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Norwich Bulletin - 1/23/2005

The Norwegian Forest Cat

The Norwegian Forest cat is the fairy tale cat that has been around for a very long time. The Skogkatt (Norwegian for Forest Cat) has been described in a children's book in 1912 and was depicted in a 1910 drawing that can be found in the autobiography of the artist Olaf Gulbransson.

The registered Norwegian Forest Cats we know today, are descendants from the Norwegian Swedish or Finnish cats with no outcrossing whatsoever. They are, in essence, a very pure, old breed. It is believed that they arrived in Norway around 1000 AD, and the thought is that the ancestors of this breed are Turkish longhairs.

Since several Bynantine Emperors had Scandinavian guards, it is feasible the cats came with the guards. The cats became Norway's farm cats, living in barns and stables and keeping their homes free of vermin.

The most remarkable thing about this cat is that it really has never changed since it first became a sought after breed. A small version of the lynx, with a little bit of the wild still inside, the Norwegian Forest Cat in a non aggressive, affectionate friend to humans. It is a large cat, strongly built, with a solid bone structure.

The coat is semi long and has a woolly undercoat that is covered by a smooth, water repellent overcoat with consists of long, course and glossy hair. The mature cat sports a shirtfront, a full ruff and knickerbockers. The tail is long and bushy and is one of the focal points of the cat.

The Weegie (as fanciers affectionately call the breed) are great family members of any household. They are often a bit reserved with strangers, but present as gentle, friendly cats in general. They are not what you would call a lap cat - they don't demand attention all of the time, but will quietly let you know when petting is required.

They do not constantly talk to you, but will certainly communicate when something needs to be said. The Norwegian Forest Cat will bond to you and enjoy being with you. They do enjoy being outside and even have the type of fur that can spend some time outside during the winter months, and they love to climb; however, with all the dangers of outside that exist, I would suggest either a cat safe outside enclosure or lots of great cat furniture in a nice safe indoor environment.

The semi long fur of this breed does require some brushing and even combing, but the cat can pretty well handle his own grooming. If planning on getting any kind of long haired cat, you should be prepared to dedicate at least twice a week to brushing, especially during shedding season. Sometimes the fur can get knotted or tangled up and that is why you need to keep the cat brushed in order to avoid this.

Like most cats, if you start them early enough, you can get them used to a halter and take them for outings. They are also pretty amenable to training as far as learning where to scratch and where not to and if you want a cat that stays off of counters and tables, this breed can learn their boundaries very quickly.

Although these cats can do fine as indoor cats, they are large, heavy cats and require some room to run and play and work off pent up energy. Most breeders are not going to sell you a kitten if you are going to let it outside anyway, so you should be prepared to put aside a certain amount of time every day for some hard interactive play with your Weegie. And don't forget, there is the option of an outside enclosure, which many breeders have, that allow the cats to be safe while still enjoying the outdoors.

As in every breed, there are some known medical concerns, but in general, the Norwegian Forest Cat, is a healthy and hardy breed. There are a few cats in the breed that carry a recessive gene known as Glycogen Storage Disease IV, but a simple blood test can reveal the presence of this gene and it can be bred out. Also there is the possibility of eye defects and, as in most breeds, the chance of PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease) is there - but many breeders are having their cats tested for all three of these medical concerns.

So that brings us to my usual admonition to know where your kitten comes from! If you think a Norwegian Forest Cat may be right for your family, then you need to find a responsible breeder and to really understand the breed before you bring a kitten home. There are not a lot of Weegies entered in shows around here, but you can start by checking the larger cat shows and see if there are any Forest Cats that you could meet in person. Check out Cat Fancy magazine, websites and you can go to www.breedlist.com to find different breeders in areas all around the United States.

Finding a healthy kitten involves a little time and patience. You can also go on line and contact The Norwegian Forest Cat Fanciers' Association to get more information about this lovely, ancient breed.

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