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rec.pets.cats: Norwegian Forest Cat Breed-FAQ

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Archive-name: cats-faq/breeds/NFO
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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?

   Yes :-)

   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
   living conditions.

  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
   Training, above.

  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: , another for
   males:, 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

   Renée Weissbach
   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

   Norsk Skovkattering

   Norsk Skogkattring
   Postboks 693 Sentrum
   N-0106 Oslo, Norway


   Skogkattens vänner i Södra Sverige - SVISS

   Skogkattklubben Birka


   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.

   Waldkatzen-Club E.V.

   Unabhängige Interessengemeinschaft Norwegische Waldkatzen


   Skogarkattaklubbur Islands


   Norsk Skogkattring Italia



   De Noorman


   NFO Breed Club

   South Africa

   Ratatosk Norwegian Forest Cats


   Asociacion Skogkatt Iberia

   Club Espanol del Bosque de Noruega


   Interessengemeinschaft Norwegische Waldkatzenzüchter der Schweiz (IGNS)

   Swiss Skogkatt

   United Kingdom

   Skogkatt International - operates a database of NFO photos and pedigrees.
   Quarterly magazine.

   Norwegian Forest Cat Breeder Club Great Britain

   Viking Cat Club (FIFe)

   Europe, elsewhere

   International Skogkatt Secretary
   Paula Swepston


   Norwegian Forest Cat Fanciers' Association (NFCFA)


   No club yet, two breeders that I know of:


   South Korea
   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.

Breed standard

   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)
        Chin:  Firm.

	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:  Structure: 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: Structure:  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
                      thin legs
                Tail: short tail
                Coat: dry coat; knotted with lumps
                      too silky

   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
     Condition: 5

     Remarks :
       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
                                             square muzzle

	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
	woolly undercoat

	RUFF When mature a ......................... Moderate frontal ruff
	profuse ruff develops around the ........... develops around the neck



   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
   Bjorn Steensrud,
   Last modified: Sun Jul 14 2002

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