rec.pets.cats: Norwegian Forest Cat Breed-FAQ
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Last-modified: 14 Jul 2002
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Norwegian Forest Cat -
Copyright 1997-2002 by Bjorn Steensrud,
All Rights Reserved
Like a small but beautiful version of the lynx, the Norwegian Forest
Cat is part of Norway's fauna. For many of us, it is the faerie cat we
chance upon while out in the wilderness. Proud - yes, of course - and
with a good deal in it that is still wild, yet not aggressive, and
quite prepared to be affectionate.
Wegies, Norwegian Forest Cats, skaukatt - all names of that somewhat
Maine Coon-like, medium-haired cat from Northern Europe. 'Skaukatt' is
the Norwegian word for it, meaning literally Forest Cat. (Pronounce
somewhat like scowcat but make the ow more like eow :-) It's not a
wildcat, but a breed of the same species as all our domestic cats.
Actually, the official name is Norsk Skogkatt/Norwegian Forest
Cat/Norwegische Waldkatze/Chat des Bois Norvegien. That is, these
are the names in the three official FIFe languages. In the following,
the abbreviation NFO is used for this breed, it is defined
in FIFe's EMS code. You'll find the code at the FIFe EMS page.
Oh, by the way - Noruegako Basoetako Katua is Basque for Norwegian
Forest Cat. Thought you might like to know. ( Hi, Jorge!)
The Skogkatt has been around for centuries. We know this because of
cat descriptions in fairy tales that historians say are very old
indeed. It has been described in a children's book in 1912, and the
artist Olaf Gulbransson has a drawing of a grand champion type
Skogkatt in his autobiography - the drawing was made about 1910.
The cat fancy in Norway got started as late as 1934, and not until
1938 did anyone think of the Skogkatt as a special breed. Then,
suddenly, everybody had other priorities for a while.
The Skogkatt was almost forgotten until the beginning of the 1970's,
when a group of fanciers started breeding programs in earnest. The
people who had shown a few skaukatt in 1938 and got very favorable
reactions from Danish and German judges, recruited some more breeders
and got going. In fact, 1938 was when the first Pedigreed Cat club
was founded in Norway - Norsk Rasekattklubb NORAK.
(The Norwegian National Association of Pedigree Cats, or Norske
Rasekattklubbers Riksforbund (NRR), was founded as late as 1963, and
some of the founders were very interested in the Skogkatt.) FIFe
international approval was given in 1977 and the cats started
spreading out into the world. The first two cats exported were sold to
Sweden, and the first wegies came to the US on November 29, 1979.
(They were male Pan's Tigris, brown tabby, breeder Else Nylund, and
female Mjavo's Sala Palmer, black and white, breeder Solveig
Stenersrød, bought by Sheila Gira, Michigan, of Mycoon cattery.
Thanks to the Clairs, Elsa and Susan Shaw for this info.)
Side note: the cat breed is registered with the Department of Trade as
exportable goods .. :-)
All registered NFO cats are descended from Norwegian, Swedish,
or Finnish cats, with no outcrossing allowed. Some Non-FIFe
registries in Germany may also have registered novice NFOs.
Characteristics and temperament
A Skogkatt is a family member, like most cats. It is often a bit
reserved with strangers, but usually gentle, friendly cats. Most are
not lap cats. Maybe just as well, the males can weigh 10 kg.
Head-bumping and chin-scratching is of course a must, but with some
restraint - you don't have to pet them _all_ the time. He'll tell you,
quietly, when it is needed. (If you ignore him, he'll get louder :-)
They climb well, and I can confirm that they can even climb down from
trees headfirst ... Sylvester just got down off a walnut tree where
he'd been chasing a pigeon. There's also evidence that outdoor cats
who live near streams _do_ fish !
A relatively large cat, with hind legs longer than front legs. Double
coat; a thick, woolly undercoat with a coarse, glossy overcoat.
Triangular face, straight profile, tufted ears.
Is this Breed for Me?
If you like a cat that bonds to you and likes being with you,
that is not overly demonstrative, needing to be petted and pampered
most of your time, that doesn't talk all the time - only when
something _needs_ to be said - that loves the outdoors - and can stand
a cold climate, yet lives quietly indoors if you live in a place where
that is necessary - that _looks_ like a cat should :-) (pardon me)
yes, it's for you.
