The Norwegian Forest Cat? When my favorite youngest daughter (who is one quarter Norwegian) asked me if she had ever heard of the Norwegian forest cat, I shook my head.
My relatives on the Iverson farm (Norwegians, not Swedes) had several barn cats, as I recall. They certainly weren’t Norwegian, being of mixed ancestry – none of the cats on the farm had changed their attitude, if you know what I mean.
Therefore, I had to go to research land to find out if Leif Erikson or his father, Eric the Red, owned a Norwegian Cat.
However (records are lacking), the breed’s ancestors may have been a breed of shorthaired cat brought to Norway around AD 1000. C. by the Vikings and long-haired cats from the Siberian cat clan brought by the Crusaders.
This was around the time Leif Erikson was in Vinland five centuries before Columbus “discovered” America, ignoring the fact that the indigenous peoples were very happy with the way they were doing.
So these cats, Norsk skogskatt in the native tongue, are probably the product of British shorthairs and northern European longhairs.
Cats are somewhat promiscuous, as cat people might know, and the offspring developed into the breed we now call the Norwegian Forest Cat.
Norse legends refer to the Skogkatt as a “mountain-dwelling fairy cat with the ability to scale sheer rock faces that other cats could not handle.”
Today’s Norwegian Forest cats are highly skilled climbers, so the folktale could be about the ancestor of the modern breed. It is probable, but not proven, that the predecessors of the more recent kittens were ship jacks (buzzards, or buzzards, they were big enough) for Viking ships.
In the middle of the second millennium, indigenous cats lived in Norwegian forests for centuries before being drawn to Norwegian farms, where they were prized for their hunting skills.
Norwegian forest cats have adapted to a very cold climate with a long-haired, glossy, water-repellent topcoat and a wool undercoat for insulation. They are of a good size; females run up to 17 pounds and males close to 20 pounds. They have long legs, a long stout body, and a bushy tail.
Left mostly outdoors, they become fast and effective hunters, but they easily adapt to a mild life indoors (as do many of us).
Their size dictates that they eat more than most other domestic breeds.
As pets, they are friendly, intelligent, and generally good with people, which is not always the case with people.
They like to play games. They are generally not good at card games, not even Norwegian Whist.
What is a race without an organization? The Norwegian Forest Cat Club was formed in Oslo, Norway, in 1938.
The club’s movement to preserve the breed lasted two years until the Nazis invaded Norway.
Good cat food was hard to come by during the occupation, although Norwegian aid was fierce, their attention turned to other issues (such as keeping the Nazi nuclear program from having “heavy water”).
Cats being what they are, house cats found an exciting romance with forest cats and the result was interbreeding.
Therefore, the Norwegian Forest Cat Club helped the breed recover by developing an official breeding program (arranged marriages?).
In the 1950s, King Olav declared them the official cat of Norway. That helped and the American Cat Fanciers Association (yes, that’s the name of an actual organization) recognized Nordic cats as an official breed (no more illegitimate Norwegian Forest kittens).
And speaking of official breeds, Maine has designated the Maine Coon cat as the official cat of the state. It is one of the oldest natural breeds in North America.
But wait! The size and coat characteristics are similar to the Norwegian Forest cat, suggesting that they are descended from Norwegian Forest cats or Siberian Forest cats brought to New England by settlers.
Maine Coon cats are also supposedly good hunters; I don’t know what they hunt or if they bring it home.
After a decline, Maine Coon cats are on the mend.
They’re sociable, just like their Norwegian cousins, so perhaps an entrepreneur could set up a get-together for the cats to talk about common ancestry or at least share a few mice.