Owning a forest cat

Equipment you will need:

- Food bowls. We recommend stainless steel. It lasts forever and does not have any chemical smell.

- Water bowl.s

- Cat food. The kitten is used to Hill's kitten food pellets which can be found in pet shops. We also use other brands of veterinary formulated cat food for variation, e.g. Royal Canin.

- Cat toilet. Any plastic box can work well, but it should be fairly deep. Make sure the box is large enough and the kitten can get in and out of it easily. Fill the box with about 7 to 10 cm cat litter.

- Cat litter. The kitten is used to Ever Clean non-scented, clumping litter.

- Spade with holes in it to remove litter clumps, clean sand will pass through.

- Scratching pole. More about this below.

- Transport cage. Remember that she will grow.

- Comb for semi-longhaired cats.

- A cat run and/or harness and lead. If the cat will not be allowed outside on its own, it will appreciate getting fresh air and exercise outside in a cat run or on a lead. You should have her on a lead as you introduce her to the outside world even when she will be allowed outside on her own eventually.

- Claw cutter, if you plan to take her to shows.

- Cat flap, if you wish.

When you get home

1) Toilet: Put the kitten in the litter box and let her leave it by herself. Then she learns where it is, so she can find it later. We greatly prefer clumping cat litter, e.g. Ever Clean. The sand will form firm clumps when it becomes wet. It is more expensive, but still economical in the long run - you only throw away the clumps and top up with new sand from time to time. There is no need to replace all the sand. You must remove the clumps every day, this is easiest to do with a spade with holes in it, so the clean sand around the clumps runs back into the box. You can get such spades in the pet store.

The cat will first dig a hole, and when she is done, she will dig again and fill it up. Some cats are very avid diggers and may spill sand on the floor. We use a fairly deep plastic box for our adult cats to keep the sand inside. Our boxes are 25 cm deep. Norwegian forest cats should have fur sticking out between their toes, and this can cause sand to get out on the floor. If this is a problem, it helps to place the box on a mat or carpet.

The toilet should not be placed next to her food or where she sleeps.

2) Food and water: Show the kitten where her food and water is. She may not eat or drink right away. She should always have access to fresh water and dry cat food. Cats have small stomachs, they are adapted to catching and eating small prey often, so they eat often and a little at a time. She should have eaten and drunk within a day. Our vets recommend that most of the diet should be dry cat food, to prevent dental problems. One might also want to give her some wet food as a treat, 50 g or so per day should be fine. You can also try egg yolk, raw minced meat, raw or boiled fish or lactose free milk (cats get stomach pain and diarrhea from lactose). Cats can be quite insistent on what they want, one solution to this is to mix wet food with pellets about 50/50. Our cats love this mix, and the kitten is used to this.

Cats like variation, so a food type they love one day may cause her to give you a quizzical glance before she leaves with her tail straight up some days later. We usually have two or three types of dry food in use at a time so they don't get the same week after week.

If you buy large sacks of cat food, remember to close them well. Most bags have a good ziplock at the top. The food will oxidize if the bag is left open, and the cat will refuse to eat it. Dry cat food keeps for a long time as long as the bag is sealed.

Check that you don't add fresh food on top of old. When topping up, if you pour new food into a clean bowl, then pour the old food on top, the food at the bottom will not get too old.

Cats should always have access to fresh water. Change the water and wash the bowl every day. Let the water run until it's cold before filling the bowl, as you would if you were going to drink it yourself.

3) Exploring the new home: Let the kitten explore her new home as she wishes. Wait at least a day before introducing her to other animals in the household.

4) Scratching post: Cats need to sharpen their claws, preventing the kitten from doing so is to prevent her from being a cat. Do not declaw her, this is a surgical amputation of the last joint of each toe and is completely unacceptable. Our kittens are trained to use the scratching post and will recognize it, but the kittens may initially think it's for climbing instead of scratching. Forest cats are large, the pole should be long enough that the adult cat can stretch to its full height while scratching - about one meter or maybe a little more. You can also make your own pole by wrapping sisal rope tightly around a 2 to 3 inch wooden pole. As the cat grows stronger, you may have to fasten the pole better - they will do their best to rip it to shreds! If the cat attempts to scratch the furniture, say "No", pick her up and put her paws on the scratching post, then praise and pet her. You might do the "slow blink" too, see below.

