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Norwegian Forest Cat vs Maine Coon: How to Choose Between the Two

When people resemble each other, we often say they seem “separated at birth.” Some experts believe that the Main Coon and Norwegian Forest Cat are indeed distantly related; specifically the Maine Coon is a descendant of its semi-long-haired friend.

When it comes to the Norwegian Forest Cat vs Maine Coon they do share many similarities, which we’ll explore in this article. But there are also several differences that make them a distinctly different prospect.

Are you trying to choose between bringing a Maine Coon or a Norwegian Forest Cat into your family? To help you to decide, in this article we’ll explore the similarities and differences in looks, personalities, and more between the beautiful Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest cat breeds.  

norwegian forest cat vs maine coon tabby winking

Norwegian Forest Cat vs Maine Coon: Breed Information

Both cats are described as long-haired or semi-long-haired. Meaning: they are characterized by a furry coat that is fluffy and rich, although they are not technically long-haired like Persians, Chantilly-Tiffanys, or British Longhairs.

They’re not considered weird or unusual cat breeds,. In fact, their popularity seems to be growing amongst cat owners. Both of these breeds are for people looking for furry cats

norwegian forest cat white being held up
A majestic white norwegian cat surveying his kingdom

Origin of the Norwegian Forest Cat Breed

Interestingly, the Norwegian breed almost went extinct in the early 20th century. It only survived due to a breeding program to save it in the 1930s.

The “Skogkatt” – as it is sometimes known in Scandinavia – may actually have been originally imported from the Middle East. It has a storied history in Norse mythology, though.

The myth tells us that the goddess Freya has a chariot drawn by long-haired cats. Some believe it is a reference to Norwegian Forest cats. There are also theories that the ancestors of the Norwegian Forest Cat could be Siberian Cats from Russia or Turkish Angora’s from Turkey.

norwegian tabby cat tuxedo with camel
Tuxedo Norwegian with a hint of caramel

Today it is the official cat of Norway, as designated by King Olaf V.

Norwegian Forest cats probably found their way to the US with early Viking explorations. They were allegedly tasked with protecting food stores from vermin on ships. So they have their sea legs. In Norway, they are lovingly called “Wegies” today.

The breed adapted to its cold climate by developing long glossy fur and a woolen undercoat.

Origin of the Maine Coon Cat Breed

Maine refers to the state of Maine in the USA. The story of how the cat got there adds credence to the idea that the Maine Coon is related to the Norwegian Forest Cat.

ginger maine coon cat

There are several theories around the back story of Maine Coon cats. One version suggests that the cat arrived with the early Viking explorations of the American continent. The second version says it is Marie Antoinette who was responsible for the origins of the Maine Coon.

Although Marie Antoinette was not able to escape her fate and settle in the United States, she had sent many of her possessions to American including six cats which were believe to be Turkish Angora or Siberian.

Her possessions landed in Maine and it is thought that her cats bred with local shorter-haired cats to produce the Maine Coon breed.

maine coon tuxedo cat
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The third and final story concerns Captain Coon. Coon anchored his ship in Maine, including his long haired cats which he had on board to take care of vermin.

It is believed that these cats mated with the local cats and as their offspring resembled the cats from the ship they became known as Coons – and as they were in Maine – well you get the story.

Over time, the cat developed unique, acclimatized features that eventually separated it significantly from its original form. It was first recognized as a breed in Maine. Today the cat holds similar status as the official cat of Maine and is also known as the Maine shag.

grey and ginger maine coon kittens with some fruit

Physical Features and Differences between Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats

Breeders say that the most observable difference between Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest cats is the length of their legs. Coons tend to have even-length legs – all four are of equal length.

Norwegian Forest Cats have longer back legs than the front. They are exceptionally good climbers, perhaps because of this.

Of course, you can observe this if you have the patience and ability to measure a cat’s legs. For the most part, cats, in general, may not wish to cooperate with your and your tape measure. But there are more ways to tell the difference between the two – let’s take a closer look.

norwegian forest cat tabby green eyes starting at camera
A green eyed Norwegian

1. Head Shape

Norwegian Forest Cats and Maine Coon’s also have quite different head shapes.

In general terms, a Coon’s head appears to be more “square” than a Norwegian’s, which is more “triangular.” A Coon’s muzzle appears more square, while a Norwegian’s face seems to taper to a point, its head being slightly rounded. This is why Norwegian Forest Cats are often referred to as “wedgies”.

