Breeds

Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat: What’s The Difference?

Do you know the difference between the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest Cat? These two large, shaggy feline breeds often get mixed up. Learn the difference between the Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: May 14, 2024 | 12 min read

Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat

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Both the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest Cat are glorious, long-haired creatures. They are often mistaken for each other because both breeds have prominent bodies, live relatively long lives, and have exceptionally long, full coats But, when it comes to the Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat, there are a few notable differences.

Prospective owners should get to know both breeds before bringing either of these felines home. Both of these big kitties are extremely popular domestic breeds and can be great companions in the right home. Which one is right for you?

Jump in, and let’s get to know both the Maine Coon cat and the Norwegian Forest Cat. I discuss the differences and similarities between these two popular breeds, including history, care needs, and more.

Breed Comparison

Maine Coon

  • Height 10-16 inches
  • Weight 9-25 pounds
  • Temperament Loyal, smart, playful, hunters
  • Energy High
  • Grooming Twice a week
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 12-15 years
  • Friendliness Very friendly
  • Kitten Price $200-$2,000+
  • Nickname(s) Gentle Giant

Norwegian Forest Cat

  • Height 9 -12 inches
  • Weight 13-16 pounds
  • Temperament Loving, calm, smart, hunters
  • Energy Moderate to low
  • Grooming Twice a week
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 14-15 years
  • Friendliness Very friendly
  • Kitten Price $600-$1,500+
  • Nickname(s) Nickname(s)

Differences & Similarities: Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat

Many people see a fluffy cat and think every breed is the same. After all, they are all felines. How different can they be? The truth is they are quite different. These breeds have some obvious similarities, like generous size, fluffy coats, and elevated levels of intelligence.

Some people believe that the Norwegian Forest Cat is one of the longhaired predecessors of the Maine Coon cat. It is widely believed that the two breeds are related. To the untrained eye, they might seem like just another couple of large breed, longhaired felines.

Breed Histories

While the Maine Coon, also called the gentle giant, and the Norwegian Forest cat, also called the Skogkatt, forest cat, or Wegie, are easy to mix up and have some similarities, they are quite different felines. First, let’s learn about where both these majestic, large breeds come from.

Maine Coon

These big kitties are native to Maine and are the official State Cat.

The Maine Coon cat is a domestic longhaired cat that developed through natural breeding. There are a few different stories about how this breed made it to New England. One tale connects the breed to the doomed French queen Marie Antionette and a failed escape plot. It is said though she did not make the voyage, six of her favorite cats did and are the predecessors of today’s gentle giant.

A fairly wild yet popular tale suggests that the large breed is a cross between feral house cats and wild raccoons or bobcats. Though tantalizing, this story is far from true. Such a hybrid animal is impossible. These species are too different genetically to ever successfully breed.

The Maine Coon cat is most likely a blend of different felines that came to North America as ship cats. It was a widespread practice to keep cats aboard ships to control rats and other vermin. They were also thought to bring good luck to the voyage. Developing thick, rugged coats, muscular bodies, and fantastic hunting skills were part of adapting to withstand the harsh winters of Maine and New England.

Maine Coon cats were named ‘Maine cats” in the Cat Fanciers’ Association’s (CFA) first breed registry and studbook in 1908. They are a foundation breed recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) for being the only longhaired feline native to America. According to the CFA, Maine Coon kitties are the second most popular breed of housecat worldwide.

Norwegian Forest Cat

This big cat is also a natural feline breed.

Norwegian Forest Cats are thought to have existed since ancient times. Giant, longhaired cats are mentioned throughout Norse mythology. Some people believe these forest cats might be related to Russian Siberian cats or are the descendants of ancient Turkish longhairs.

The breed’s ancestors are thought to be longhaired felines carried on ships dating as far back as the 14th century. Other ancestors include British shorthair cats that accompanied Vikings on their trips to Norway.

This big breed was commonly found in forests and on farms. They were well known for their skill as mousers. The cat that we know today as Norwegian Forest cats developed without human intervention through natural selection and crossbreeding. They evolved to have thick, water-repellant coats that keep them warm in cold, harsh climates. Many of these forest cats roam wild throughout Norway today.