5) Homesickness: If she is calling for her mother or siblings, answer her with her name. And see the section on communication.

6) Other animals in the household: Let her finally meet any other animals in the household. You should wait at least 24 hours before doing this. Don't let them meet suddenly. You might put the kitten in its transport cage and put the cage on a table so they can watch each other from a distance. Calm both animals by talking to them in a calm voice. If all is well, you can bring the kitten out of its cage and monitor how the situation develops. Don't leave them alone with each other until you are sure all is well.


Communication: Cats are capable of fairly advanced communication, it's possible to communicate meaningfully with them. But their language is completely different from that of dogs. Our cats talk to us all the time, and we talk to them. The more you communicate to your cat in cat language, the more it will communicate to you, too. There are books about this, and you can find a lot on the internet. The cool thing about this is that it actually works, they will answer, and you will understand and trust each other much better.

This is just a quick summary of the most important parts:

Head bumping, head rubbing: This means she appreciates you and feels attached to you. You can return the compliment by rubbing your hand or head against the upper side of her head, in front of her ear.

Slow blink: This approximately corresponds to a friendly smile. Blink slowly back, and you will soon be sending cat smiles and hugs back and forth. Once you know what this means, cats suddenly don't seem like they have a permanent poker face any more. Relax your face, look at the cat, blink slowly, keeping your eyes shut for about a second, look at the cat for a few seconds, then look slightly away. Repeat. Search for "slow blink cat" on youtube for demonstrations.

Mrrrrrr! This is called trilling and is different from purring. Female cats use this sound all the time to call their kittens, and two cats who know each other often make this sound when they meet. Can mean "Come with me!", "Come here!" or "So nice to see you!". Many cats will answer if you learn how to imitate it.

Flopping on her side, showing her belly: A greeting: "I'm so happy you're home again"! She does not want you to rub her belly, she would probably rather be rubbed on her head. If you're already stroking a purring cat and she turns over to expose her belly, then she wants a belly rub.

Licking lips twice: This is two short lip/nose licks in quick succession. This means the cat is just a bit worried or unsure of what to do.

"Meow"! She wants your attention.

"Mnneeow"! As above, but more complaining

"Mnngaauh!" Not happy at all.

Cats can also growl, which signals deep disagreement or displeasure, to feeling threatened. Hissing and yelling means that a fight is imminent.

Coat care: Long haired cats can get knots in their coat. The better the quality of the coat, the less knots. Knots must be removed. Be careful not to cut her skin, cat skin is thin and and feeling what is cat and what is knot can be very difficult. Cut it away a little at a time with sharp scissors and loosen the knot as you go.

Norwegian forest cats shed much of their woolly undercoat in spring. You should comb out as much of it as the cat will allow, otherwise she will throw up hairballs. Some cats are unwilling, others like it. Combing her from she is little may help. There is also cat food available which helps getting hair through the system instead of back up.

Don't be angry with her if she throws up hairballs on the carpet. You have to comb her more or modify her diet.

Toys: Be aware that a cat's tongue is such that they are unable to spit out wooly things. A ball of yarn is actually dangerous if you don't monitor the kitten. If she gets loose yarn in her mouth, she may swallow, and continue to swallow until she gets an intestinal blockage.

Use toys (bought or home-made) when you play with the kitten. Don't let the kitten scratch or bite your fingers - it will get used to it, and it's not much fun when 6 kg of adult cat attacks your toes in the morning.

Claw cutting: If you're planning to take your cat to a show, you will have to cut its claws. Do not cut her claws if she is allowed to go outside. She needs them to defend herself and to climb away from danger. With dull claws she may become easy prey for dogs, foxes or badgers. If the claws have been cut, wait until they are sharp again before letting her go outside.

Going outside: If you are going to allow the cat to go outside, put it on a lead and open the door the first few times. Let her decide whether to go outside or not. A cat should not be allowed outside on its own until it is at least 6 months old. Their sense of direction is not fully developed until then, and it might not find its way back home. You might want to wait even longer before letting it go outside during the night. Foxes and badgers are active at night and can kill a small or inexperienced cat.

