Breeds

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

What's the difference between the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest cat? Cat owners often ask because these two large, shaggy feline breeds get mixed up. Learn the difference between the two in this Maine Coon vs. Norwegian Forest cat guide.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: June 29, 2022 | 16 min read

Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat

Maine Coon vs. Norwegian Forest cat, what’s the difference? Both these feline breeds are significantly-sized, longhaired, glorious creatures. These big cats often get mixed up with other breeds (and each other). It is an easy mistake to make as both these breeds have prominent bodies, live relatively long lives, and have exceptionally long, full coats.

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. There are ways to tell them apart. Prospective owners should get to know both breeds before bringing either of these felines home. Raising a cat is no small task. With the privilege of being a cat parent comes the responsibility of caring for, feeding, and providing them with a safe home. Every breed will have unique needs that owners need to be aware of before bringing any feline home.

These big kitties are extremely popular domestic breeds and can be great companions, but neither breed will be a perfect fit for everyone. We get into the differences and similarities between these two popular felines, including breed history. Get to know both the Maine Coon cat and the Norwegian Forest Cat. Learn about their needs and learn which cat fits your family better. Let’s get to know both these unique feline breeds.

Breed Comparison

Maine Coon

  • Height 10-16 inches
  • Weight 9-25 pounds
  • Temperment Loyal, smart, playful, hunters
  • Energy High
  • Grooming 2x/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 2x/week
  • Health Averagie
  • 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 Skogkatt 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 longhaired felines. To those with little background knowledge, the differences can be pretty easy to pick out.

Feline Histories

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 longhaired cats did and are the predecessors of today’s gentle giant.

A fairly wild tale suggests that the big cat is a cross between feral house cats and wild raccoons. Though tantalizing, this story is far from true. Such a hybrid animal is impossible, as these two species are too far-removed to ever successfully breed. A variation on this tall tale is that the gentle giant is a mix of the American Bobcat and a feral house cat. However, this story is also just speculation and fantasy. Neither of these mixes could ever exist.

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. Cats have accompanied explorers since ancient times, and it is likely that the breed developed from natural crossbreeding among these breeds. 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 Coons are indigenous. Meaning their breeding came about naturally, with no human intervention. Today’s gentle giants may be a mix of many breeds and those bred with specific bloodlines by breeders. They are the very first show cat native to the United States. In fact, a female Maine Coon by the name of Cosey was the very first winner of America’s first-ever cat show. The event was held at Madison Square Garden in May of 1895. Cosey, a brown tabby cat, won the title.

Maine Coon cats were named ‘Maine cats” in the Cat Fanciers’ Association’s (CFA) first breed registry and studbook printed in 1908. They are considered a foundation breed. They are 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 been around since ancient times. There are references to giant, longhaired cats 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. Natural breeding among these different breeds developed into what we know as the modern Norwegian Forest cat.

These big tykes were common to find among 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. There are many of these forest cats roaming 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 breed development was stalled by World War II, and these cats almost went extinct. The Norwegian Forest Cat Club was instrumental in bringing the breed back following World War Two. 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. The breed is quite popular across northern Europe. 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. There are likely many more that are not registered as several breeders around the country specialize in breeding beautiful forest cats.

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 will be slightly smaller. Both males and females will have long muscular bodies with exceptionally long tails. 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, 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.

They have wide, square heads with big, oval off-set eyes. This breed can be prone to heterochromia, meaning they have one blue eye and one other colored eye. These Coon cats have noticeably pointed ears topped with tufts of fur. 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. Gentle giants carry the genetic mutation for polydactyly, meaning they can have extra toes.

Fun fact: 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.

The Wegie tails are bushy and plumed.

Skogkatt cats have thick necks, triangular-shaped heads, round eyes, and flat noses. Their bodies are muscular, with longer back legs than front legs. Forest cats have tall, pointed ears that may or may not be tufted. Their hefty double coats make them seem thicker in size than they are. Their paws are more proportional to their bodies.

Temperament

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

These big, sweet-natured kitties are referred to as gentle giants because they are very affectionate and gentle despite their considerable size. They make lovely pets in almost every home, as long as they have enough room to run around. They are highly skilled mousers, retaining a strong instinct to hunt small prey. This high prey instinct makes them highly trainable to play games like fetch and chase. Maine Coons are continually active kitties who enjoy regular sessions of increased physical activity. Despite their generous size, the gentle giant is skilled at climbing, though they prefer to stay at lower levels. Their immense bodies make them appear clumsy, knocking things over and leaving a small trail of destruction in their wake.

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. Even senior Maine Coon kitties remain friendly and playful, even when their physical abilities start to slow down. They are friendly with people of all ages, though they should be under close supervision in homes with small children due to their size.

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. Though they appear wild due to their long coats and colorings, these felines are actually very mellow, and less energetic than many other breeds. They enjoy hanging out with their humans and do well with small kids and pets, so they are great for a family environment. This breed is very playful.

Wegies take several years to mature and can grow up until they are about five years old. They keep this playful kitten demeanor throughout their lives. Forest cats are avid climbers and will find a way to reach tall heights wherever they are. Owners can expect to find one of these kitties on top of their fridge, closets, and tall shelves at any given time.

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, keeping their personalities kitten-like and playful well into their adult years. Both breeds are quite intelligent and highly trainable.

