The Norwegian Forest cat (or Skogkatt, as it is known in its native land) has long, gorgeous hair that helps keep it warm through snowy winters.
“Wegies” arose naturally, and seem to have been used by the Vikings to hunt the rats and mice that infested their ships.
Norwegian Forest cats nearly disappeared in the mid-twentieth century through out-crossing with shorthairs, but careful selective breeding restored the cat breed in the 1970s.
These cats are large and active, so a scratching post and plenty of toys are a must.
Their thick coats come in a wide variety of colors and require regular brushing.
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These are sturdy animals, with average lifespans of 14 to 16 years; but the same breeding program that restored them as a distinct variety has left them prone to a number of health problems.
Even cats that are acquired from reputable breeders may suffer from:
- Chronic interstitial nephritis: for reasons that are often unknown, the kidneys of some cats become scarred and lose function. Afflicted animals become lethargic and drink and urinate excessively. A conclusive diagnosis is made through a renal biopsy. Treatment involves a restricted diet and the administration of steroids and other drugs that can help a cat to live a fairly normal life.
- Feline cardiomyopathy: all cats are at risk for cardiomyopathy, which is a term that encompasses four related conditions in which the muscles of the heart become weakened or fail to function properly. Left untreated, cardiomyopathy often leads to heart failure and death. The condition is diagnosed based on a veterinarian’s examination for heart murmurs and other cardiac abnormalities. Treatment usually involves the administration of drugs that help to restore the heart’s normal rhythm.
- Hip dysplasia: another hereditary condition, dysplasia occurs when a kitten is born with a malformed hip socket. This results in acute discomfort for the cat, which may appear sluggish and avoid physical activity. While there is no cure for the disorder, medicines may be administered to treat pain and to improve mobility.
- Perinatal hypoglycemic collapse: this condition, which is specific to Norwegian Forest cats, results from an abnormality in one of the enzymes that play a key role in muscular development and can cause the muscles to degenerate beginning at the age of 5 to 7 months.
- Pyruvate kinase deficiency (PKD): Not to be confused with polycystic kidney disease): pyruvate kinase is an enzyme required for the metabolism of energy by red blood cells, and some animals inherit a defective gene so that pyruvate kinase levels are low or the enzyme fails to function properly. Eventually, PKD leads to the development of a blood condition known as hemolytic anemia. Symptoms include weakness, loss of muscle mass, lethargy and a higher than normal heart rate, and the condition can significantly reduce a cat’s lifespan. Diagnosis is based on a detailed analysis of blood and urine. The only known treatment is a bone marrow transplant, which fortunately tends to be successful in restoring enzyme function.
As this list of potential health issues makes clear, even relatively robust cats like the Norwegian Forest can suffer from a wide range of illnesses that are treatable with modern veterinary medicine.
The important thing for you and your cat is to be sure that you will have the resources to obtain the best treatments possible.
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