Indoor cat: A forest cat can have a good life as an indoor cat, but they love to climb and need stimulation and exercise. We have a cat run in which they can climb, balance and sit on various platforms and shelves. Lilly loves to bound up her scratching pole all the way to the roof and sit on the platform we have built at the top. If you have a balcony you might consider making a small cat run there and give the cat access to it with a cat flap. Google "cat run" for inspiration.

If you have neither garden nor balcony, you can still build a tall scratching pole with a platform or two attached half way up and near the roof. This takes about the same space as a narrow bookshelf, and the cat will almost certainly love it.

Forest cats can also be walked on a lead, as long as you do it on the cat's terms. Cats hunt by sitting down and observing until they suddenly pounce on unsuspecting prey, so bring your mobile or a crossword puzzle while walking the cat. If you don't want her to catch anything, you will have to watch her closely. Cats are predators through and through, our Lilly actually caught two mice while on a lead during the summer of 2017.

Cats love hunting insects. Some will eat them, others just kill them. Let her eat them if she wants to, eating files is not harmful to cats.

Indoor cats should have access to grass to eat. No one seems to know exactly why, but they want to eat grass and may start eating potted plants if they can't find any. Show her the grass she is allowed to eat if she shows interest in other plants. You can get cat grass sets in pet stores, but lawn seeds might work as well.

Balconies and windows: Cats have a tendency to try to jump from balconies and windows to get outside when they're supposed to be inside. The cat might run away, hurt itself and then run away, or die. Indoor cats should not have access to unsecured balconies even if you think it's obviously too high to attempt a jump.

Toxic plants: Some plants are especially toxic to cats. The most dangerous ones are certain families of lilies (Lilium and Hemerocallis), christmas rose, oleander and angel trumpet. These are so poisonous that even the pollen can harm the cat. Reading about this on the internet can make anyone paranoid, but we think it will be fine as long as you don't bring the extremely toxic plants indoors, keep them away from where the cats go in the garden, and check what plant it is if the cat shows interest in one. We have lilies in the garden, but not where the cats go, and they have never been interested in them. Also, as long as the cats have access to grass, they seem to prefer that.

Sleeping spots: Cats have a limited ability to regulate their body temperature. Instead of sweating or panting, they have to move to a place where the temperature is to their liking. Let the cat choose between several different spots. They particularly like to perch on top of things, like window sills or shelves. They also need a place to hide. There is cat furniture available that combines these features, e.g. with a cave at the bottom, with scratching posts holding an elevated platform. Or you can build something yourself, or simply let the cat sit in the window and hide under the sofa. If the cat insists on going where you don't want it to go, the most effective response is to offer a better alternative.

Vaccination, deworming and general health checks: The kitten has been dewormed at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks, and vaccinated between week 11 and 12. You have to take it to the vet for its next vaccination at 16 weeks, and then every year. Ask for the vaccine they currently recommend. If the cat is allowed outdoors, it should be dewormed 4 times per year, indoor cats only twice per year. If you use the paste variety, you can try to mix it with wet cat food instead of squeezing it into her mouth. For our adult cats, we use a deworming medicine which is dripped onto the skin of the neck. The kittens and lactating females get Panacur paste mixed with food. At the yearly health check, ask for a general health check, dental check and dental calculus removal if there is any.

ID chip: ID chipping is strongly recommended. Your kitten already has an ID chip when delivered. Any vet can read the unique ID number by holding a scanner above the neck of the cat, and then look up who the owner is. Cat flaps and food dispensers with chip readers are also available.

Spaying/neutering: Cats that will not be used for breeding should be desexed. Females have a greatly increased risk of breast cancer if they are on the pill for more than a few years. Cancer is almost certain eventually. Males will be very restless and try to run away unless neutered. If allowed outside, he will disappear for weeks at a time. Neutered/spayed cats are calm and harmonious. There is speculation that coat quality is impacted negatively if forest cats are neutered too early. We recommend waiting until the cat is at least 6 and preferably 8 months old before neutering, if possible. Some breeders believe that females should be allowed to come into heat once before spaying to get the best coat quality possible.