Perhaps you’re thinking about bringing home a Norwegian Forest Cat but worry about the potential health risks your new kitten might have. It’s true that most purebred cats are susceptible to hereditary diseases their non-purebred counterparts are not predisposed to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t get one at all.

Norwegian Forest Cats can live up to 16 years, which is a long life for a cat. Proper care, genetic testing and choosing a good breeder are all excellent preventative measures to ensure the health and well-being of your Norwegian Forest Cat.

Common Genetic Disorders

There are a few common genetic disorders that Norwegian Forest Cats in particular are predisposed to. It’s important to keep in mind that even if your Norwegian Forest Cat tests positive for the gene that could cause any one of these issues, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the disorder will actually develop. Also, for some of these genetic disorders there are preventative measures that can be taken to lessen the impact of the disorder.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

A form of heart disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is when the heart muscle thickens too much and makes it hard to pump blood to the rest of the body.

There is a genetic test for this disease, but it’s also possible to catch with a general wellness exam with a veterinary listening for heart murmurs.

In general, it can be difficult to catch this disorder early as the symptoms are subtle and cats have the tendency to hide discomfort. It’s extremely important to catch it as earl as possible, though, in order for treatment to be effective.

Some symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Rapid breathing
  • Poor appetite

Glycogen Storage Disease IV

Glycogen storage disease is a disorder where the body cannot properly utilize glucose, a large source of energy for the body.

While there is a genetic test for glycogen storage disease, there are usually no measures that can be taken to prevent or cure the disease. Fortunately it’s extremely rare, but when it does show it’s always fatal. Most cases of glycogen storage disease occur in newborn kittens, and they usually only last up to a few hours after birth. There have been a few incidences of kittens surviving with the disease for up to 5 months, though.

Some Norwegian Forest Cats can have the gene but not get the disease, making them carriers and capable of passing it on to their kittens. Any good breeder will screen for this and not breed any cats that test positive for the gene.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

PKD is a disorder that deteriorates and destroys the cat’s kidney function. Unfortunately, there is currently no genetic test for this disease, but it is genetically inherited so there are measures breeders can take to reduce the incidences of it in their litters.

Vets are able to detect the disease around 10 months of age (if the cat has it), and will find cysts around the cat’s kidneys.

Once a cat has been diagnosed with PKD it’s only possible to manage the disorder as opposed to cure it.

Retinal Dysplasia

Retinal dysplasia is characterized by folds or rosettes (round clumps) of the retinal tissue and can affect eyesight. If you see anything unusual about your cat’s eye it’s vital that you take them to see a vet as soon as possible.

The upside to this disorder is that it does not progressively get worse over time.

Pyruvate Kinase (PK) Deficiency

Pyruvate kinase deficiency is a genetic disorder that can lead to fewer red blood cells in the cat’s body, causing them to become anaemic. There is a test for PK Deficiency so it can be caught early, and it usually doesn’t result in death but instead a general and intermittent anaemic state in the cat.

Symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite

Common Diseases due to Lifestyle

Aside from the common genetic disorders that affect Norwegian Forest Cats, there are some general diseases to be wary of that come about due to lifestyle and are of concern to just about any cat.

Obesity

Similar to humans, obesity is a concern for cats that eat too much and/or don’t get enough exercise.

Obesity in cats has been shown to potentially reduce their lifespan by about two years, and can lead to other diseases such as fatty liver disease and diabetes.

Lack of movement can be caused by boredom and lack of stimulation for the cat, whether it be from too little room to run around or not enough interaction with humans or other pets.

Make sure there are plenty of toys for your Norwegian Forest Cat and at least one cat tree to climb on. If you won’t be around for much of the day, it might be a good idea to get your Norwegian a pet companion.

Regulating your Norwegian’s diet as far as how much, how often and what they eat will greatly reduce risk of obesity. Read more here on how to provide a proper diet for your Norwegian Forest Cat.

Dental Disease

Dental disease is the general decay of your cat’s teeth caused by not brushing their teeth enough.

Without that extra help with tooth brushing, food residue will turn into tartar and build up on the cat’s teeth, leading to infections of the gums and tooth roots.

In the worse cases, dental disease can lead to tooth loss or organ damage, but all of this is preventable!

Keeping dental disease at bay has the added benefit of preventing stinky cat breath.

Vaccine-Preventable Infections

Some bacterial and viral infections your Norwegian Forest Cat are susceptible to are panleukopenia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis, and rabies, which are preventable through vaccination. The good news is that any high quality breeder will make sure your kitten has gotten all of these core vaccines, and it’s a good idea to receive all paperwork of when and where this was done when you receive the kitten.

Parasites

There is a seemingly endless number of invaders that will want to take over your Norwegian Forest Cat’s body, from fleas and ticks to ear mites on the ears and skin to hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms in her body.

Many of these parasites are obtained from letting your cat outside where they can drink contaminated water or come into contact with feral animals.

A stool sample given to your vet will show signs of many of these parasite infections, and most are treatable in one way or another.

Prevention of Disease

While it’s important that you stay informed on the symptoms of disease above, it’s even more important to stay on top of your regular veterinary visits as they are better prepared to catch subtle signs of disease that you would miss.

Cats are experts at hiding pain and discomfort, and will do everything they can to keep you from seeing the signs of ill health until it’s too late. During a regular veterinary wellness exam the vet will use advanced tools and techniques that can better catch these disorders early, which is why it’s crucial that your Norwegian Forest Cat gets regular checkups, at least twice per year.

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