Some say the Coon looks “happier” than the Forest cats, due to the shape of its face.

maine coon tabby ginger cat

2. Nose

The nose of the Maine Coon breed tends to have a softer curve than that of the Norwegian Forest Cat which tends to be quite straight.

3. Ears

Maine Coons are known for their large tapered ears. They tend to be quite wide apart and set high on their heads. Norwegian Forest Cats have medium to large sized ears but have a more rounded top. Their ears tend to be set more towards the side of their heads.

Both breeds have ear tufts which are called furnishings. In humans, ear hair is seen to be highly undesirable but in cats it appears to be extremely cute! In addition to be aesthetically pleasing these tufts also help to keep these kitties warm.

maine coon tabby cat staring with very pointy ears

4. Eyes

Maine Coons have large, oval, wide set eyes whereas Norwegians have more almond shaped eyes.  

5. Size and Body Shape

Both cats are sizable. On the whole, the Maine Coon is a bigger cat, though. The Maine male can grow to about 25 lbs. Females are slightly smaller, growing up to 18 lbs.

Norwegian Forest Cat, 3 years old, standing in front of white ba
Norwegian

Meanwhile, the Norwegian is known to tip the scales at 20lbs for males and at most 13-15 lbs for females.

Maine Coons tend to be large, long and muscular. Their medium length legs are quite wide apart and they have tufts between their toes. Maine Coons are also more likely than any other breed to have polydactyly. This is when a cat is born with extra toes.

Norwegian cats aren’t quite as long in body and tend to have a higher rump. Their hind legs are longer than their front paws and they also have toe tufts.

Interestingly, both breeds have significantly larger males than females – a mild form of sexual dimorphism, one might say.

dark grey maine coon cat on grey couch

6. Fur

Both cats have fur and hair that is thick and beautiful. The Norwegian displays a mane, and its outer coat is water-repellent. The Coon’s coat is silky, and in general, it feels smooth, soft, and delicately fine.

Norwegian Forest Cats have a double coat with their woolen undercoat. Their fur is shorter on their chests and shoulders. Adults have a full ruff of fur on their necks.

norwegian forest cat white sitting up
Norwegian

Maine Coons only have a short undercoat and their fur tends to be shorter and less even around the shoulders. Adult Maine Coons do have a ruff but it isn’t as big as that of the Norwegian Forest Cat.

A Norwegian’s tail also tends to be flowing, while a Coon’s is somewhat less organized – looking more like a big tuft of fur.

The tail of both breeds will be at least as long as the distance between their shoulders and the base of their tail. However, the Maine Coon’s tail tends to taper to a bushy end.

7. Colour

Both breeds come in a number of colours, though the Norwegian can come in more varieties.

ginger maine coon cat with fruit

Coons can be white, black, lighter cream, or blue. Norwegians can also exhibit markings in red and amber, in addition to the main colors above. 

The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) recognises 80 colours in Maine Coons and 60 in Norwegian Forest Cats.

Health Profiles

Both cat breeds are generally healthy. However, all larger breeds of cats and dogs are prone to specific ailments involving joints and bones. The Norwegian Forest and Maine Coon cats are no different, sadly.

One of those ailments is Hip Dysplasia, which is something you often hear dog owners talk about. German Shepherds and such breeds especially are prone to it. This is when a hip socket doesn’t completely surround the ball of the thigh bone.

tabby norweigan forest cat with green background
Norwegian Forest Cat

In cats, it may manifest as limping or even lameness that gets worse over time. In some cases, symptoms can be relieved somewhat through medication, exercise, weight loss, or proper environmental management. 

The two breeds have been shown to be vulnerable to Polycystic Kidney Disease. This is when cysts form in the kidneys. It is generally inherited genetically. PKD shows as blood in the urine, constant thirst and urination, vomiting, and other symptoms.

Fortunately, modern breeders can test for PKD with a cheek swab or blood sample. An ultrasound test can also identify PKD. There are also a number of supplements available to assist with kidney conditions.

Both breeds can also be prone to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is a hereditary heart disease that causes thickened heart muscles which makes the pumping of blood more difficult.

young-maine-coon cat lying down

Maine Coons can be more likely to get spinal muscular atrophy. The muscles in their back legs tend to get weaker over time and can result in problems walking and a bent posture.

Glycogen storage means a deficiency of an enzyme which is needed to metabolise glycogen. Norwegian cats are prone to this health issue and unfortunately it can prove fatal.