It was not until the 1930s that efforts began recognizing this cat as a unique specific breed. The first organization to form was the Norwegian Forest Cat Club in Oslo, Norway, in 1938. The Norwegian monarch, King Olav V, named the breed the official cat of Norway in the 1950s. They did not make their way to America until the 1980s.

The forest cat is an incredibly popular breed in Sweden and Norway and is increasingly popular in France, Scandinavia, and China. They are one of the newer breeds in America. There are not as many in the U.S. as in Europe. According to the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA), there are about 500 currently registered in the U.S.

Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat Size

Maine Coon cats are quite substantial in size, with rectangular bodies and long, double coats of shaggy fur. That can grow between 9 and 25 pounds. On average, they weigh between 9 and 18 pounds as adults. Females are slightly smaller. Both males and females have long muscular bodies with exceptionally long tails. Their bodies can reach 30 to 40 inches, excluding the tail. These gentle giants stand 10 to 16 inches tall from paw to shoulder. Tails can reach 11 to 16 or more inches long. The longest on record was over 17 inches.

Skogkatts are not as sizeable as Maine Coons. Male forest cats can reach 13 to 16 pounds or even more. Females reach 9 to 13 pounds. Males are usually heavier and longer than females. Their bodies reach 12 to 18 inches without the tail. They stand 9 to 12 inches tall. They have long, bushy tails about the same length as their bodies.

Appearance

Man holding his cherished purebred Maine Coon cat outright to show his size.
Maine Coon cats have a distinct appearance.

Gentle giants have a wide, square head shape with big, oval, off-set eyes. This breed can be prone to heterochromia, meaning they have one blue eye and one other colored eye. Maine Coons have noticeably pointy, tufted ears. They also have a ruff of fur around their necks, making them look wild and like small lions. This breed is muscular with boisterous bodies, medium-length legs, and oversized paws.

Fun fact: Gentle giants carry the genetic mutation for polydactyly, meaning they can have extra toes. It is said that famed author Ernest Hemingway had a polydactyl Maine Coon named Snow White. Descendants of this sweet six-toed animal still live at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, which currently houses about 60 polydactyl kitties known as the Hemingway cats.

Wegie tails are bushy and plumed.

Skogkatt cats have thick necks, a triangular head shape, round eyes, and flat noses. Their bodies are muscular, with longer back legs than front legs. Forest cats have tall, pointy ears that may or may not be tufted. Their hefty double coats make them seem thicker in size than they are.

Temperament

Woman scratching cheek of Maine Coon laying down with eyes closed
Maine Coon cats are extremely friendly, highly intelligent, and highly adaptable.

Maine Coon

These big, sweet-natured kitties have the nickname of gentle giants because they are very affectionate and docile despite their considerable size. They make lovely pets in almost every home, as long as they have enough room to run around. Maine Coons are fantastic mousers, retaining a strong instinct to hunt small prey. This high prey instinct makes them highly trainable to play games like fetch and chase. Despite their generous size, the gentle giant is adept at climbing, though they prefer to stay at lower levels.

These big kitties take longer to mature than many other breeds, growing until they reach three or four years old on average, sometimes longer. This longer growth cycle leads to them retaining a kitten-like mentality and behavior well into adulthood.

Norwegian Forest Cat

Norwegian Forest cats are docile, sweet kitties. They can be a little apprehensive and shy around new people, but once they have established trust with a human, they are loving and very affectionate. Wegies enjoy hanging out with their humans and do well with small kids and pets, so they are great for a family environment. Forest cats are avid climbers and find a way to reach tall heights wherever they are.

Both cat breeds love to explore outside, as they have natural hunting instincts. Both are friendly with people, though the Wegie tends to be a bit shyer than the gentle giant. Wedgies have less energy and can be calmer than Maine Coon cats. Both breeds take longer to mature than many other feline breeds, up to five years, keeping their personalities kitten-like and playful throughout their adult years.

