote of “fairy cats” or “huldrekatt.” Huldrekatt lived in the forest and had long, bushy tails, so we suppose they must have been Skogkatt.

The modern history of the Norwegian Forest Cat

In 1938, a Wegie made the breed’s first appearance at a cat show, in Oslo. World War II interrupted the breed’s development though, and it was the 1970s before a standard was described and a breeding program began. In 1973, two purebred Wegies, named Pippa Skogpuss and Pans Truls, were bred and had two kittens. Pans Truls would later be recognized as THE Skogkatt—the standard by which all others would be judged.

The first Norwegian Forest Cats to officially reach the United States arrived in 1979 (although they may have reached North American shores much earlier, in the late 10th century with the explorer Leif Erikson [d. 1020]). They reached the United Kingdom a few years later, in 1986.

Today, these beautiful, people-oriented cats are beloved by their humans as they take a little Viking flair everywhere they go.

Learn more!

We've written about the Skogkatt before, in the posts "What Kind of Cat Would Santa Claus Have: Part 1" and "Did Vikings Have Cats?"

Sources

"About the Norwegian Forest Cat." The Cat Fanciers' Association website. http://cfa.org/Breeds/BreedsKthruR/NorwegianForestCat.aspx.

Pickeral, Tamsin. "Norwegian Forest Cat." The Elegance of the Cat: An Illustrated History. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's, 2013.

(Top illustration created with Adobe Stock images.)


[1] The Norwegian Forest Cat is also called an NFC, but “wegie” sounds more like a friendly name and less like a government agency, so we will go with that.

6 comments:

  1. they are such exquisite cats and they are so big!!! Love them! catchatwithcarenandcody

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  2. Is that pronounced 'wee-gee' or 'wedg-ee'? Beautiful cats!

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  3. Such gorgeous cats. Have you checked out Edith Maxwell's Local Foods mystery series? It stars a Norwegian Forest Cat.

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  4. I have seen Norwegian Forst cats at TICA cat shows - they are really beautiful!

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  5. Very interesting post. They are beautiful cats.

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  6. This is a gorgeous cat breed. We had a cat once that we are sure was part NF Cat, he had a gorgeous tail with hair almost 10 inches long, tufts out his feet an inch long & fur out his ears as well along with a fabulous mane.

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