Care and Training
The semilong fur sometimes needs brushing and even combing, but mostly
the cat can handle its fur on its own. It may need help in getting
twigs and other debris out, though. The common wire brushes should be
used when the cat is shedding, to help prevent hairballs. Otherwise,
brush once or twice a week with a bristle brush. The fur _can_ get
knotty and tangled, and you may have to use blunt scissors to get the
nastiest knots out, but unlike some longhair breeds you don't need to
brush & comb twice a day to avoid knots.
Training ? Well, a breeder I know says she trains her cats to heel and
takes them for walks -- mine have so far trained _me_ :-) except that
they've learned very quickly to stay off tables and use only the
approved scratching post. Other breeders also report that they train
easily. Early literature claims that they are very intelligent cats.
( One of my favourite kitten pictures shows a 3-weeks old kitten with
the caption: Norwegian Forest Cat - long-legged, agile, intelligent
and brave - but not quite yet.)
Special Medical Concerns
A very few NFOs in North America carry a recessive gene for a disease
known as Glycogen Storage Disease IV - GSD IV. This caught the
interest of researchers because the exact same condition occurs in
humans. Fortunately for the cats, a blood test can reveal the
presence of this gene, and thanks to the efforts of the breeders
in the US and Canada this could be bred out altogether. Some cases
of an eye defect, RD - Retinal Dysplasia, have also been reported.
This shows up as spots on the retina, but is not progressive.
That is, thhe cat's vision does not get worde with time, as with PRA.
Finally, breeders are starting to have their cats scanned with ultra-
sound for PKD - Polycystic Kidney Disease. I have as yet no information
about whether it occurs in NFO at all.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is this a large breed ?
Yes, medium to large. They don't seem to get quite as large as the
Maine Coon, though, males generally weigh 6 to 10 kg and the females
only half as much. This can be a hazard to the cat, we sometimes hear
of cats that get shot at because they're mistaken for lynx -- seems
those hunters need glasses if they can't see the cat's long tail. And
lynx _are_ about twice as big ! ( That's 'Lynx lynx', weighing on the
average 20 kg at a length of just over 1 m ). The conversion to US
units is left as an exercise for the reader :-) Also note that the
size varies widely.
Are they really a natural breed ?
Yes. Cats arrived in Norway probably around 1000 AD, and it is
entirely possible that the ancestors of the skaukatt are Turkish
longhairs - since several Byzantine emperors had Scandinavian guards -
the vaeringer. Cats have been farm animals ever since, usually living
outdoors with shelter wherever they could find it in the barns and
stables. Possibly the skaukatt _evolved_ here, since it is very well
adapted to such a life. There is speculation that the Maine Coon, the
Siberian, the Turkish longhairs and the skaukatt are related, having a
common ancestral basis somewhere, but this is still just speculation.
It may equally likely be a case of parallel evolution under similar
Isn't there a lot of trouble with that long coat?
Not at all. Just brush thoroughly and comb it, once a week or so. As
with any cat, check the coat for lumps when you pet it so you can
remove lumps as and if they form. Mostly the cat can handle its coat
without help, solid-coloured cats may need a little now and then.
There _are_ some cats whose coat mat more easily than others, but they
do not need a lot of grooming. In fact, a Norwegian Forest Cat should
never require a bath, unless there's been an accident of some sort.
Yes, some associations fault the cats for oily fur - which we
Norwegians consider a feature of the cats. It _should_ be a little
oily, dry coat is a fault according to the standard. See also Care and
I live in Scandinavia and see similar cats outdoors - are they related?
Most probably what you see are the cats that formed the foundation of
this breed. There has been some work done to "open the books" again,
but more information is needed. There are cats Out There that are
just like NFOs, all they lack is the paperwork. You are not likely
to find such cats outside the Nordic countries.
Is it true that their fur is waterproof?
For all practical purposes, yes, it is waterproof.
Steve & Louise Clair, of Maineline Cattery, report:
"Based on our experience of bathing a Forest Cat before a show...
their top layer of fur is as close to waterproof as you can get. It is
very hard to get the animal wet to the skin."
This may be why a breeder friend of mine does not want cats with white
paws. Normally she does not bathe the cats - but white paws on an
outdoor cat _must_ be cleaned before a show :-)
Are they strictly outdoor cats?
No, they make perfectly good indoor cats. They do need room, though,
being large, heavy cats - and parts of normal cat behavior indoors are
those sudden rushes off in all directions, to work off energy.
