We’ve written before about Norse mythology and Vikings, Valkyries and Shieldmaidens, but did you ever wonder what pets the Vikings kept? Behold the Norwegian Forest Cat, aka “Skogkatt,” a wild breed native to Northern Norway, or perhaps a hybrid of local cats bred with those brought by Turkish traders. Large with strong bones and muscular physiques, Norwegian Forest Cats are also extra fluffy. Their long, lush, water-resistant coats protect them from fierce Norwegian winters. Legend has it that the Norse goddess Freyja rides a chariot pulled by two cats, a gift from Thor.
Cats are popular pets in Norway, with a feline population of approximately 770,000, according to statista.com. In fact, the share of Norwegian households with cats was 30% compared to 20% with dogs until 2020, when cat- and dog-owning households were the same at 17%. As in olden days, Norwegian pets are working animals as much as they are companions, with cats being mousers on farms just as they once kept rat populations in check aboard Viking ships.
Legend has it that Norwegian brides were traditionally given kittens which were essential to establishing their new households—a practical and romantic gift, as Freyja is the goddess of love.
An alternate history of the Skogkatt is that it is descended from Southern European shorthaired cats that came to Norway in prehistoric times. Due to natural selection, only those with particularly thick coats survived the strange and hostile climate. Another theory is that the Norwegian Forest Cat evolved from the lynx—
according to Danish Monk Peter Friis, who is credited with the first written account of the breed in 1599.
Regardless of its origins, the Norwegian Forest Cat is one of the oldest cat breeds in the world and is a popular pet in Iceland, Sweden and France, as well as Norway. With powerful muscles, big bones and strong claws, a Skogkatt can weigh up to 20 pounds. Its thick, heavy double coat of fur has a dense inner lining for warmth while the outer coat is soft and silky. The Skogkatt is a hearty creature and can live upwards of 18 years. In contrast to its wild appearance, the Norwegian Forest Cat is surprisingly sanguine.
In fact, a travel blogger who eventually put down roots in Norway, sees strong similarities between Norwegians themselves and their cats. If Americans are like puppies—friendly, enthusiastic and eager to please—then Norwegians are “totally cats,” according to SILVIA. She goes on to list “9 Reasons Norwegians Might Secretly All Be Cats,” including the fact that they like to forage and disappear into the wilderness for days at a time and that they really, really love fish. Stories of Norwegian Forest Cats swimming and catching their own fish are myriad.
Of course, like cats, Norwegians like to be cozy, leaning into the concept of kos or coziness. And autumn is the season of koselig in Norway. So, curl up in your favorite Stressless recliner with a cuddly blanket, creating the perfect lap for your feline familiar. Even if your kitty is not a fabled Skogkatt, it will make biscuits and purr as you lie back and relax in Norway’s finest furniture.