Norwegian Forest Cats, The Pets Of The Vikings

The Norwegian forest cats are a very popular breed of cats in the Nordic countries. They are one of the most popular pet choices in Norway, Iceland, Sweden and also France. It is believed that they were brought by the Vikings in Norway during the early Middle Ages from the British archipelago, and since then they became accustomed to the Scandinavian cold climate. This is why their fur had grown rather long compared to that of other breeds of cats.

Three Norwegian forest cats. Image source: www.i.imgur.com

Three Norwegian forest cats. Image source: www.i.imgur.com

The Norwegian forest cats may also be a mixture of cats brought by the Vikings from the British Isles during the Viking Age and various longhaired cats brought by the Crusaders in Norway. These longhaired cats were likely of the Turkish Angora breed. The Norwegian forest cats are also strikingly similar to their Siberian counterparts.

In Norwegian, they are referred to as ‘Norsk skogkatt’ (singular form), and several Norse legends depicts their ancestors as mountain-dwelling fairy cats with an incredible climbing skill. Furthermore, it is believed that their ancestors served on the Norse longships as mousers during Viking raids. Aside from being used on sea, these cats were prised in medieval Norway for their hunting aptitudes and their talent in regards to climbing, being an indispensable pet on farms.

A young fluffy Norwegian forest cat. Image source: www.wallpaperscraft.com

A young fluffy Norwegian forest cat. Image source: www.wallpaperscraft.com

Nevertheless, the breed nearly became extinct in the mid 20th century, but thanks to the noteworthy efforts made by the Norwegian Forest Cat Club they were saved through a special breeding program. The Norwegian forest cats have also been registered at the European Fédération Internationale Féline as early as the 1970s, by a cat enthusiast by the name Carl-Fredrik Nordane. They were subsequently named Norway’s national cat.

You can watch the following video briefly depicting the breed’s history:

Below you can watch a short video of a Norwegian forest cat female playing in the snow in Sweden:

You can take a look at the following Animal Planet presentation as well:

The Norwegian forest cats are known for being very affective and loyal to their owners, but unfortunately many health problems were reported, especially kidney and heart diseases.

Documentation sources and external links:


8 Responses to Norwegian Forest Cats, The Pets Of The Vikings

  1. Anette Gulbrandsen says:

    Not sure if they actually can survive outside the whole winter. We have problems with homeless cats freezing to death and die from coldrelated illnessess here….the cat is an animal from warmer areas of this world….I wonder where that info came from, and personally, I think many of those cats must have died from the climate at some point.

    • Anette Gulbrandsen says:

      Also many of the cats in the video are probably not real forestcats, they just look similar. They miss the hair on top of their ears, whitch is a very typical feature.

      • Judy Stone says:

        Actually I can vouch for the breeding of the cats filmed inside the house with the blue iron filigree chairs and the patterned throw rugs. They are all from the home of the breeder of my cats, and her foundation male is the great great (several greats) grandson of the cat that was on the Norwegian postage stamp. Her foundation male
        was also the Science Diet cat. All those kittens are his descendants and are quite good examples of the breed.

  2. Alexander says:

    “but unfortunately many health problems were reported, especially kidney and heart diseases.” Due to excessive drinking?

  3. Rachel says:

    I have a pair of cats and I truly believe it’s possible they could be this breed especially when discussing the triangular shaped head, disposition with children and hunting. Both of my cats also have the furry feet. My female has not been fixed yet. Is there a need to preserve this breed? My pair are twin orange cats except my female and male vary greatly in size. I’m actually super fascinated by this! I’m just really puzzled by the fact that they were dumped outside a horse farm and abandoned by the side of a road. There had been an entire litter and when I saw them I knew we need to have them. We traveled an hour and a half to bring them home!

  4. dali root says:

    Any genetic relationship to the Maine (USA) coon cats?
    They came off ships before the settlement of North America.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maine_Coon

    • Rachel says:

      We are unsure. I had a previous cat that completely fit the Maine coon description to a tee. These two are very different in their looks and behavior. They share some similarities with her but not as many as they do with the Norwegian Forest Cat. Their need to hunt is out of control and has taken an extreme amount of in home adjustment to meet their needs but we are happy to do so. We have tons of birds & beauties outside that they “play hunt… From the safety of being behind glass” they have all of the things you described, also the cats 101 (which we have seen one the Maine coonns as well and they just don’t fit. They have perfectly proportioned triangle faces, blazing Amber eyes, completely almond shade and turned up into a beautiful way that is all their own and I mean that as a make up artist I look at facial features all dat and they have perfect triangles and a set of eyes on each of them unlike any others I’ve seen. The colors are the colors of fire & cream. They are the two most beautiful cats you have EVER seen! The stripes and swirls are so unusual. It’s strange because the only thing my boy cat is missing is the ear tufts BUT his SISTER has them. She doesn’t have as much fur in between her toes and is extremely tiny but our vet thought that could have been due to the lack of a mother or just that she’s tiny. Personally wise they are exactly like the cats you described. My cats are not allowed to be outside so I know their coats would be more cottony fluffy if I did let them Outside BUT their safety is much more important to me that coat length. They do definitely have that second cottony coat (this is particularly notable in our female.) It not going to make a difference to us what they “are” or where they come officially from because wherever or whatever that turns out to be we do know where they needed to end up and that was with us. I’m extremely happy to hear the breed is doing well in their home country. That gives me a sense of relief that we can go ahead and get Gemma spayed, I would never want to kill a line. I work with horses and understand how important that it’s. I also know how many others have no homes or purpose so it’s an extremely fine line. We have our beloved Chicotuegue ponies to protect and the wild horse that run free as they always have creating horse all over the world. So I understand preservation needs.
      This story was shared throughout my friends and it started quite a conversation! I have two other friend committed to the fact that they to have Norwegian forest cats and NOT Maine Coons (as they too have both looked into it at some length). I have looked at Maine Coon, rag dolls and several other breeds but they don’t fit into any of those breeds. thank you for creating the dialogue and replying to my post. Lastly, I found another friend who was in Norway and meet two Forest Cats and she said other than the extra long cottony fur she did note in the cats in Norway that my cats did resemble the ones she had met. Even that Jax is the only other cat she has meet as big & sticky he’s stocky! He’s just like a line backer he’s built wider in his bone structure than any cat I’ve seen! He’s boxy looking, his body is broad he’s at least twenty pounds, maybe twenty five pounds! He’s not fat. He’s going to the vet this month so I’ll check. . They both have longer back legs and Gemma has more of a tigers movement than any small cat I’ve ever seen so when you mention the back legs being longer I understood exactly what you meant. I appreciate your article and time so much! Thank you!

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