Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Ears of the Norwegian Forest Cat

In the Standard of Points for the Norwegian Forest Cat the ears are given 10% of the total. Although this isn’t a huge proportion of the overall points, if an otherwise near-perfect NFC has ears that are noticeably too small or the wrong shape or set it can “throw” the whole look of that cat. Looking back I realise that when I became involved with NFCs the best part of two decades ago my cats tended to have ears that were too small, and sometimes wrongly placed too. This was partly due to the fact that the GCCF Standard used to say that “the width between the ears should be no greater than the width at the base of one ear”. This encouraged breeders to concentrate on that factor at the expense of others and the phrase has now been removed, in accordance with the FIFe standard that is used in Norway and elsewhere.
Sonata's ears looked sufficiently large when she was young

Sonata as an adult, with full coat - the ears are only just
big enough and perhaps could be a little larger for balance
The ears should be large – in particular, wide at the base, and also tall. Kittens need to have absolutely HUGE ears as they will inevitably become smaller in relation to the rest of the head as the cat matures.  The Standard says that small ears are a with-holding fault.

I've heard some people argue that cats from cold climates should have small ears to preserve heat.  I guess it's equally important that they hear well in order to help them catch the sparse prey.  And just think of tigers and lions - although they originate from hot countries they have tiny ears!

Above is Sonata, aged 6 months where her ears look good, and again at maturity when they are only just large enough - or, rather, they stayed the same while the rest of her grew.  Remember that NFCs continue to develop for around four years.  She does have nice little tufts on top - I always think it spoils a Forest Cat if there are no tufts at all.  But some nowadays are developing huge tufts that are extreme in the opposite direction and can look almost comical!  Moderation is the key.

Ragna's ears were too rounded at the top, although they had good 'furnishings'
The ears should be triangular in shape, ending in a pointed tip – NOT a rounded tip.  Most of my cats have nice ear-tops but Ragna, above, had ears that were too rounded (of course she had other nice qualities that made up for this and allowed her to easily reach GCCF Champion status.)

As well has having tufts at the tip the ears should also have long hairs coming out of the ears. I have noticed that some people seem to confuse tufts with ear furnishings – no, tufts are not hair coming out of the ears, they are the tips on top that just give a nice wild-looking finish to the cat.  Proper ear furnishings will help to keep the cat's ears warm in the cold Scandinavian winters and now that our cats are often kept indoors or in southern climates we must ensure they don't lose this beautiful trait.
Velcro has appropriately extravagant ear furnishings

The ears should be so placed that they follow the sidelines of the head, which is also a triangular shape. They should not sag down at the side of the head, nor be pointing too upright, but should be a continuation of the triangle.  Often a cat's head will widen (particularly in entire males) meaning that ears can end up too low on the sides of the head.  Much worse than this is when you get ears that are too upright, called 'rabbit ears'.  Sometimes kittens have 'rabbit ears' which then become correctly positioned as they mature.  It's a case of knowing the lines - see what the ancestors' ears are like.
Vieuxtemps Avedine was a very beautiful kitten, but at the stage above her ears are a little too upright - can you see how the outer line of the ears doesn't follow the sidelines of her head, thus spoiling that all-important 'triangle' effect?
I consider my ex-stud cat Pelle’s ears to be near perfect and they continued to look good right into his senior years, although his furnishings were sparse:
Pelle greatly helped improve the ears of the Vieuxtemps line
both in terms of size, shape and position
All these little details add up to a cat that has the correct look of an alert and capable hunter – which indeed the Norwegian Forest Cat is.

You can read the full Standard of Points here

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