However, you should decide indoor/outdoor when you get your cat. A cat
who has never been outside might be terrified to go out, and one who
has lived outside for years might not want to stay indoors all the
time ! Many, if not most, breeders have outside enclosures where
the cats are safe while still enjoying the outdoors.
So what's the difference between Maine Coon cats and Norwegian Forest
The Maine Coons are rectangular where the wegies have longer hind
legs. The head shape is different, and there is a marked difference in
the fur texture - the Maine Coons have a silky outer coat while the
Skogkatt have a coarse coat of quite stiff hairs. The agouti colors -
i.e. the tabbies - seem to have a thicker, softer fur than the solid
colored cats, unlike the Maine Coons who have the same texture for all
patterns/colors. See also below, the Clairs have collected a concise
list of differences.
I have a Norwegian Forest Kitten, can you suggest ...
...a Norwegian name for it?
Certainly! Here are three lists of names. One is mostly for females:
http://home.powertech.no/skogkatt/female.html , another for
males: http://home.powertech.no/skogkatt/male.html, and the
third is a list of more than 1700 names taken from a database of cats
- with cattery names removed :
Can you tell me whether my cat is a Norwegian Forest Cat?
No. Basically, if you don't have the registration papers or other
documentation from the breeder, you cannot call it a Norwegian
Forest Cat. Sorry, but there is only a very, very small chance that
your cat is a real NFO that somehow got lost and found a home with
you. Don't worry about it, just enjoy the cat!
What's this about X-colours?
In 1989, the FIFe General Assembly changed the NFO standard to
exclude certain colours. From the beginning, all colours and
patterns except pointed ("himalayan") patterns were accepted. It
was felt that the colours chocolate and lilac would indicate illegal
outcrossing to other breeds, and in 1994, cinnamon and fawn were
added to the colours not recognized in NFO. In FIFe, Norwegian Forest
Cats with these colours may be registered and bred, but not shown
in competition. The EMS code for not recognized colour is "x" -
for example, o is cinnamon, so a cinnamon blotched tabby NFO would
be NFO xo 22.
The first NFO showing an x-colour - as far as we know - was born in
Sweden in 1992 and was one lilac spotted tabby and a chocolate
blotched tabby. Later, chocolate cats have turned up in Norway.
The controversy surrounding the x-cats concerns how these colours
got into the breed. Some maintain that breeders have cheated and
outcrossed to Oriental cats - we know that this has happened in
Germany - while others say that such outcrossing happened before the
novice books were closed and was done entirely on the cats' own
There is a research project in the works trying to develop genome
maps for the NFO, also trying to show differences between regular
and x-coloured cats. The project is being watched with great interest
by NFO breeders all over the world.
International NFO clubs and addresses
7 Rue Scheutveld, B-1070 Brussels, Belgium
tel.: +32 (0) 2 522 77 54, fax.: +32 (0) 2 524 44 17
Correspondents for Canadian breeders:
Lorraine and Don Forsyth
Postboks 693 Sentrum
N-0106 Oslo, Norway
Skogkattens vänner i Södra Sverige - SVISS
Norski ry, Norwegian Forest Cat Club in Finland
Association International de la Défense du Skogkatt
Association France Skogkatt
Club des Chats des Forêts Norvégiennes (CCFN)
Interessengemeinschaft Norwegische Waldkatzen im 1. DEKZV e.V.
Unabhängige Interessengemeinschaft Norwegische Waldkatzen
Norsk Skogkattring Italia
NFO Breed Club
Ratatosk Norwegian Forest Cats
Asociacion Skogkatt Iberia
Club Espanol del Bosque de Noruega
Interessengemeinschaft Norwegische Waldkatzenzüchter der Schweiz (IGNS)
Skogkatt International - operates a database of NFO photos and pedigrees.
Norwegian Forest Cat Breeder Club Great Britain
Viking Cat Club (FIFe)
International Skogkatt Secretary
Norwegian Forest Cat Fanciers' Association (NFCFA)
No club yet, two breeders that I know of:
with more NFO-links in Korean.
