As their name suggests, this breed originated in Norway. The Norsk Skogkatt (Norse for Norwegian Forest Cat) appears to have come out of the Scandinavian forests thousands of years ago, corroborated by all the large, long-haired cats found in Norse mythology. Some accounts even put the cat on the boat of Leif Erikson, the famous Viking explorer, as his traveling companion and as pest control.
These tough cats managed to survive the extreme climate of Norway, a land where the sun doesn't set from mid-May until August, where winter nights are long and bitterly cold. Due to this, they developed long, dense, water-resistant coats, hardy constitutions, quick wits, and well-tuned survival instincts.
During the 1930s, an attempt was made to get the Norwegian Forest Cat breed recognized. The first Norwegian Cat club was established in 1934 & the first Forest Cat was exhibited at a show in Oslo, Norway.
However, the destruction of World War II almost led to the annihilation of the breed, crossbreeding with Norway’s shorthaired domestic cat (called the hauskatt) threatened to dilute its bloodlines. After the war, Norway’s cat fanciers began a breeding program. With a new sense of resiliency, the Forest Cat was named the official cat of Norway by the late King Olaf.
In 1980, the Forest Cat was introduced to the United States, thanks in part to the newly established Norwegian Forest Cat Fanciers’ Association, a small group hoping to get this breed officially recognized. The International Cat Association was the first to recognize the breed, accepting the Forest Cat for Championship competition in 1984. The breed later attained championship status for the Cat Fanciers Association in 1993, and for the American Cat Association in 1995.