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Norwich Bulletin - 6/27/2010

The Norwegian Forest Cat

The Goddess Freya, in Norse Mythology, is considered one of the most beautiful, and mysterious deities. She is the goddess of beauty and fertility and she rode in a chariot pulled by two massive cats. The cats, of course, were Norwegian Forest Cats.

About a thousand years ago, the Roman brought shorthaired European cats to Norway. The breed began to adapt to the harsh Norwegian climate. Sunless winters of wind and cold, and seemingly endless summer days with no moon; led to the cats developing long, thick coats, rugged bodies and an instinct to survive in the northern forests. They were the official cat of Norway and in 1934 a group of Norwegian cat lovers began a breed club and began to exhibit them at shows. Although they were nearly wiped out during World War II, the breed did rallyl thanks to the dedication of some breeders and in 1980 the first Norwegian Forest Cats found their way to the United States and The International Cat Association. TICA was the first registry to recognize the breed and they reached champion status in 1984, with CFA following much later in 1993.

The breed is a heavy boned cat and built very muscular and strong. Although a large, long haired breed, the Norwegian Forest Cat is very different from the Maine Coon. Their head is what is referred to as an equilateral triangle with the ears flowing from the triangle along the same lines. The nose profile is straight and the chin is firm and the eyes are large, expressive, and almond shaped. And the most impressive thing about this cat, is its luxurious, double coat; dense, rich fur with a wooly undercoat, covered by long, coarse, guard hairs. When the cat is in full winter coat, it sports a ruff and britches. The coat evolved because of the need for the cat to be protected from the elements and provide warmth during the cold months of the year. It takes several years for these cats to reach their maturity.

The Wegie, as the cat is often referred as, has a sweet, expressive face and is an alert and intelligent feline. They are extremely affectionate, playful, confident and loyal. While they are not a typical lap cat, they do have to be everywhere you are and supervise whatever it is you are doing. They know without a doubt that you cannot do anything without them.

A nice thing about a Wegie is that they are very social to strangers and other animals. They are very mischievous and instead of an annoying meow, they trill or chirp their conversations with their humans and each other. You can teach a Norwegian Forest Cat to enjoy riding in the car, or the Petco carriage, as you do your shopping.

This is not a groom free cat though – the double coat requires more care than many cats. Frequent brushing during the two shedding seasons is necessary and at other times, at least a weekly brushing is needed to maintain the coat. Once spring arrives, the Wegie’s coat sheds and goes from thick to much thinner for the summer months so there is a slight grooming reprieve each year.

In general, the breed is hardy, but there is a rare genetic disease that the Norwegian Forest Cat is prone to and that is Glycogen Storage Disease. Kittens born with this disease, never survive to adulthood and they are most often stillborn. But those that are born alive appear perfectly normal until they are about five months old. At that time they develop a muscular weakness that continues to degenerate, and eventually, prevent the cat from being able to walk. There is no known treatment. Responsible breeders have their cats tested for the disease before allowing them to reproduce and when buying a kitten, you should request to see the parent’s status. They are either normal or carriers and it takes two carriers to produce an affected kitten.

These beautiful cats, who make you believe that they are still living in the wild, are actually quite content living a modern, domestic life. They will happily be your animal companion. They will even be a friend to your children as they are a very tolerant breed. If you can handle the grooming, you will have a wonderful animal companion that will fulfill a whole lot of needs, all in one big bundle of love.

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