The mystical wildcat of fairy tales is quickly becoming a beloved household pet in Northern Europe. The Norwegian forest cat, which evolved through natural selection between 1500 and 4,000 years ago, was on the brink of extinction during World War II. However, these ancient felines are currently experiencing a significant resurgence in countries such as Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and France. Although their precise origins have yet to be confirmed, experts have put forth several theories. Some suggest that the Vikings initially introduced short-haired cats from the British archipelago, which later interbred with long-haired cats that were brought over by crusaders. Meanwhile, others propose that these cats are hybrids of Siberian forest cats from Russia and Turkish Angoras.
The forest cats have been a prominent figure in Norse mythology for centuries. Finnish breeders refer to them as the “enigmatic wildcat of fairytales.” According to Norse legends, Freyja, the goddess of love, fertility, and the hearth, favored these cats and traveled in a chariot pulled by either two white or gray forest cats. The goddess’ presence was believed to make seeds sprout and crops grow, and farmers who left out pans of milk for her divine cats were blessed with abundant harvests. These massive cats were so strong that not even the gods could lift them, and they were likely the felines that journeyed on Viking ships and were kept in Viking barns to keep them free of mice and disease.According to a Norwegian folktale, forest cats possess exceptional hunting and climbing skills and are referred to as “mountain-dwelling cats” who can scale steep rock surfaces that other felines cannot manage. Despite their impressive abilities, these cats have a gentler side, much like their Viking ancestors. These cats weigh around 16 pounds, but most of it is fur, with up to 75% of their body covered in fluffy fur. These cats have a dense double coat that features a soft undercoat and a water-resistant top layer, making them well-equipped for surviving the cold Nordic winters. These cats are also known as “Wegies,” and they are admired for their calm and quiet nature, making them unique among cats of their size.
The Norwegian Forest cat is known to be one of the largest domesticated cats in the world, aside from Maine Coons who are believed to have descended from them. Weighing up to 25 pounds, they are affectionately called “Wegies” and are known for their friendly, social, and independent nature. According to BasePaws.com, they enjoy the company of their favorite humans but prefer to dictate the terms of their cuddles and lap time. With a love for exploration, Norwegian Forest cats are great climbers and can become skilled hunters when given the opportunity to roam freely.