The Viking Cat: Norwegian Forest Cat Basics

Norwegian Forest Cat on Tree
Just like its ancient Viking companions, the mighty Norwegian Forest cat has made its home around the world. Also called a "Wegie" for short, these large, friendly cats have become a mainstay in countless pet owners' homes and hearts. Although they closely resemble the Maine Coon (and are supposed by some to actually be the originators of the breed), Norwegian Forest cats are unique among cats for their size and have quiet, calm demeanor. Keep reading to learn more about the Vikings' favorite feline travel partners and find out if this big, lovable lug is the cat for you.

Norwegian Forest Cat Physical Traits

Norwegian Forest Cat in Snow
Norwegian Forest cats, also called "skogkatt" in Norwegian (which literally means "forest cat"), are slow to reach their full size, often taking about five years to hit their target weight of between 10 to 15 pounds. Although they tend to be relatively heavy, their long, double coats can make them appear to be much larger and heavier. These long coats can come in virtually every color and pattern, including (among others) white, black, silver, blue, brown, tabby, calico, and bicolor.
Moreover, this large cat's coat is long, thick, and silky, a holdover from the cat's days as a forest-dwelling predator and powerful swimmer. Accordingly, pet owners should be prepared to spend appropriate time combing the Wegie's fur to prevent and clear away matted hair, especially during spring and fall as the cat's coat changes.
The Norwegian Forest cat's other distinctions include tufted paws and ears and a long, fluffy tail that extends out like an elegant plume. The full effect is that of an imposing furball, but as you'll see in the next section, Wegies are anything but threatening.

Norwegian Cat Personality Traits

Norwegian Forest Cat in Snowy Forest
Wegies are naturally athletic, and their strong and muscular bodies reflect this, as does their fondness for jumping and scoping out high points from which to observe their domains. And if that wasn't enough, they also enjoy swimming, in large part because their water-resistant coats allow them to avoid the soaked-to-the-bone sensation that leads most cats to avoid water like the plague.
In addition to being four-legged sports stars, Norwegian Forest cats are fiercely independent and enjoy a good amount of alone time. However, don't mistake this for unfriendliness or an inability or unwillingness to associate with the human members of the family; Wegies are affectionate and develop strong bonds with their human family members. They aren't overly demanding of attention, and they don't tend to raise their voice often.
Combined with their strong need for independence, Norwegian Forest cats like to have their own space but are also happy to share a room or couch with a favorite family member. They aren't usually lap cats, but they will usually gladly accept some gentle petting or a scratch behind the ears.

Norwegian Forest vs. Maine Coon Cats

Norwegian Forest Cat
Due to their large size and thick coats, Norwegian Forest cats are sometimes confused with Maine Coons. Although there is no definitive evidence linking the two breeds, a commonly proposed link is that the Norwegian Forest cats were introduced to North America via Viking expeditions. They often traveled aboard the ships to help control rodent populations, so it's certainly plausible that some might have escaped or been left behind, then mated with domestic cats native to the area. The resulting cats might have become the similar-looking Maine Coon.
However the two breeds are or are not related, there are still some very tell-tale distinctions. In terms of appearance, Wegies have triangular-shaped heads and a flat forehead. Maine Coons, meanwhile, have wedge-shaped heads, high cheekbones, and a sweet, happy expression.
Personality differences arise as well. Maine Coons are generally more laid back in temperament but retain a kittenish sense of playfulness throughout their lives. Norwegian Forest cats, on the other hand, are closer to the "bump on a log" end of the spectrum; they enjoy running around and playing now and then, but if left to their own devices, they're just as happy to take a nap on the couch.
Do you have a Norwegian Forest cat? Sound off in the comments below to let us know if you believe the connection to the Maine Coon!



Christine Whitt
Christine Whitt

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