BetterWithCats.net may earn a small commission when you use one of the links on this page to purchase.
The Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest cat must be the most majestic feline representatives of the North.
These two quite similar northern breeds have been the topic of cat-discussions for quite some time now and still for some, the same question remains.
Mane Coon vs Norwegian Forest cat, what’s the difference? As one of the largest domestic cats, they both look very much alike. However, Maine Coons are slightly larger, and they have a broad, lion-like face, while a Norwegian Forest cat has the triangular face of a regular domestic cat.
If you want to discover the story of their origin. How their thick coats, tufty ears, and cushioned paws allow them to survive cold climates. Or if you simply want to know which one would be the perfect feline companion for you, then keep on reading.
To truly understand the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest cat, it’s important to look into their past. Each breed has something unique to tell us. Their history could also reveal, why these large and longhair cats are so similar.
Norwegian Forest Cat Origins
The Norwegian Forest cat, also known as the “Wegie”, is a European breed, specifically Scandinavian. They were brought to Norway by the Vikings somewhere around 1000 AD, most likely from the Middle East. This breed had to evolve and adapt to the cold climate to survive. It’s believed that this breed was also introduced to the rest of Europe by the Vikings.
Highly efficient mousers in barns and ships, these majestic cats were also no strangers to Norwegian folk tales. Known as “Skogkatt”, the Norwegian Forest cat would spend their time frightening trolls and pulling the chariot of the Norse goddess and queen Freya. Additionally, the word “Forest” in this breed’s name comes from their love of climbing trees.
The Norwegian Forest cat wasn’t always this popular and their numbers were very low during the 1940s. Thankfully, because of their renewed popularity in the 60s, their numbers grew. They’re especially favored by the French and across their native Scandinavia. In the 1970s King Olaf proved his favoritism by making this breed the official cat of Norway.
Maine Coon Origins
While the Norwegian Forest cats enjoyed their royal status in Scandinavia, they appeared in the U.S. fairly recently. On the contrary, the Maine Coon cat is considered to be the oldest North American breed. Also known as the Maine Shag, this breed was first recognized in Maine and was named the official cat of the Maine state.
This drop-dead gorgeous breed is believed to be a cross between the Angora cats, brought to America from Europe and the Middle East, and the shorthair American farm cats. Because the Maine Coon evolved to survive the cold climate of North America, it’s considered a natural breed.
There are those who suggest that this breed was brought by the earliest English settlers instead, but it’s also possible that they were brought long before them by the Vikings. In that case, there’s a chance that the Maine Coon is the descendant of the Norwegian Forest cat.
Even though the farmers of Maine, loved these cats, the Maine Coon cat was almost forgotten, until it was rediscovered in the 1950s. The Maine Coon cat rose to popularity in the next decade and was recognized by the American Cat Fancier Association in 1967. It has been the top cat breed choice for most Americans ever since.
The Norwegian Forest cat and the Maine Coon might look quite similar, but if you take a better look their differences are easy to spot. But where do you start?
Head and Nose Shape
What truly sets these two breeds apart are their head and face features. The Maine Coon’s head is slightly wedged, and it has a distinct square shape. Their nose is elongated, which gives them their iconic lion-like resemblance. The Maine Coon’s muzzle is also square and wide, and just a look at this cat’s profile will reveal the gentle concave curve.
The Norwegian Forest cat on the other hand is more similar to a common domestic cat. The shape of their head is triangular and the forehead flatter. Their profile is long and straight from the tip of the nose to the slightly rounded forehead. These soft features and the slanted eyes give the Norwegian Forest cat a more delicate appearance.
Both breeds have large, pointed ears and distinctive furry tufts often called “furnishings”. These long hairs stick out of their ears, but also above the tip of the ear, which gives them this adorable lynx-like look.
By taking a closer look it’s evident that the Maine Coon’s ears are set high on the head, they’re also set further apart and of course, the tufts are longer and fluffier. However, the Norwegian’s ears follow the triangular line of the face and they’re not as big or fluffy.
These features are really important to these Northern cats! The tufts keep the ears warm in the coldest of weather, protecting them from possible frostbites, and of course, they do also give them an exotic and wild look.
Body Shape, Structure, and Size
Both the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest cat have long, strong, and muscular bodies. This comes as no surprise since both of them had to survive in harsh climates, and they usually had to hunt in hostile environments. This might explain why they’re one of the largest breeds of domestic cats, with Maine Coon taking the first place.
What sets them apart is that the Maine Coon has a broad chest, and the legs are of medium length compared to his body. The Norwegian on the other hand has tall legs, with the hind ones being slightly higher than the front legs.