Maine Coon cats are famous for their chirp-like sound rather than the traditional cat’s meow. Both breeds can be vocal with humans and other felines. Norwegian Forest cats have been known to make a similar chirping or trilling type of sound. Maine Coons are the more vocal breed.

Exercise

Maine Coons are remarkably high energy and need several sessions of high activity throughout the week. They should be able to have physical activity every single day. This breed enjoys exploring outside and can learn to walk on a leash. They should have two or three 20-minute sessions of play or walking every day. Try to mix things up. These felines are also very skilled at escaping, so always keep a close eye on a Maine Coon when they are outside and inside your home. One door left slightly ajar is an easy escape route for one of these clever kitties.

Norwegian Forest cats need regular exercise, just like every other feline breed. They enjoy hunting and appreciate time outside but must be on a leash or under close supervision. At least one solid play session a day is a good idea for these kitties. They are also happy to sleep away all afternoon after a nice walk outside.

Both these breeds can benefit from cat walkways, towers, and cat wheels. Installing cat steps on the wall is also a great way to give them ways to get up high and observe in a safe way that owners approve of.

Mental stimulation is essential to both breeds. They need regular attention, one-on-one time, and free play. Both breeds can suffer from anxiety and stress, which can lead to physical health problems.

Training

The Maine Coon cat is famous for being a cat with dog-like characteristics. This is because they love to play and are easy to train. Because of this breed’s bonus for walking outside on leashes, they often act a lot like canines.

Maine Coons are highly intelligent and can learn to do many things. It also means that they have a stubborn, independent streak and territorial behavior, so it is essential to establish socialization with humans and other animals.

Norwegian Forest cats are also highly intelligent and trainable. They enjoy playtime with their owners and love learning new games and playing old favorites. Because they love to climb and can easily damage furniture and put themselves at risk for injury, it is crucial to train them early on that this behavior is not acceptable in places where it is not safe.

Health

Both these breeds of feline are overall relatively healthy but are predisposed to some medical conditions and diseases. This is in part due to their generous size. Both breeds are prone to heart diseases such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic condition to which both breeds are predisposed. Heavier felines are also prone to joint problems. Both breeds are prone to hip dysplasia.

Norwegian Forest cats may be more prone to retinal dysplasia, a defect in their eyes. This condition does not affect their vision, but they have spots on their retinas. Forest cats are also susceptible to Glycogen Storage Disease Type IV. This condition is quite rare and involves glucose metabolism. It usually affects newborn kittens who do not live very long, but some kittens may not show symptoms in rare cases until they are several months old.

Maine Coons are predisposed to spinal muscular atrophy. This is a genetic disorder that can affect skeletal muscles within the body. Both breeds can suffer from feline asthma and allergies and are at risk of obesity due to their size. Some super-sized felines like these two breeds may suffer from a high-touch sensitivity condition called hyperesthesia. This is more common in the Forest cat than in the gentle giant.

Maine Coons live about 12 to 15 years on average. Norwegian Forest cats have an average lifespan of 14 to 15 years. Both breeds have been known to live longer. Several factors like genetics, health, nutrition, and living situation play a role.

Because of possible hereditary health issues, you may want to consider pet insurance or dental insurance (often a pet insurance add-on) to help cover care costs.

Nutrition

Nutrition is especially important for large-breed felines. They need a well-balanced diet throughout their lifespan to support their growth and development and maintain lifelong health. Both kitties need a diet that is high in animal proteins. Domestic felines are obligate carnivores. They require meat in their diet to stay healthy.

Felines need healthy fats, amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, along with protein. Do not feed your cat food that is low in animal protein or uses substitutes for animal proteins. The same goes for kitty treats and chews. Always look for named meats as the first ingredient.

Coat, Colors, & Grooming

Professional groomer brushing Maine Coon cat hair
Maine Coons require daily brushing.

The Maine Coon has a thick double coat of fur that appears pretty shaggy. This fur is soft, smooth, and shorter on their upper bodies than on their stomachs, legs, and tails. The outer coat is smooth and shiny. They come in many colors and patterns, including brown, black, white, grey, cream, blue, red, orange, silver, golden, tortoiseshell, blue-cream, solid multicolored, tabby, calico, smoke, shaded, and tortoise shell.

