Norwegian Forest Cat – Breeds cat Thank God It’s Freya
Freya, for whom the F in TGIF is named, is the Norse goddess of beauty, love, fertility and, on the odd occasion, battle and death. Not to be confused with Frigg, the goddess of marriage, who prefers gauche-white limousines, Freya often goes traveling in a chariot hitched to a team of cats — when she isn’t riding on a golden-bristled boar. Cat lovers contend that Freya rolls out her cats and chariot in the service of love and fertility, reserving the pig for fewer savory occupations. What’s more, say Norwegian forest cat fanciers, the cats providing the horsepower for Freya’s runabout are the mythological antecedents of the Norwegian forest cat.
Forest Cat – Norwegian Woods
On the physical plane the Norwegian forest cat, Wedgie for short, is a naturally occurring breed whose domain comprises the farms and woodland of central Norway, which territory lies roughly between the 59th and 62nd degrees north latitude. That’s only a snowball’s throw from the Arctic Circle, which begins at 66.5 degrees north latitude. (The only one of the United States that lies above the 59th parallel is Alaska.)
The rough winters of Norway nurtured the forest cat’s vitality, resourcefulness, and sensible, semi-long, water-repellent coat. In order to master his trying domain, the Wegie was also obliged to develop a diehard, constitutional resilience to the harsh, wet climate that rewards the survivors of one winter by allowing them the opportunity to survive another.
Norwegian Forest Cat, And Other Cool Lynx
Some observers theorize that forest cats are the products of fraternization between shorthaired cats brought to Norway from England by the Vikings 1,000 years ago and longhaired cats imported by the Crusaders in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. Others challenge the notion that Crusaders returned from their missionary endeavors with any cats. Still, others assert that Norwegian Vikings, who reigned havoc on the coasts of Europe and beyond from the 8th to the 10th centuries, kept forest cats as mousers and pets. Some of these cats were introduced to the lands toured by the Vikings, thus helping to an extent to restore the balance of trade with those lands. The Vikings’ talent for disseminating cats is credited by some for the presence of semiferal longhair cats in places such as Normandy and the North Atlantic coastal regions of the United States.
Hindsight being no less subject to flights of fancy that is foresight, some people have constructed links between the Norwegian forest cat and the Norwegian lynx. “The most apparent of these,” says one lynxologist, are similarities in size, ruffs, and ear tufts. “Moreover they both like water, and the stories of swimming forest cats who catch their own fish in lakes and rivers are innumerable. The forest cat evidently utilizes the same methods as the Norwegian lynx when it goes fishing.”
Finally, some Wedgie advocates put their own spin on the history of feline domestication: “We do not know … when it [the Wegie] first approached people and joined the ancient tribes in their wanderings.”
Whatever the forest cat’s origin the earliest references to cats that resemble today’s Wegies are found in Norwegian folk tales that were gathered and recorded between 1837 and 1852. Another reference to the Norwegian Forest Cat occurs in Norwegian author Gabriel Scott’s Sølvfaks, a popular children’s book published in 1912. The central character in Sølvfaks (silver fox) is a Norwegian forest cat of the same name.
Norwegian Forest Cat, Truls Rules
For all but the last 20 years or so the Norwegian Forest Cat has been a prophet without pulpit — or papers — in Norway. The Wedgie was left to his considerable devices outdoors while those two-legged Norwegians who succumbed to the spell of the show ring sought the indoor company of Persians, Siamese and other members of the pedigreed fraternity. There had been a few desultory attempts to promote forest cats — a red-and-white Norwegian male was shown in Norway in 1930, and a Norwegian Forest Cat club was started in 1938 — but World War II plowed these tender shoots under and kept the breed from blossoming for several decades.
To make a worsening situation worse yet, continued postwar breeding between forest cats and shorthair hauskatts, the equivalent of our free-ranging domestic felines, almost stopped the Wegie’s progress cold. Short hair being dominant over long, breedings between shorthair and longhair cats will produce only shorthair kittens, unless the shorthair parent is carrying the recessive gene for long hair.
Fortunately in the early 1970s Carl-Fredrik Nordane, then president of the Norwegian Cat Association, began lobbying on the Wegie’s behalf. He organized a meeting at which the initial Norwegian Forest Cat breeding program was designed, and he helped to charter the Norskskogkattering, a forest-cat breed club that held its first meeting in February 1975. Two and a half years later Nordane traveled to Paris to plead the Wegies’ case before the general assembly of the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe), a cat registry that governs shows and related matters in Europe and other parts of the world. Norway’s quarantine laws precluded bringing any Wegies in living color to Paris, but on November 25, 1977, Nordane showed the FIFe assembly slides of two forest cats with certifiably winning names: Truls and Pippi Skogpus. Truly, a brown-tabby-and-white male has been called “a glorious specimen … the first prototype of the Norwegian Forest Cat breed.”