Maine Coon cats are known for their chirp-like sound rather than the traditional cat’s meow. Both breeds can be vocal with humans and other felines. Norweigan Forest cats have been known to make a similar chirping or trilling type of sound. Maine Coons are the more vocal breed, forest cats tend to be more content being quiet, though this can vary within the 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 be trained to walk on a leash and harness. They should have two or three 20-minute sessions of play or walking every day. Try to mix things up. These felines like variety and can get bored with the same activity repeatedly. They are also very skilled at escaping, so always keep a close eye on a Maine Coon. This includes when they are outside and inside your halt. 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 will appreciate time outside. Due to their high climbing skill, they are adept at escaping, so they must be kept on a leash or under close supervision when let out. 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.

Training

The Maine Coon cat is known 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. This breed is highly intelligent and can be trained to do many things. It also means that they have a stubborn, independent streak and may be challenging to train.

It is a wonderful idea to enlist the help of a professional get trainer when bringing home a new Maine Coon. These felines need an owner that can set clear boundaries and stick to them. Otherwise, they will rule the house. This breed is known for its territorial behavior, so it is essential to train them properly on socialization with humans and other animals. Training needs to start for these kitties at an early age.

Norwegian Forest cats are highly intelligent and can be trained to do many things. They enjoy playtime with their owners and love learning new games and playing old favorites. These kitties can be trained easily but, like all felines, may be unpredictable. 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. It is an excellent idea to provide this breed with a climbing tower so that they have a safe place for this behavior. They are shy but can be trained to do very well with other animals and families.

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 predisposed to joint problems. Both breeds are prone to hip dysplasia.

Norwegian Forest cats may be more prone to retinal dysplasia, which is a defect in their eyes. This condition does not affect their vision, but they will 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 will 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.

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

Nutrition

Nutrition is especially important for large breed felines. They will 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. While some proteins can be found in plants, it is not enough or the right kind to support lifelong health. Felines need healthy fats, amino acids, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals along with protein. Cat parents should avoid foods that include meat substitutes, as these do not provide enough suitable proteins for felines.

Some owners may want to feed big breeds like these a raw diet. This may or may not be beneficial to your cat. Discussing this decision with a veterinarian before making any drastic switch is best. It is extremely easy to misjudge the proper nutrients and vitamins in a raw diet, so it must be done under the close supervision of a vet. High-quality kitten or older cat formulated food as appropriate is best for both these felines.

Avoid low-budget cat foods that use a lot of fillers and artificial ingredients. Additionally, foods made to look like meats tend to be the equivalent of junk food for kitties. These are incredibly low in nutritional value and cannot sustain the needs of a feline to promote healthy growth. Look for foods that use natural products and stay away from filler ingredients and artificial additives. Do not feed your cat food that is low in animal protein or uses substitutes for animal proteins.

Coat, Colors, & Grooming

Professional groomer brushing Maine Coon cat hair

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

Maine Coons will require regular grooming. Daily brushing keeps their coats in top shape and free of debris and pests like fleas and parasites. These kitties will shed, and owners should be ready to regularly groom them to manage it. Kitties that spend time outside should especially be groomed daily to prevent bringing in any debris or bugs from outside. These big beauties have a significant amount of hair and need owners dedicated to keeping their coats as healthy and beautiful as possible. The gentle giant is well known for its wild markings, especially the ringed markings of their tails.

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 free 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.

This breed is known for its glorious, plumed tail and soft glossy coats. They can come in various colors and patterns but most commonly come in white and brown tabby. They have tufted paws and hairy bellies. Thes thick coats can get very hot in warm temperatures.

Care

Both breeds require owners dedicated to giving them the best quality care throughout their lives. They will 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. Owners need to make sure that these kitties have a home environment that is comfortable, com, and safe, with plenty of areas for them to retreat and hide.

Prices

Maine Coon prices can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Price will depend on bloodline, health, age, and availability. Extremely high pedigree purebreds will cost much more, while kitties adopted from shelters or rescues will cost much less. Family pets can be found for $1,000 or less. Show cats will 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 will be higher. Bloodline, location, age, and availability play a role. However, owners 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.

Things To Remember

It is important to remember that the information we have presented is a general guideline and introduction to these two breeds. Every cat is different, and mixed breeds tend to bear characteristics of both parent breeds. Unless you know the bloodline and history of a specific cat, it can be hard to tell what they will be like regarding personality and appearance. Both are long, fully coated felines requiring much attention and care. Because of their portly size, they will need owners who can provide them with homes that have room to move around and owners with patience and understanding about things like shedding and cats knocking things over.

Regardless of breed, bringing any kitty home is a commitment and a privilege. While they are wonderful companions who bring us great love and joy, it is our responsibility as owners to always provide kitties with the best possible care and nutrition throughout their lives.

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 have been known to reach over 20 pounds, though they 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. Despite some distinct similarities, these two felines are different breeds and 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.

Final Thoughts

Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest cats are often mistaken for each other due to their similarity in size and appearance. Both breeds have fascinating histories and are popular as pets. Maine Coon cats are more common in the United States than Norwegian Forest cats, which are pretty popular in Europe and other places worldwide. Though this breed may be harder to find, Norwegian Forest cats make excellent pets, as do gentle giants.

Both these breeds are highly intelligent and trainable and enjoy their time with people. Though they may seem like the same breed at times, they are different and have distinct physical and personality traits. The gentle giant is more outgoing, while Norwegian Forest cats are shyer and can be timid. Their coloring and markings can be quite similar or vastly different. Both are breeds that are known for long glossy coats and high intelligence. We hope you have learned some interesting things about both these breeds and learned the differences between the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest cat.

Leave a Comment