The Norwegian Forest Cat is a large, powerfully built cat with muscles which may not be fully developed until the cat is nearly five years old. The head is unique among the semi-longhaired breeds as its shape forms an equilateral triangle with tufted ears set so that their outer edges are in line with the lines of the face. Seen from the side, the nose is straight. The chin is strong but the muzzle is gently rounded rather than being square.
The coat is long, with a full ruff, tufted ears and a bushy tail. The front legs are slightly shorter than the hind legs. The long outer coat is glossy and water-resistant, while the thick undercoat adds protection against the cold.