The FIFe board of directors must have agreed. They voted to admit Wegies to the ranks of pedigreed cats eligible to compete for the greater honor and glory of their owners at cat shows. When Nordane returned in triumph to Oslo the following night, flags were flying, music was blaring and 40 cars’ worth of Norwegian Cat Fancy Council members were conducting a joyous, horn-honking line dance.
Norwegian Forest Cat – Every Figure Tells a Story
Two years to the month after its November 1977 anointment by FIFe, the Norwegian forest cat arrived in the United States. Sixteen months later (March 29, 1981) the first Norwegian litter born in this country was delivered. By 1984 the Norwegian Forest Cat was accepted for championship competition by the first of several North American cat-registering associations. Today it is eligible to compete in the shows of all cat registries here.
During the six years following the birth of the first Norwegian forest cats in this country, 350 members of the breed were registered with various cat associations. That works out to fewer than 60 new registrations per year. Such are the numbers of what the cat fancy calls minority breeds. There were, according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), only seven breeds out of the 31 it recognized in 1987 that had fewer than 100 new registrations that year. Since then the Norwegian Forest Cat population has grown. In 1997, four years after CFA had recognized Wegies, it enrolled 508 new forest cats. This number, which represented an increase of 9 percent over the preceding year, came at a time when the registrations of many pedigreed breeds — and of pedigreed cats as a tribe — were declining significantly. (The Wegie stood 17th among the 36 breeds recognized by CFA last year.)
The Bottom Lines – Norwegian Forest Cat
Since it was given the keys to the pedigree-cat club’s lounge two decades ago in Europe, the Skogkatt, as the Wegie is known in the land of its birth, has traveled from footnote to spotlight. Referred to as a “living national cultural monument” by many of its fans — and declared “the hottest breed in America’s cat fancy” by a Chicago Tribune writer five years ago — the Norwegian forest cat is a tactile pleasure as well as a visual and temperamental delight.
According to Norse folklore, there was once a Norwegian Forest Cat so heavy that the fearsome Thor — the mighty god of thunder, the Bad, Bad Leroy Brown of all the gods — could not lift the prodigious feline. Whether or not Thor could lift a Norwegian forest cat, it’s safe to say he couldn’t resist petting one.
Norwegian Forest Cat – Built for Success
A person would expect that a cat reputed to have helped pull the goddess Freya’s chariot would be a splendid creation, and the Norwegian forest cat does not disappoint. Known as the Wegie to his American friends — and as the Skogkatt in his native land — the Norwegian forest cat is a moderately long, heavy-boned creature that carries a double coat: a long, smooth outer garment arrayed with oily guard hairs; and a dense, cottony undercoat. This is a coat obviously meant to protect the cat inside it from the great outdoors. It is also a coat that warrants twice weekly brushing. Baths, which give the Wegie an opportunity to demonstrate its water-resistant coat — are determined by the amount of oil that coat exudes.
Age, climate, and color combine to influence coat development and texture in the Norwegian. “It takes about two years for the coat to come in completely on colors other than tabbies,” says one cat association. Furthermore, “solid colors, tortoiseshells and bi-colors have a smoother, softer coat than tabbies”; and during hot weather, “the tail, ear, and toe tufts” are the only factors that “distinguish the cat as a longhair.”
Large, expressive, almond-shaped eyes — set at a slight angle, with the outer corner somewhat higher than the inner one — gladden the Norwegian forest cat’s triangular head. The Norwegian’s nose is “medium straight” or “medium to long” or “medium-long,” depending on the cat association to which one pledges allegiance. In all cases, the nose should be straight, but females “may exhibit a minimal curve.”
The Norwegian Forest Cat has medium to large ears, slightly rounded at the tip, and set as much on the side of the head as on the top. The ears are upright, alert and arched forward. Ear furnishings are heavy, and lynx tips, though “desirable,” do not constitute a fault by their absence.
Norwegian Forest Cat – Personality Profile
Though Norwegian forest cats take time to mature — not reaching fullest flower until they are five — they waste no time playing a tune on their owners’ heartstrings. “Their purr boxes are constantly working,” says one breeder, “and they continuously exhibit their love of people. If you’re talking on the phone, they’re walking across the receiver; if you’re working at your desk, they’re lying across your papers.”
Without a doubt, say, Norwegian breeders, their cats are tied to people more than any other cat imaginable. “It’s almost like they determine who in the household they want to be attached to for the rest of their lives, and if a Norwegian decides that person is you, you better like cats because he’ll be with you every minute.”
- 1 Norwegian Forest Cat – Breeds cat Thank God It’s Freya
- 2 Forest Cat – Norwegian Woods
- 3 Norwegian Forest Cat, And Other Cool Lynx
- 4 Norwegian Forest Cat, Truls Rules
- 5 Norwegian Forest Cat – Every Figure Tells a Story
- 6 The Bottom Lines – Norwegian Forest Cat
- 7 Norwegian Forest Cat – Built for Success
- 8 Norwegian Forest Cat – Personality Profile
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