Many long-haired cats have ruffs around their necks that look like a lion's mane. In some, such as the Norwegian forest cat, Maine Coon cat and Siberian cat, the mane is a natural cold-weather adaption to keep the cats warm, much like a scarf, while in others it is the result of selective breeding.
Cats and Natural Cold-Weather Adaption
With thick, luxurious coats designed by Mother Nature to adapt to the cold weather conditions of their native environments, the Norwegian forest cat, Maine Coon cat and Siberian cat also have full ruffs of fur around their neck, tufted lynx-like ears and furry feet with long hairs curling between their toes. In winter their coats are warm and dense with a woolly under layer composed of two lengths of fur, a waterproof top coat of long, outer guard hairs, a little forest of long curly hairs in the ears and fluffy, plume-like tails. In spring, the cats shed their downy winter undercoat and sport a glossy, less-dense coat for the warmer season. The only long hair that remains all year are the bushy tails and the lush tufts of hair in the ears.
The Norwegian forest cat's ruff perhaps is the most lionesque of all three. Called a bib, it is composed of a short collar at the neck, fluffy side mutton chops and a magnificent frontal ruff that extends down the chest like a lion's mane.
Grooming the Norwegian Forest Cat, Maine Coon Cat and Siberian Cat
Unlike long-haired cats who are selectively bred for the trait, the natural coat of the Norwegian forest cat, Maine Coon cat and Siberian cat contains substantial oil that prevents it from knotting and tangling, and brushing is required only about once a week. The coat moults each spring for about two weeks, during which a thorough daily brushing will help remove the loose hairs and keep your cat more comfortable.
Norwegian forest cats are prone to having a greasy tail, which can be shampooed as often as required without the need for a whole body bath.
Norwegian Forest Cat
Emerging from the forests of Norway about 4,000 years ago, the Norwegian forest cat's coat is adapted perfectly to endure the harsh Scandinavian winter. Available in a wide assortment of colors from white to black and every color and pattern in between, the Norwegian forest cat is a large cat with adult males weighing 13 to 22 pounds, and females 7 to 12 pounds, or about half the size of males.
Sweet and gentle, the Norwegian forest cat is known to be particularly good with children and other pets. A born homebody, they are one of the most people-oriented and adaptable of breeds. Affectionately called the "Wegie," by fanciers, the forest cat loves to be in high places, so provide a cat tree or other place to climb and he's one happy feline.
Maine Coon Cat
America's only natural long-haired cat, the Maine Coon cat's coat is adapted naturally to the cold weather conditions of the northeastern United States. First recognized in Maine centuries ago, it flourished as a rodent-controlling farm cat, then became a show cat in the 19th century, and has gone on to become one of the most popular cats in the show ring today. Brimming with personality, this large feline is intelligent and affectionate. Males may reach 25 pounds, with females about half that size. Like a dog, he will follow you from room to room endearing himself to the whole family, including children and other pets.
Siberian cats have semi-long-haired coats that are adapted naturally to survive the unforgiving climate of the barren land for which they are named. They are Russia's national cat and were discovered in its forests in around the year 1000. Despite its popularity in the United States, where it was first introduced in 1990, it still is extremely rare. Most breeders have long waiting lists for their kittens. Where available, they are found in every color imaginable. Medium-large and powerfully built, they are an agile cat who loves to jump and climb. The Siberian's dog-like personality endears him to professed "dog people" and cat enthusiasts alike.
Persians and Persian-Himalayans
Selectively bred for specific traits, such as their sweet dispositions and open, pansy-like faces, Persians and Persian-Himalayans also are renowned for their long, silky, flowing coats that generally create a thick, lion's mane-like ruff around their necks. Unlike the cats with natural cold-weather adapted coats, these little fluffballs need extensive grooming to keep them beautiful and mat-free. Available in a myriad of gorgeous solid and seal-point colors, the Persians and Persian-Himalayans are considered one of the most popular cats in America.
Mixed Breed Long-Haired Cats
While cat show rings abound with long-haired purebreds flaunting their kingly ruffs, the mixed-breed long-hairs of unknown ancestry sprinkled generously across North America who live in our homes and in the alleys also sport ruffs as majestic as the champions. Some may have Persian genes, while others may be the progeny of Norwegian forest cats that traveled to the New World with Viking explorers to rid the ships of rats. Mixed-breed long-hairs come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and due to a wide gene pool often are hardy with gentle, loving personalities.
- Cat Fancier's Association: Standards for Norwegian Forest Cat
- Cat Fancier's Association: Norwegian Forest Cat
- Cat Fancier's Association: Breed Article -- Norwegian Forest Cat
- H2G2: Cold Weather Adapted Cats
- Verismocat: Origins of the Maine Coon Cat
- Siberian Cat World: History
- Cat Fancier's Association: Siberian Breed Profile
- Cat Fancier's Association: Maine Coon Breed Profile
- Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images
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