I'd like to add addresses to other associations here, please email me
! ( )
Finding a Breeder
The best way is to go to a show! This has the added advantage that you
get to see the cats in person, and talk to the exhibitors and breeders
to find out more about what the cats are like. If you're not familiar
with cat shows, you should note that as breeders may be extremely busy
at the show, they will often leave calling cards on top of the cages -
pick up a card and phone them later. Also, check the ads in the cat
fancy magazines- 'Cats' and 'Cat Fancy', for example.
The online breeder list is a good place to try.
A long list of breeders in Norway and a few in Sweden is available, as
well as a list of kittens available from these breeders.
The official description says :
HEAD: Triangular, where all sides are equally long; with good
height when seen in profile; forehead slightly rounded;
long, straight profile without break in line (no stop)
EARS: Shape: large, with good width at the base; pointed tips;
with lynx-like tufts and long hair out of the ears
Placement:high and open, so that the outer lines of the
ears follow the line of the head down to the chin
EYES: Shape: Large and oval, well opened, set slightly oblique
Expression: alert expression
Colour: All colours permitted, regardless of coat colour.
BODY: Structu long, strongly built; solid bone structure
LEGS: strong, high on legs, hind legs higher than the front legs
Paws: large, round, in proportion to the leg
TAIL: long and bushy, should reach at least to the shoulderblades,
but preferably to the neck.
COAT: Structu Semilong. The woolly undercoat is covered by
a smooth, water repellant uppercoat which consists of
long, coarse and glossy hair covering the back and the sides.
A fully coated cat has a shirtfront, a full frill and
COLOUR: All colours allowed, including all colours with white,
except pointed patterns and chocolate, lilac, cinnamon,
and fawn. Any amount of white is allowed, i.e. white blaze,
white locket, white chest, white on the belly, white on
the paws, etc
FAULTS: General: too small and finely built cats
Head: round or square head; profile with a break (stop)
Ears: small ears
set too widely apart
set too close together
Legs: short legs
Tail: short tail
Coat: dry coat; knotted with lumps
Scale of points:
Total 100 points
Head: general shape, nose, profile, jaw and teeth, chin: 20
Ears: shape size and placement : 10
Eyes: shape, expression : 5
Body: shape, size, bone structure, legs, shape of paws : 25
Tail: length and shape: 10
Coat: quality and texture, length: 25
Coat is evaluated only on texture and quality
Very slow maturing of this breed should be taken into account
Mature males may have broader heads than females
Length of coat and density of undercoat vary with the seasons
Kittens can take up to six months of age to develop guardhairs
The Clairs' comparison list:
The Norwegian Forest Cat and Maine Coon Cat Comparison
There is one common bond between the Norwegian Forest Cat and the
Maine Coon Cat: They both evolved from domesticated cats that lived in
very cold climates. They are similar, yet very different. Both are
very intelligent and affectionate, being very people oriented, but the
Norwegian Forest Cat is more demanding of affection. In appearance the
Maine Coon is a long cat with a rectangular body and a feral look,
while the Norwegian Forest Cat is medium in length, more square in
shape with a sweeter expression. The following is a general
description of these two breeds, which is based on their (TICA)
standards and is to be used as a guide only
Norwegian Forest Cat........................ Maine Coon Cat
Triangular ................................. Wedge shaped with a
PROFILE Straight ........................... Gentle curve
EYES Almond Shaped.......................... Large, wide open
Outer edge of the........................... Set high on top of the
ear follows the line ....................... head, not more than
of the head down to......................... an ears width apart
the chin, completing the triangle
BODY Medium in length,...................... Long, rectangular
square in appearance
LEGS Hind legs higher....................... Medium in length
than front legs
Long and bushy, as.......................... Long and flowing, as
long as the body ........................... long as the body
Distinctive double.......................... Silky, shaggy, uneven
coat, long guard ........................... coat with a slight
hairs covering a ........................... undercoat
RUFF When mature a ......................... Moderate frontal ruff
profuse ruff develops around the ........... develops around the neck
REFERENCES and THANKS!
The Forest Cat Circle mentioned above, has published an illustrated
leaflet that is quoted briefly here, it is available in English
,Fran=87ais, Deutsch, and Norsk.
Else Nylund, of Pan's cattery, and Susan Shaw, Nissekatt cattery,
provided historical information, Steve & Louise Clair gave excellent
descriptions and comparisons.
Thanks to the people of the Fancier's list for advice, questions and
please e-mail comments, suggestions, questions to :
Norwegian Forest Cat FAQ
Last modified: Sun Jul 14 2002
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