Norwegian Forest Cat

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: September 9, 2008

Physical Characteristics

The Norwegian Forest Cat's body shape and double coat are what make this cat so unique. Its dense and long-flowing hair provides excellent protection in the winter (and makes it a soft cuddling partner). The Norwegian Forest Cat's well-balanced body structure, equilateral triangle-shaped head and bright emerald green eyes (with a band of gold) also gives it an aura of mystery, while its broad chest and well-developed muscles display the cat's power and strength.

In addition, the Norwegian Forest Cat can adapt to the weather and change its coat! During spring, it molts its heavy winter coat and dons a lighter one. In the fall, the cat will again molt and shed its summer coat.

Personality and Temperament

The Norwegian Cat is a born athlete. It is curious and playful, exploring every nook and corner of the house, including the top of cupboards and book cases. Even though this breed has spent years in the wilderness, it prefers to cuddle rather than display any aggression. Behind this rugged exterior lies a cat with a sweet disposition and affectionate nature. Moreover, the Norwegian Forest Cat is able to quickly adjust to new people or environments and is not easily upset. This breed is also vocal. It prefers to communicate with its human companions long and often.


Because of the cats level of energy, the Norwegian Cat breed needs plenty of exercise in the form of play. Also when the cat molts, it needs a thorough combing or you will find hair all over the home. However, the rest of the year it needs very little grooming.

History and Background

As its name suggests, this breed originated in Norway. The Norsk Skogkatt (Norse for Norwegian Forest Cat) appears to have come out of the Scandinavian forests thousands of years ago, corroborated by all the large, long-haired cats found in Norse mythology. Some accounts even put the cat on the boat of Leif Erikson, a famous Viking explorer, as his traveling companion and as pest control.

These tough cats managed to survive the extreme climate of Norway, a land where the sun does not set from mid-May until August, and where winter nights are long and bitterly cold. Because of this they developed long, dense, water-resistant coats, hardy constitutions, quick wits, and well-honed survival instincts.

During the 1930s, an attempt was made to get the Norwegian Forest Cat breed recognized. The first Norwegian Cat club was established in 1934, and the first Forest Cat was exhibited at a show in Oslo, Norway. However, the destruction of World War II nearly led to the annihilation of the breed, and crossbreeding with Norway's shorthaired domestic cat (called the hauskatt) threatened to dilute its bloodlines. After the war, Norway's cat fanciers began a breeding program. And with a new sense of resiliency, the Forest Cat was named the official cat of Norway by the late King Olaf.

In 1980, the Forest Cat was introduced to the United States, thanks in part to the newly established Norwegian Forest Cat Fanciers' Association, a small group hoping to get this breed officially recognized. The International Cat Association was the first to recognize the Norwegian Cat breed, accepting the Forest Cat for Championship competition in 1984. The breed later attained championship status for the Cat Fanciers Association in 1993, and for the American Cat Association in 1995.

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health

Subscribe to PetMD's Newsletter

Get practical pet health tips, articles, and insights from our veterinary community delivered weekly to your inbox.