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7 Norwegian Forest Cat Health Problems: Vet-Approved Prevention & Treatment

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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It’s easy to see why people love Norwegian Forest cats. This breed is known for its loyalty and independence. They love being around their humans yet aren’t too clingy. These cats have gorgeous, long fur that can come in just about any color and pattern.

Pet ownership is fun and rewarding, but it’s also a responsibility. Cats can’t tell us when they’re sick, so we must monitor their health. Learn more about the illnesses that can affect Norwegian Forest cats.

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The 7 Common Health Issues of Norwegian Forest Cats

1. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Symptoms: Labored breathing, lethargy, possibly asymptomatic
Prognosis: Variable. HCM worsens over time.
Treatment: Medication
Risk Factors: May be genetic

Norwegian Forest cats are susceptible to a heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This disease causes a portion of the heart wall muscle to thicken. This thickening affects the organ’s ability to pump blood effectively.

Regular vet visits can catch early symptoms like irregular heart sounds and increased heart rate. HCM accounts for over half of all feline heart disease diagnoses.

Mackerel Tabby Pattern Norwegian forest cat
Image Credit: Joanna22, Shutterstock

2. Hip Dysplasia

Symptoms: Early symptoms are loose joints and a swaying gait; decreased activity and pain as the condition progresses
Prognosis: Worsens over time
Treatment: Monitoring, medication, physical therapy, surgery
Risk Factors: Genetic

Norwegian Forest cats can inherit hip dysplasia from one or both parents, other factors such as exercise and diet can affect the severity too. Cats with this condition develop malformed hip joints. If you discover that your kitty has hip dysplasia, you should not breed them. And, you should reach out to the breeder where you got your cat to inform them about the condition. Parents can be carriers of hip dysplasia even if they don’t have the disease.

Hip dysplasia can affect cats of any size, but larger breeds tend to be more susceptible. A study in the Czech Republic showed that 46.7% of pedigree cats have the condition. This research looked at 107 cats: Norwegian Forest, Burmilla, Maine Coon, Oriental Shorthair, and Siberian breeds.

3. Glycogen Storage Disease

Symptoms: Fever, muscle weakness, tremors
Prognosis: Worsens over time, often fatal
Treatment: Monitoring for hypoglycemia, high protein diet
Risk Factors: Genetic

Another inherited condition that affects Norwegian Forest cats is glycogen storage disease. Cats with this disease have an impaired ability to metabolize glycogen. As a result, glycogen can build up in the body and cause organ dysfunction.

This disease has a poor prognosis. Many kittens with the condition will not survive birth. If your cat has glycogen storage disease, contact your breeder. Cats with this condition should not breed with other felines. While this is a rare feline disease, it makes our list due to its severity and lack of awareness. New pet owners may brush off the non-specific symptoms and delay medical care.

a norwegian forest cat tilting its head
Image Credit: pklaschka, Pixabay

4. Feline Diabetes

Symptoms: Increased thirst, vomiting, urination changes (frequency, volume, location), weight loss despite eating the same amount
Prognosis: Good to excellent
Treatment: Insulin shots, dietary changes, exercise, blood sugar monitoring
Risk Factors: Obesity, old age, lack of exercise

Cats can develop type 1, 2, or type 3 diabetes just like humans, however type 2 is the most common. This condition affects how the body produces and uses insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Around 1% of all cats have diabetes, but this number is rising.

Cats with feline diabetes can live long lives, but this requires dedication on the owner’s part. These cats need daily medication and monitoring.

5. Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency

Symptoms: Anemia, lethargy
Prognosis: Varies; mild to severe anemia
Treatment: Management no cure
Risk Factors: Genetic

Pyruvate kinase is an enzyme found in red blood cells that allows them to produce energy for their survival. In pyruvate kinase deficiency the red blood cells don’t live as long as they should and the cat will become anemic. This can vary from mild intermittent anemia to severe or life threatening illness.  Genetic testing is available.

classic tabby Norwegian forest cat
Image Credit: Elisa Putti, Shutterstock

6. Retinal Dysplasia

Symptoms: Usually no visual impairment
Prognosis: Does not affect lifespan
Treatment: None
Risk Factors: Congenital, viral infections of mother

Retinal dysplasia is the malformation of the retina in affected cats and they are born with the problem.  It does not usually affect vision or progress. It can be seen by a veterinarian with an ophthalmoscope as spots or dark patches on the retina. Infections of the mother while pregnant with feline panleukopenia and feline leukemia virus as well as inherited traits can cause retinal dysplasia.

7. Urinary Tract Problems

Symptoms: Blood in urine, frequent urination, not using the litter box, pain during urination
Prognosis: Variable depending on cause


Treatment: Anti-inflammatories, flushing out obstructions, special diet, stress relief
Risk Factors: Stress, males are more prone to obstructions, a change in diet, obesity

Cats are at-risk for various urinary tract issues like infections, stones, and obstructions. You should let your veterinarian know if your cat starts to urinate out of the litter box, as this is often a symptom of a medical condition.

Your veterinarian will need to conduct tests to get to the root of your cat’s urinary problems. Some cats have urinary irritation without any underlying infection or physical abnormality. Stress or a new diet can lead to urinary conditions like idiopathic cystitis.

norwegian forest cat on grass
Image Credit: Joanna22, Shutterstock

Regular Vet Visits Are Recipes for a Lifetime of Love

All cats benefit from regular veterinarian appointments. At a minimum, your Norwegian Forest cat should have an annual check-up. These visits are a time to receive vaccinations, check your cat’s weight, and complete any lab work. Many feline health conditions are easier to treat when caught early. Your vet may want to see you more frequently if your cat is older or has a health condition.

Norwegian Forest cats are susceptible to three hereditary conditions: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, hip dysplasia, and glycogen storage disease. Breeders should screen for these conditions before they mate Norwegian Forest cats. Common health issues that affect all cats include feline diabetes and urinary tract issues.

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Humans and cats have one thing in common, the need for a healthy lifestyle. You can help your kitty live a long life by offering a nutritious diet, opportunities for exercise, and a safe environment. Cats allowed to roam freely are more susceptible to injuries and contagious illnesses like Feline Leukemia virus.

Featured Image Credit: Astrid Gast, Shutterstock

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