Norwegian cats, particularly males, have been found in some studies to be more prone to diabetes than other cat breeds.  

norwegian forest cat tabby looking away
Norwegian cat having some Me Time

Personality

There is a distinct personality difference between our two hero cats. Maine Coons tend to be playful and friendly, often enjoying attention and fun.

Forests are a little less open to social activity. They may play for a bit but seem to lose interest a lot quicker. For this reason, they are sometimes considered “lazy.” But remember, this is just relative to Maine Coons. They are still a generally social breed of cat.

Both breeds can theoretically be trained to go on walks. As they both have come from the outdoors they enjoy getting out and about and are generally quite intelligent.

tabby cat with green eyes and green colour being held by man in tartan shirt
Maine Coon

You may even find your Norwegian Forest Cat perched high up a tree watching the world go by. They quite like the solitude and are more than capable of getting themselves down.  

Maine Coons tend to be quite chatty and are known for the chirping sound they make. Norwegian forest cats tend to be quieter and will only meow when they need something. However, don’t leave your Norwegian Forest Cat alone for too long as it will want your attention.

Maine Coons tend to love everyone but do need a bit of attention. This applies just as much to older Maine Coons as it does to kittens.

Norwegian Forest Cats are more active and like to always have something to do. They tend to be a bit more independent than Maine Coons. So they are perfect for active households and families.

norwegian forest cat tabby green eyes in barn
Literally in the forest

In general, both cats are considered highly intelligent and will pick up trained habits quite quickly and strongly.

Food

For the most part, these cats will get along with normal cat food, even though they are large breeds. While dry cat food is invariably cheaper, cats with kidney vulnerabilities will benefit from specialized kidney care cat food

As they are larger cats, expect both breeds to eat more than the average cat and the Maine Coon more than the Norwegian Forest Cat. There are specific cat foods that can help in keeping the coat’s of both breeds glossy.

maine-coon cat in window sill

Although wet food is more expensive it does tend to be higher in protein which can be beneficial to larger cats in particular. I tend to use a mix of wet and dry for my Siberian cat.

Maine Coons benefit from having their own  Maine Coon branded dry food – they are special that way. Otherwise, make sure that the food contains good amounts of protein, as per a normal cat diet.

Like all cats, both breeds are prone to dehydration. As they are physically large cats do pay more attention to the water bowls that you choose so that they can’t easily knock them over. My large male Siberian cat loves his water fountain.

norwegian forest cat tabby face vs maine coon
Norwegian Tabby

Territorial Behavior

Both cats are known to be very territorial. As such, they are not the best pets if you plan to have more than one cat in the house. They are best kept as single pets.

Norwegian Forest cats are also a little less likely to want to be picked up and fussed over, especially by strangers. That’s not to say that they are aggressive, just that they prefer making the choices in a relationship. Maine Coons, on the other hand, tend to be more tolerant of attention.

maine-coon-cat looking up
Maine Coon

Activities

Both breeds are quite playful and keen to be entertained. High scratching posts and towers are particularly appreciated by these large cat breeds. Not only does this help them get the right level of exercise for their larger physiques, they will also take care of keeping their nails/claws under control – and in protecting your furniture.

Do remember that both breeds will require larger towers due to their size. They also both like to be able to sit on top of their towers and have a good view of their kingdoms so do try to place the tower in a spot which allows for this.  

Norwegian Forest cat sitting, looking up, isolated
Norwegian

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These are also kitties who very much enjoy interactive play with their families. They will appreciate feather toys, mice toys and balls and the interaction they bring.

Maine Coons tend to require more playing time than the more independent Norwegian Forest Cat.

Keeping Clean, Shampoos, and Grooming Products

As fluffy and longer-haired cats, grooming will be key to keeping the Coon and Forest Cat happy. Regular brushing or combing with a self-cleaning slicker brush will help to prevent matting, which can eventually become painful or medically problematic.

maine coon cat and toothbrush in studio
Maine Coon

The more you are able to remove excess hair during grooming the less your cat will shed and their own self-grooming process will be easier. This should also reduce the occurrence of furballs and their associated problems.

Don’t forget to also brush and even cut the fur on their paws. This hair can get quite long and end up being eaten by your pussy cat, causing more hair ball issues.