Another distinct difference between the two is their tails. Both breeds have gorgeous, long, and fluffy tails. The fur is thick and plume and they usually are as long as the cat’s body. The difference is in the shape. While the Maine Coon’s tail has a bushier end, the Norwegian’s is more tapered with the fur cascading down instead.
The most fascinating and unique trait of a Maine Coon is their genes for extra toes, called polydactyly. While all breeds of cats could have extra toes Maine Coons are more likely to have it.
Size and Weight
The Maine Coon cats definitely win in this category, but that doesn’t mean that the Norwegian Forest cat is small. It is only smaller in comparison with the Maine Coon cats. Statistics show that the Maine Coon has the potential to reach up between 6.8 to 11.3 kg (15-25lb) in weight. While the Norwegian weighs approximately 5.5-7 kg(12-16lb). When it comes to females their size is usually smaller in comparison to the males.
Of course, trying to figure out if a cat is a Maine Coon or a Norwegian, solemnly based on size might not be the best choice. Size varies depending on the individual cat and even though Maine Coon cats are usually larger than the Wegies, it’s still not always the case.
Maine Coon can truly reach an impressive size, not only when it comes to weight but also length. The perfect example is this Maine Coon cat, called Barivel, from Italy who holds the record as the world’s longest domestic cat, being 4ft long.
Coat and Color
No one could possibly deny the magnificence of their fur. Having two shorthaired cats, I do tend to get this dreamy look whenever I see a picture of a Maine Coon or a Norwegian Forest cat. Don’t get me wrong I love my cats and their short fur, but the feeling of a fluffy belly in your face must be an incredible experience. As long as your cat is ok with exposing its belly to you!
The Norwegian Forest cat has this incredible double coat, which is perfect for the Scandinavian winter. The outer coat is silky to the touch and water-repellent, while the undercoat is wooly. The beautiful ruff around their neck, which looks a lot like a mane, gives them a royal look!
On the other side, Maine Coon’s coat is much shorter in length overall. The ruff around their neck is also shorter than that of the Norwegian’s. The texture of their coats usually seems a lot rougher which gives them a shaggier look. Despite its rougher appearance the fur and the undercoat are really soft to the touch.
Now when it comes to color, both the Norwegian and the Maine Coon come in a large variety of color patterns, according to the Cat Fancier Association. If you were to distinguish the two by the color of their coat, once again it would be pretty much impossible, but thankfully they have many other distinguishable features that make them equally unique.
Most cat lovers know that each cat is an individual and personalities differ from one cat to the other. Of course, this doesn’t mean that certain breeds couldn’t have some unique traits that are more common to them. It all boils down to a cat’s history, their interaction with humans, and the specific skills they had to develop in order to survive in a territory specific to them.
What truly sets these northern beauties apart from other cats, but not so much from each other, is how energetic they can be. Since they’re large cats that were used to living outside, they can easily get bored. If they can’t have access to outdoor activities, chances are that you’ll have to provide a lot of stimuli indoors.
Both Maine Coon cats and Norwegian Forest cats are known for their intelligence, which means that they’re easy to train. It’s not uncommon to see these cats enjoy long walks on a harness with their owners. Though Maine Coon cats are usually much open to the idea of a harness and they also enjoy playing fetch.
Both breeds are also very playful and mental stimulation is a must for them. This can easily be achieved by playing interactive games with their favorite people. It’s important to remember that Maine Coons are more like kittens and they prefer longer playing sessions, while the Norwegian Forest cats tend to lower their activity after a while.
If you find your Norwegian atop a tree don’t worry. Chances are they’ll have no problem with getting back down, thanks to their particularly strong claws and agile body. Unlike the Maine Coon, Wegies enjoy moments of quiet contemplation, so it’s quite possible that you’ll keep finding yours looking down on you from somewhere up high!
If you’re on a budget there are plenty of DIY tutorials on how to make your own shelf-ladders that you could put across your wall and all the way up to the ceiling.
Communication and Affection
When it comes to Maine Coon cats and Norwegian Forest cats, they’re both known as two gentle and kind giants. Despite their size and royal appearance, they love to connect with the people in their life. But as with most cats this also depends on each cat’s individuality.
The Norwegian Forest cat is quite independent, but this doesn’t mean they like to be left alone for too long. Despite their calm and undemanding personality, they can be a great company to children, and they tend to really bond with their owners. Both breeds are perfect for a multi-pet home as long as they’re introduced early in their lives.
If you’ve ever owned a Maine Coon, then you’ll know that these cats adore spending time with the people they love. Most of them maintain their playfulness even as they get older. While the Norwegians can be more autonomous, the Maine Coons are quite demanding and they’re also quite vocal about their needs. They have a distinct chirping sound, that’s simply adorable.
Just listen to this enormous Maine Coon beauty chatting away to their owner!
