The mystical wildcat from fairy tales is becoming increasingly popular as a beloved family pet in Northern Europe. The Norwegian forest cat has been around for centuries and is the product of natural selection, with its origins dating back anywhere between 1500 and 4,000 years ago. Although these ancient felines were almost wiped out during World War II, they are making a comeback in Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and France. While their exact lineage is still subject to debate, some theories suggest that short-haired cats brought by the Vikings from the British Isles mixed with long-haired cats brought by crusaders. Other theories point towards a hybrid mix of Siberian forest cats from Russia and Turkish Angoras.
For centuries, the cats we know as forest cats have been the focus of Norse mythology. Those who breed them in Finland refer to them as the fairy tale “mystic wildcats.” According to Norse legend, these cats were greatly favored by Freyja, the goddess of love, fertility, and the home, who rode in a chariot pulled by either two white or gray forest cats. As she passed through the countryside, her presence caused seeds to flourish and grow. Farmers who offered pans of milk to her divine cats were rewarded with abundant harvests. These massive forest cats were believed to be so strong that even the gods couldn’t lift them. It’s highly likely that these were the same cats that traveled on Viking ships and were kept in Viking barns, where they could keep mice and other pests at bay.
According to a Norwegian legend, forest cats are skilled hunters and climbers and are known as “mountain-dwelling cats” with an exceptional ability to climb sheer rock faces that other felines cannot manage. Despite their reputation as impressive predators, these cats also have a softer side. With a weight of up to 16 pounds, they are mostly fluff, with up to 75% of their body being fur. Their extremely dense double coat includes a down-like layer underneath and a water-resistant woolly layer on top, which provides warmth during the cold Nordic winters. Affectionately referred to as “Wegies,” these cats have a unique calm demeanor, making them stand out among other cats of their size.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is known to be one of the largest domesticated cats in the world, except for Maine Coons which are believed to be their descendants and can weigh up to 25 pounds. As per BasePaws.com, these cats, also known as “Wegies”, are amiable, outgoing, and self-sufficient. Even though they enjoy the company of their favorite humans, they prefer to maintain independence and follow their own rules. They could be lap cats, but only when and where they feel comfortable. These felines love to explore and have an exceptional talent for climbing. When allowed to roam freely, they are natural hunters and can become quite efficient.