Maine Coons require regular grooming. Daily brushing keeps their coats in top shape and free of debris and pests like fleas and parasites. These kitties shed, and owners should be ready to regularly groom them to manage their hair. Kitties that spend time outside should especially be groomed daily to prevent bringing in any debris or bugs from outside.

Norwegian Forest cats have medium to long-length coats and soft hair. They have a thick, fluffy undercoat and a glossy overcoat that repels water. This breed has a very dense coat that requires regular maintenance. Brushing at least twice a week to remove debris and tangles is necessary. The hair is super thick, so it can mat quite easily. Always use great care when brushing a cat like a Forest cat. Don’t forget regular nail clipping, a must for both these felines.

This breed is known for its glorious, plumed tail and soft, glossy coats. They can come in various colors and patterns, but most commonly, they are white and brown tabbies. They have tufted paws and hairy bellies.

Care Needs

Both breeds require owners dedicated to giving them the best quality care throughout their lives. They require regular exercise, grooming, and trips to the vet. Because of their generous size and predisposition to different medical conditions, they may need more regular preventative medical care than some other breeds.

These guys and gals need homes where they are free to roam, climb, and play. Because of their portly size, they may knock things over and cause damage, so owners need to be aware of this and keep homes free of debris and other objects that may cause harm to this big breed. Both breeds like people and can be left alone. However, they do not like to be self-sufficient for extended periods.

Maine Coon prices can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Extremely high-pedigree purebreds cost much more, while kitties adopted from shelters or rescues cost much less. Family pets can be found for $1,000 or less. Show cats cost more, from $1,500 to over $3,000.

Norwegian Forest cats are much rarer in the United States than Maine Coon cats, so the price is higher. You can expect to pay between $600 to over $1,500 for a purebred Norwegian Forest Cat. High pedigrees can go much higher, as these felines are not readily available. They are also rarely found in shelters, though some may end up in rescue groups. Kitties adopted from rescue groups and shelters tend to cost much less than purebred kittens from a breeder.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Norwegian Forest cat is considered relatively rare in the United States.

Are Norwegian Forest cats rare?

They are extremely popular globally, especially in northern Europe, but can be hard to find in the U.S.

Are Maine Coon cats bigger than Norwegian Forest cats?

Gentle giants are bigger on average than Norwegian Forest cats, though both can grow quite enormous. Both felines can reach over 20 pounds, though Maine Coons can reach 25 or more pounds. Their dense, thick fur often makes both breeds appear broader than they are.

Are Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest cats the same breed?

These kitties are not the same breed, though it is thought that the Norwegian Forest cat is an ancestor of the Maine Coon cat. They have unique needs, health concerns, and personalities. They can be easy to confuse, as both are pretty similar in size and features. However, gentle giants often have a wilder look and much longer bodies and tails.

Large Cat Breeds Have Special Needs

Caring for a larger cat like the Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest Cat requires a big commitment in more ways than one. Because these breeds are physically larger, they need bigger supplies. This means roomier cat beds, larger carriers, extra-large litter boxes, harnesses, collars, and toys. Larger supplies often cost more, and your cat needs more of them.

You also must be careful that any surface they may jump up or lie down on can support their hefty weight. It is a safety issue, as you do not want furniture falling on your cat or family members. Be sure to pick cat trees and climbing structures that can support their weight. Larger breeds are also prone to overeating and obesity, so be sure to choose healthy food and use portion control.

Why Trust Love Your Cat

Danielle is a feline owner with over 30 years of experience. Cats have been a part of her life since she was a toddler, and she has rescued every kitty she met that needed a home. She currently shares a home with two ten-year-old beauties she rescued as kittens. Danielle is a dedicated and skilled writer who works hard to stay on top of the latest science-backed research, developments, and trends in pet care, training, food, and products. Danielle works alongside a talented and committed team to provide pet owners with helpful and up-to-date information to better their lives.

Clever Maine coon cat with glasses reading a book

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