Overall, the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest cats are healthy breeds. While most cats could develop health issues regardless of their breed, in some cases certain breeds are more prone to specific illnesses. It’s always advisable to know what you might be dealing with, so you can tackle the issue before it’s too late.
Common Health Issues
Heart diseases are quite common in both the Norwegian Forest cats as well as the Maine Coon cats. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Maine Coons is very common, as well as in Norwegian Forest cats according to the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. It’s a condition in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick. The thickened muscle could make it more difficult for the heart to pump blood.
It’s possible to know if a kitty has Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy by testing their parents. Unfortunately, in the case of Polycystic Kidney, which also affects broth breeds, there’s no DNA test available. This disease is a genetic condition that progressively destroys the kidneys.
Their big size is part of their allure, but it also can be the source of Hip Dysplasia or other joint problems. It’s a condition that is more common in dogs, but it also affects these two northern breeds.
According to the Orthopedic Foundations for Animals, one-quarter of Maine Coons tested had symptoms of Hip Dysplasia. As explained by the Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Hip Dysplasia is when the ball and socket part of the hip joint becomes misaligned and loose. This means that the top of the thigh can’t sit properly inside it and move smoothly. This unfortunately can result in painful arthritis and lameness.
Maine Coons are also susceptible to spinal muscular atrophy, usually affecting their gait and posture. In that case, this breed is better kept indoors, so you can keep an eye on them and avoid straining their bodies.
Norwegian Forest cats might also have to be tested for Glycogen storage disease type IV. This is a genetic disorder that makes it difficult for them to produce glucose. It’s important that you look for glycogenosis indicators like muscle weakness and tremors.
According to research funded by the Future Animal Health and Welfare research platform, Norwegian Forest cats and especially the males are also prone to diabetes.
One can never be sure how long the nine lives of a cat last, but according to some data, there are many different parameters to consider. For instance, indoor cats can live up to 17 years and in some cases even longer. On the other hand, outdoor cats, or stray cats to be more precise, can live an average of two to five years.
There are many dangers a cat could meet outside, from car accidents, poisoned food, to transmitted diseases from rats and other cats. Indoor cats also face health issues, but it’s more likely that their owners catch the disease sooner than later.
The average life expectancy of a regular cat seems to be much longer than that of pure breeds, which falls a little shorter. Maine Coons usually live up to 11 to 12 years on average while the Norwegian Forest cat can live up to 14 to 16 years.
An interesting study looked at the probability of survival for different breeds based on the records from Swedish insurance companies. Researchers found that Maine Coons have an 80% chance of reaching their fifth year, but only a 41% chance of making it to the age of 12.5.
The Norwegian Forest cat, on the other hand, showed better results. They had a 91% chance of making it to age 5 and 62% of making it to 12.5 years old. According to Andrea Jenssen, who conducted an extensive report of hereditary disorders of the Norwegian Forest Cat, the Norwegians were considered healthier than many other breeds. She also adds that the breed could live up to 20 years old.
Care and Maintenance
Every cat parent’s top priority is the wellbeing of their kitty, but not all kitties are the same. Apart from the regular vet visits for medical check-ups, de-warming, de-fleeing, and neutering certain breeds also have their own specific needs. Before bringing a Maine Coon or a Norwegian Forest cat into your life it’s important to know what will make them happy and keep them healthy.
Maine Coon’s and Norwegian Forest cats are described as semi-longhaired, and despite their thick and shaggy coats, they demand less grooming than the truly longhaired cats. But whether your new companion is a Maine Coon or a Wegie, they still require regular brushing.
Since both breeds have long coats, it’s important to keep the fur detangled. By grooming your cat, you can reduce shedding and make their self-grooming process much easier and less stressful. Don’t forget to also clip the hair on their paws. This part of their fur usually grows long and could lead to biting and inevitably to hair digestion. This way you’ll also save yourself and your carpet from some extra hairball action.
Brushing might seem like an easy task, and for the most part, it is. Most cats enjoy getting brushed, especially when it comes to their backs and heads. Be aware that their reaction might quickly change as soon as you come close to their sacred belly and hindquarters.
To avoid getting your hand trapped between four paws and a mouth full of sharp teeth, try teaching your cat the art of brushing from the moment you bring them home. It’s also important to be consistent and make grooming a part of their regular routine. According to the Veterinary Centers of America, Norwegian Forest cats should be brushed at least twice a week to prevent mats. You might want to consider buying a brush suitable for a Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest cat and I’d highly recommend this self-cleaning brush on Amazon.
If you and your cat enjoy the outdoor walks it’s important to keep their coat clean. In this case, you might find that Maine Coon’s are more tolerant of water. They could certainly be trained to baths and shampoos, but the Norwegian Forest cat might not be too impressed. Keep in mind that it’s always important to use a cat-friendly shampoo, preferably one that’s suitable for a long coat.
Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest cats are both large breeds, which means that they’ll be eating more than the average cat. Since the Maine Coon is the largest of the two, their food requirements might be tough on your budget.
It’s also important to look for the right type of food for your kitty since their health is dependent on it. Try to choose food that will help them stay within their healthy weight. Extra weight could strain their joints, which is dangerous for cats that are prone to hip dysplasia. Because both breeds have long coats, you could look into special food that reduces shedding and keeps their fur healthy and lush.
You could choose a dry-food diet or a wet-food diet depending on your cat’s needs and how long you stay away from home. Dry food stays fresh for longer, but wet food usually contains more protein. Studies have shown that protein helps your cat maintain their lean body mass, which is especially important for active cats like these two breeds.
My feline companions love both wet and dry food, so I mix and match. If I’m away from home I make sure to have my automatic wet food feeder ready in case, they go hungry during the day.
Because both Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest cats are large cats, you might want to look into water bowls that are less likely to tip over. A simple bowl made of plastic might be easily flipped, by a cat of their size. You could check our guide on how to choose the perfect flip-free water bowl for your sweet giant companion.
As mentioned before, both Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest cats are very active cats that need a lot of mental stimulation to keep them happy.
Toys help a cat stay active especially when we’re not around to play with them. Investing in balls, chasers, and mice toys is important, but make sure the materials used are safe. Avoid very small toys or toys that are made of smaller pieces that could come off to avoid ingestion or worse.
Scratching poles and cat trees are crucial for these two breeds. Not only will they keep your cat’s nails trimmed, but they’ll also keep your furniture safe. Try placing the cat tree by the window to give your kitty visual stimulation, especially if they’re a strictly indoor cat. Norwegian Forest cats are known for climbing up trees and high places so a taller cat tree makes a great option. Just keep in mind that these big cats will often need a cat tree with bigger platforms and play spaces. You can check out our favorite Maine Coon friendly cat trees in this article.
Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats are large cats and they’re often described as dog-like. If you don’t see yourself letting your cat outside, then perhaps you should consider training them to walk with a harness. Maine Coons are especially easy to train. A good walk is great for maintaining their weight and it helps them release the hunter’s energy. Your kitties will feel more relaxed and calmer when they’re back home, which means that you’re guaranteed sleepy cuddles.
Lastly, it’s important that you play with your cat, and help them express their exploring and hunting instincts. Being bored can lead to stress and depression in most cats and especially in large and active cats like Maine Coons and Wegies. According to some studies, due to stress or discomfort in their environment, both breeds are more likely to engage in wool sucking. This behavior might seem innocent, but in the case of digestion it might be a sign of feline pica, the act of eating non-food items, and it could lead to gastrointestinal issues.
While both breeds thrive in cooler environments, according to Megan McCorkel, DVM, cVMA, Maine Coons could adapt to hotter and humid climates. In case you live in a place where the summers are nothing like the summers of the north, then you’ll have to make sure a few things are in place for your northern companion.
Having an AC will be a huge savior for the hot days. Having cold water and frozen snacks available could also help your kitty with the heat. If your kitty has access to the outdoors, make sure there are plenty of shaded areas around your house where it can hide from the sun. Try grooming their heavy coats more often to keep them cool and happy. The same of course applies to Norwegian Forest cats that have a similar coat and are used to cold environments.
Whether you’re thinking of bringing a Maine Coon or a Norwegian Forest cat into your home, there are many options to choose from. There are private breeders and local newspapers but adopting or rescuing is another great option and in many ways, might also be the most ethical thing to do.
Many adoption and rescue centers have plenty of Maine Coon cats and Norwegian Forest cats. These cats or kittens were either feral, some owners couldn’t take care of them or they couldn’t be traced. Especially in America finding a purebred Maine Coon or Wegie in these centers is quite easy.
The adoption process might be different from country to country, but it’s definitely worth looking into. Buying either of the two breeds from a breeder is usually quite expensive, by adopting a rescue kitty instead, you’ll not only save that money, but you’ll also be giving a warm home to a kitty in need.
Save a cat life and receive back the unconditional love of a rescue Maine Coon or a Norwegian Forest cat.
I truly believe that all cats are equally beautiful and uniquely majestic, but there’s no denying it, Maine Coon cats and Norwegian Forest cats are magnetic. Perhaps it’s their feral façade, which fascinates us so much!
Intelligent, playful, and kind at heart, these loving giants truly reflect the mysteries of the Northern landscape.
Which of these two northern cats would you bring into your home? And if you already have a Maine Coon or a Norwegian Forest Cat what do you love about them the most?