Norvegian Forest catThe Norwegian Forest cat has been a companion for many homes in Norway for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. While they are called Skogkatter or Skaukatter (or, more formally, Norsk Skogkatt) in its home country, they are affectionately called "Wegies" (wee-jees) by its proud owners in North America.

The Norwegian Forest has are large, longhaired, and lovable. In fact, it is actually one of the biggest purebreds, and according to some accounts its ancestors were constant companions of the Vikings and traveled the world with Leif Erickson to keep his ships free from mice.

Breed Origin

The Norwegian Forest cat is not a descendant or a hybrid of any wild cat species, despite its large size and feral appearance. Experts suggest that the Wegie probably arrived in Northern Europe hundreds of years ago as descendants of domestic cats introduced to Europe by the Romans. Even Norse mythology has mentions of large, longhaired cats. Because of northern Norway’s harsh climate, its domestic cats have evolved with large and hardy bodies for survival. They have also developed long and water-resistant coats.

The first Norwegian cat club was founded in Norway in 1934, and in 1938 the first forest cat was exhibited at a show in Oslo. However, the breed became close to extinction during World War II, which prompted breeders to crossbreed the Norwegian Forest cat with Norway’s shorthaired domestics called the hauskatt. This threatened the Wegies reputation as a purebred. After the war, Norway’s cat fanciers began a breeding program aiming to save the breed from extinction and their efforts were successful. The breed later became the official cat of Norway as declared by King Olaf.

Appearance

The Norwegian Forest is often mistaken as a Maine Coon, another large cat breed native in the United States. However, the two are separate breeds. Apart from the difference in weight, the Maine Coon is heavier by about 4 pounds compared to the Wegie, their body and head types are distinctly different.

The Wegie has long, strong back legs, as well as a solidly-muscled, well-balanced, moderately long body with a broad chest and substantial bone structure. Its heads is shaped like an equilateral triangle, with large and expressive eyes topped with medium large, rounded ears. Its heavy double coat and a regal mane make the Wegie appear larger than it actually is. The coat is naturally oily, making it water-resistant. Lavish tufts decorate the ears and paws.

Color

The most color pattern for the Wegie is tabby with white, but it also comes in every conceivable pattern and color except those that would indicate hybridization like the Siamese pattern or the colors chocolate and lilac. Eye colors include the shades of green, gold, and green-gold. Meanwhile, white cats may have blue or odd-colored eyes.

Personality

Even though the Norwegian Forest cat has solid muscles and rugged exterior, it actually has a soft and playful personality. Sweet, friendly, and family-oriented, it forms close bonds of affection with their human companions. It takes time for them to familiarize with new people and situations. The Wegie also does not voice too much, only meowing if something is terribly wrong like if it is hungry. However, they do create loud rumbling purrs you can hear from across the room. It prefers perching beside its favorite humans rather than sitting on them.

Grooming

The coat’s length varies depending on the season. The Wegie has a shorter and lighter summer coat, which it sheds off at fall to give way for a longer, heavier winter coat. The difference in length makes the Norwegian Forest look like a completely different cat during the summer, with only the tail plume as well as the tufts in the ears and paws. During the molting stage in spring and fall, a thorough and daily coming using a good quality steel comb is necessary to prevent matting and limit the amount of cat hair covering your furniture. During the rest of the year, however, the Wegie requires just a weekly combing.

Cost

Expect to pay from $400 to $600 for a pet-quality Wegie. If you are interested in buying a show-quality Norwegian Forest, expect to pay $600 to $1,000 depending on the bloodline, gender, color, and pattern, as well as the geographical location of the breeder. Meanwhile, retired show or breeder quality Wegies are occasionally offered at a low cost, sometimes covering just the cost of spaying and neutering.