Meet the Norwegian Forest Cat, sometimes known as a Wegie. This cat is one of the most popular pet choices in Norway, Iceland, Finland, and Sweden. King Olaf V of Norway designated the Norwegian Forest cat the country’s national cat.
It is believed that these cats were brought by the Vikings to Norway during the early Middle Ages from the British archipelago, and they became accustomed the Scandinavian cold climate – kind of like people who move to Minnesota from Florida. This is why their fur had grown rather long compared to that of other breeds (of cats not people from Florida).
A breed believed to be between 1,000 and 2,000 years old, the Wegie was the cat of the Vikings. It is believed that their ancestors served on Norse longboats as mousers during Viking raids. And when not being used at sea, these cats were prized in medieval Norway for their hunting talent, especially in regards to climbing, and they became indispensable pets on farms.
Breeders from Finland describe the cat as the “mystic wildcat of the fairy tales.” Several Nordic legends depicts these cats’ ancestors as mountain-dwelling fairy cats with an incredible climbing skill. The Norwegian forest cat is featured in fairy tales and legends, one being that the Norse goddess Freya’s chariot is pulled by giant cats. One place you can read more about Freya is here. I think it is one of the best posts I’ve seen written about her.
Freya also symbolized domesticity and was often portrayed with Norwegian Forest cats playing around her feet. Lovers wanting to marry asked the blessing of Freyja and her cats. Because of this custom, many superstitions about weddings and cats began. Some of these were:
- Girls who value cats will definitely marry
- Giving newlyweds a black cat as a gift represents good luck
- If someone steps on a cat’s tail, that person will not marry for a year
- If a woman feeds a cat before she goes to her wedding, she will have a happy marriage
- Scandinavians believed that feeding a cat well would guarantee sunshine on the day of a wedding.
During World War II, these cats nearly went extinct but fortunately they survived thanks to the Norwegian Forest Cat Club (located in Britain) through a special breeding program. The Norwegian Forest Cat is very friendly and affectionate, and enjoys attention from people. These cats are also very intelligent, and they can be easily trained. They even enjoy performing tricks if taught how to do so. So they make excellent family cats. If you get a Norwegian Forest Cat you can find some ideas for naming your cat (and not just Norwegian Forest Cats) based on Nordic mythology and legends here.
Want to know more? You can find 10 Furry Facts about Norwegian Forest Cats here.
You can also find out more from this video: