July 22, 2013 PetGuide
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Norwegian Forest Cat

  • Height: 9-11 inches
  • Weight: 7-20 lb
  • Lifespan: 14-16 years
  • Physique: Large-sized cat
  • Best Suited For: Families with children and other household pets
  • Temperament: Affectionate, loyal, playful, active with a gentle nature
  • Comparable Breeds: Burmese, Tonkinese

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The Norwegian Forest Cat is a relative newcomer to the United States, but the breed is so ancient in Norway that these cats appear in the country’s illustrated folklore and mythology. In Norway, the breed is called “skogkatt,” which translates literally to “forest cat.” They not only have a  history as stalwarts of the Norwegian countryside where they worked as mousers in barns and on farms, but the “skogkatt” also traveled with the Vikings to keep rats from infesting the ships. It is possible that the first Norwegian Forest Cat to reach the United States arrived with Leif Ericson in the late 900s. The breed was saved from near extinction after World War II by fanciers, and became a welcome addition to European show rings as well as being named the official cat of Norway. The cats were first exported to America in 1979 and were accepted for full championship status in 1993.

Although well adapted for life outside, the modern Norwegian Forest Cat is far from an outdoorsman of the feline world.

norwegian-forest-cat-1Although well adapted for life outside, the modern Norwegian Forest Cat is far from an outdoorsman of the feline world. This cat likes to be at home with his “people,” and is even happier if there are other pets in the household. Even given their capacity for loyalty and affection, the relationship will always be on the cat’s terms, not yours. In many cases, a Norwegian Forest Cat will choose to be near you rather than on your lap. These are active cats, and they are given to incredible bursts of energy after which they’ll collapse for a deep snooze. A scratching post is essential with a Norwegian Forest Cat. They like to use their claws, and they are no respecters of furniture! Intelligent and sensitive, a Norwegian Forest Cat adapts well to changes in its environment, but on its own schedule.

The Norwegian Forest Cat has a unique appearance due in part to its lovely almond eyes set obliquely in the triangular head. In profile, this cat’s features are straight from brow to nose tip. The tufted ears complete the triangular look, and overall the expression is sweet, but inquisitive. A full ruff in the front gives the Norwegian Forest Cat a somewhat burly chest. The tail and rear britches are bushy and prominent, and the paws are tufted, an adaptation for walking on snow.

norwegian-forest-cat-2The Norwegian Forest Cat is known for having a brown tabby and white coat, but in truth, almost all colors are seen in this breed in the full range from snow white to coal black. All coat patterns are possible, but not color pointing.

Nature has outfitted the Norwegian Forest Cat with a waterproof, insulated double coat. The dense undercoat is covered in more coarse guard hairs. Oddly enough, however, this cat requires far less grooming than most long-haired breeds. A weekly combing with more vigorous brushing during the spring shedding season will keep the cat’s coat free of dead hair and prevent matting and tangling.

Photo credit: Julia Remezova/Shutterstock

Comparable Breeds

Go to Burmese


  • Height: 10-12 inches
  • Weight: 6-10 lb
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years
  • Physique: Small-medium,compact
  • Best Suited For: Active household with older children, singles with other pets
  • Temperament: Intelligent, inquisitive, playful, mischievous
  • Comparable Breeds: American Shorthair, Exotic Shorthair
Go to Tonkinese


  • Height: 8-10 inches
  • Weight: 6-12 lb
  • Lifespan: 12-18 years
  • Physique: Dense and muscular
  • Best Suited For: Families with children or singles with other pets
  • Temperament: Active, curious, lively, intelligent, playful, and interactive
  • Comparable Breeds: Ocicat, Sphynx