Many cats, particularly these two friendly breeds, really enjoy being groomed by their owners. As an owner I love brushing my cat (Alexei is a Siberian). Not only is it good for his health it is also important and just lovely bonding time for the two of us. I personally find a slicker comb the most effective way to remove excess fur easily and without hurting Alexei.

ginger norwegian forest cat vs maine coon
Norwegian forest cat ginger

⇒ For everything you need to know about taking care of your finicky feline check out my guide to How to Groom a Cat, Ultimate Persian Cat Grooming Guide, the Best Cat Brush, Caring for Cats guide and my quick cat check up guide.

The best way to turn grooming into an enjoyable activity for both of you is to begin brushing your cat from when they first move into your home. Kittens of course don’t need to be brushed as frequently but this can still be a lovely bonding ritual for your new kitten.

Some vets suggest combing or brushing long haired cats at least twice a week. I would increase this to four to five times a week in peak shedding seasons like the spring.  

If you’re a cat bather, shampoos that suit long hairs and can deal with flea issues without affecting the coat are ideal. A bath every eight weeks on average may be useful. Maine Coons tend to be more comfortable with water than Norwegian Forest Cats.

maine coon cat staring at camera from window sill
Maine Coon

If you notice your cat has problems with debris after using the litter box, consult a groomer about trimming a sanitary patch around the problem area. You can also look into a Clean Step litter box if the problem isn’t too serious.

And, of course, your cat may experience hairballs a little more often than other cats. Regular brushing and grooming might help with cutting down these unpleasantries. Here’s a complete guide to caring for your cat, if you’re a first-time owner.

Climates

Of course both of these breeds love colder climates. Maine Coons tend to adapt better than Norwegian Forest Cats to warm and humid weather. But remember but both of these big breeds come with a lot of fur all year round which will always mean they will struggle a bit more in the heat than your average cat breed.

norwegian forest cat tabby in the snow
A Norwegian in its natural climate

If you do live in a warmer climate and have one of these breeds, some type of air conditioning will be a huge help. Summer should mean extra grooming and perhaps even a trim to cut down on the level of fur. And if your cat heads outside do make sure there are shaded areas available to them.

Norwegian forest cat in the snow
Norwegian forest cat in the snow

Life Expectancy

The Norwegian Forest cat has a surprisingly long life on average. They will usually live to a golden age of around 16 years. Of course, this is an average. Some cats are known to extend beyond this.

The Maine Coon has an average life span of between 12 and 15 years. The oldest report Maine Coon was said to have reached 26 years of age.

maine coon cat tabby on white background
maine coon cat

Costs

The purchase price for these breeds will of course vary around the world. In the USA, Maine Coons tend to be more expensive than Norwegian Forest Cats. Maine Coons have a tendency to eat a bit more than Norwegian Forest Cats so food costs may be higher.

Apart from these two items, most costs will be similar across the two breeds.

Norwegian forest cat with green eyes
Norwegian forest cat with green eyes

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Final Thoughts on Norwegian Forest Cat vs Maine Coon

Key Differences between Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats:

  • Norwegian tends to be more agile and active, the Maine Coon gentler
  • Maine Coons will tend to be larger than Norwegian cats and tend to eat more
  • Head and eye shapes as well as total ear height and placement
  • Norwegians can be more independent than Maine Coons but still need some attention
  • Maine Coons can be somewhat more expensive

Key Similarities between Norwegian Forest Cats and Maine Coons:

  • Long-haired
  • Great for first-time cat owners and/or dog lovers
  • Both are active and love to play
  • Life Spans
  • Intelligence
  • Grooming Requirements
  • Underlying Health
  • Colours
maine coon cat on a tree

A few final thoughts on how to choose between a Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat

All things being held equal, if you want an attentive cat and have lots of time and space to play with it then a Maine Coon may be your best choice. If you have less space and a busier lifestyle then a Norwegian Cat may suit your life style better.

If you live in a very warm climate a Maine Coon may be the better option of the two.  

But let’s face it – both these beautiful cats make for wonderful pets. They are both friendly and fairly sociable. The Maine Coon is likely to play more, but the Norwegian will gladly sit by and watch whatever’s going on.

As larger, furrier cats, they may require a little bit more attention to keep clean and healthy than your average shorthair. Both are well worth the effort and easy to fall in love with.

So go ahead and make your choice – enjoy the company of your new big fluffy ball of joy.

dark-maine-coon cat showing maine coon personality
Maine Coon

Please Note: This Norwegian forest cat vs maine coon post contains affiliate links. That means if you click through on most of the links and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. This will not affect the price that you pay. I wanted to make sure that you were aware of this.

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