Norwegian Forest Cats: The Pets of the Vikings

Norwegian Forest Cats: The Pets of the Vikings

The “mystic wildcat of fairy tales” is quickly becoming a favorite family pet in Northern Europe.

The Norwegian forest cat (or scogkatts in Norwegian) originated between 1500 and 4,000 years ago, as a result of natural selection.

Though they almost went extinct during World War II, the ancient cats are making a comeback in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and even France.

Their exact origin is up for debate. One theory is the Vikings brought short-haired from the British archipelago that mixed with long-haired cats brought by the crusaders. Another claims they are a hybrid of Siberian forest cats from Russia and Turkish Angoras.

Either way, they have been the subject of Norse folklore for millennia.

Breeders from Finland describe the cat as the “mystic wildcat of the fairy tales.”

Norse mythology says forest cats were the favorites of Freyja, goddess of love, fertility and the hearth, who traveled in a chariot drawn by either two white or gray forest cats.

Legend has it that the goddess’ presence passing through the countryside caused seeds to sprout and grow. Farmers that left out pans of milk for her divine cats were blessed with bountiful harvests.

Forest cats were said to be so huge that not even the gods could lift them.

The strong, giant cats were almost certainly the cats that traveled on Viking ships, and were kept back in Viking barns, keeping them mouse-and-disease-free.

Impressive hunters and climbers, one Norwegian tale describes them as “mountain-dwelling cats with an ability to climb sheer rock faces that other cats could not manage.”

But like their Viking kin, forest cats have a softer side.

Weighing up to 16 pounds, their large size is mostly fluff. Up to 75% fur, they are the perfect kitty to cuddle with.

They have a dense double coat, with a down-like layer underneath and a water-resistant wooley layer on top to keep them warm during the long, cold Nordic winters.

Affectionately nicknamed “Wegies,” the cats are unique among cats their size for their quiet calm demeanor.

They are the largest domesticated cat in the world, other than Maine Coons, thought to be their descendants, which can weigh up to 25 pounds.

“Wegies” are friendly, social and independent,” says

“While they highly appreciate the company of their favorite humans, they like to keep things in their own terms. They can be lap cats, but only when, where and with whom they want to cuddle. These kitties love to explore and they make for excellent climbers. If let to roam freely, they will often develop into very effective hunters.”


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