Natural Heritage

Fluffy Heritage: The Norwegian Forest Cat

I had never seen anything like it. The serene and quiet atmosphere of the Nore stave church graveyard in the Norwegian country side was suddenly rudely interrupted by the arrival of a local cat.

Norwegian Forest Cat on a gravestone

A first sight the creature looked like any other longhaired pet as it – with an air of complete disinterest – walked through the old gate. As if someone had flipped a switch, it suddenly turned into a fluffy ball of madness, jumping on and off the ancient graves and running under and along the benches of the church at incredible speed.

Norwegian Forest Cat in front of Nore stave church

This was no ordinary cat, this was living history, a quite rare sighting of the Norwegian Forest cat, or Skogkatt. This ancient cat breed is strongly connected to Norwegian mythology. Two of them even drew the chariot of Freya, the goddess of love.

They are completely waterproof, love bathing and could easily get used to living on ships. In the middle ages they sailed to the outskirts of Europe as mousers and ratters on Viking ships. Maybe its ancestors were even the first European cats to reach the Americas together with Leif Eriksson (c. 970 – c. 1020).

Photo by Pieter Lanser (Wiki Commons)

The Norwegian Forest Cat is sturdy and long haired and perfectly attuned to the harsh Norwegian winters with its woolly underbelly and its tendency to take very long naps. They can walk through snow without any problem and they can be big, very big.

Heritage volunteers holding a struggling Skogkatt at Nore stave church entrance

The cat was nearly extinct; as early as 1938, the Norwegian Forest Cat Club tried to protect the species. In the 1970s the breed was for the first time registered internationally. The Norwegian Forest Cat is officially the National Cat of Norway.


  1. Mark Watson

    Is this a relative of the Scottish wild cat, an endangered species due to domestic cats? A thick tail looks familiar but a powerful wild cat would not allow itself to be picked up, even at a world heritage site stave church.

  2. I really do not know, I am not a cat expert, but the Norwegian Forest Cat is a domestic pet, not a wild cat. They like to be around humans. This one would jump and climb on you and then rush off and do it again a minute later.

  3. Mark Watson

    Information here on the Scottish wild cat, less than 100 of which survive. Natural heritage. Thank you for the article on its Norwegian domestic cousins.

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