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Norwegian Forest Cat vs. Maine Coon: What Are the Differences? (With Pictures)

The Norwegian Forest Cat and the Maine Coon share many similarities, and it’s easy to see why people often get them confused. They are both large with fluffy coats and have a distinctly wild appearance. Despite this appearance, both breeds are also highly affectionate and friendly felines. While there is little evidence in the theory’s favor, many breeders believe that the Maine Coon actually descended from the Norwegian Forest Cat at some point in its history.

With all these similarities, there are key differences that set the two apart. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into each breed and highlight exactly what those differences are.

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Visual Differences

Norwegian-Forest-Cat-vs-Maine-Coon copy

Both these breeds are extremely large, among the largest of domestic cats. The Maine Coon is slightly larger, though, and has an average weight of up to 18 pounds but has been known to exceed 20 pounds in rare cases. In both breeds, males tend to be a fair bit larger than the females.

Maine Coons have a distinctive “lion-like” muzzle that is wider than the Forest Cat’s, which is more akin to a common house cat, with a more triangular head and straight muzzle. The Norwegian Forest Cat also has a longer, fluffier tail that measures the length of its body.

A Quick Overview

Norwegian Forest Cat
  • Average length: 12-18 inches
  • Average weight: 13-16 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12-16 years
  • Grooming needs: High
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Dog friendly: Mostly
  • Trainability: Great
Maine Coon
  • Average length: 30-40 inches
  • Average weight: 9-18 pounds
  • Lifespan: 9-15 years
  • Grooming needs: High
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Dog friendly: Yes
  • Trainability: Great

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Norwegian Forest Cat Overview

Norwegian forest cat sitting on a log
Image Credit: Elisa Putti, Shutterstock

Norwegian Forest Cats, or “Skoggcatts,” are native to Norway and are an ancient breed with an ancestry stretching back hundreds of years. Although the breed’s origins remain a mystery, there are countless fairy tales and myths around the breed that offer hints to their origins. Some breeders speculate that they were brought to Norway by Vikings, were imports of longhaired cats of Siberian or Turkish origin, or were possibly shorthaired cats that adapted to the harsh climates of the North.

In any case, they have become a popular and treasured house pet, due to their affectionate yet independent nature and expert skills in ratting.

Personality

Norwegian Forest Cats are gentle and friendly despite their somewhat imposing size and appearance. These cats love to be around their owners and enjoy attention but are not overly needy or attention-seeking. They do not mind being left at home alone — unlike the Maine Coon — and are happy to entertain themselves while you’re away. They are generally friendly cats but can be a bit reserved around new faces.

One major distinction between these cats over the Maine Coon is their love of climbing. Norwegian Forest Cats love to get a bird’s eye view of the action, whereas Maine Coons do not have the same propensity toward climbing. While Norwegian Forest cats are still relatively playful and enjoy interactive sessions with their owners, they are not as inclined toward playing as Maine Coons and tend to lose interest fairly quickly.

Training and exercise

Norwegian Forest Cats are fairly easy to train and are typically housetrained easily if started early. They can be trained to walk on a leash and will typically learn commands quickly due to their high intellect. That being said, they can be fairly independently minded at times and prefer to do things on their own terms, so they may need coaxing in terms of rewards and treats to help with training.

These cats love to climb, so a climbing tree is an almost essential addition to any home with one of these felines. While they love a good play session as much as most other breeds, they tend to lose interest in games fairly quickly. They are more solitary than Maine Coons and are content to entertain themselves most of the time. That said, they are expert hunters and will enjoy toys that can stimulate their natural hunting instinct.

blue silver patched norwegian forest cat
Image Credit: michi3011, Shutterstock

Health and care

Norwegian Forest Cats are large and active and may be susceptible to health issues associated with these factors. This includes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the walls of the heart ventricle thicken, and hip dysplasia, a joint condition caused by the malformation of the hip joint that can lead to degenerative joint disease. Both of these conditions are, unfortunately, not curable, but hip dysplasia is easily managed, and your cat can still lead a fairly normal life with treatment.

The medium-length coat of the Norwegian Forest Cat is prone to knotting and matting and will need daily brushing. They are fairly heavy shedders, and this brushing will help remove any dead hair too. These cats are fairly fond of water and won’t mind the occasional bath when needed.

These cats need a protein-rich, high-quality diet to stay happy and healthy. Good-quality dry food packed with animal-based protein and free from empty-calorie filler ingredients is ideal, with occasional wet food added for variety. Be careful of overfeeding these cats, as their large size often makes owners prone to feeding them more than necessary.

Suitability

Norwegian Forest Cats are great family pets that love human interaction and are not averse to being held and handled. They are typically gentle with children, provided that the child knows how to handle a cat correctly. Because Norwegian Forest Cats are fairly independent and not overly needy, they are ideal for owners that are out frequently and don’t have tons of time to spend with their cats.

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Maine Coon Overview

ginger Maine coon cat
Image Credit: Meriluxa, Shutterstock

The Maine Coon is the largest species of domesticated cat and originated in Maine in the United States. They are the oldest breed native to the U.S., and even though the breed was almost extinct at one point, they have since become one of the most popular breeds in the U.S. They are a popular breed due to their “dog-like” characteristics and temperament and can be found following their owners around the home the same way that dogs do. They are highly affectionate yet not too clingy, and they are intelligent, easily trainable, and friendly with both family and strangers alike. They are great with dogs and other cats and are expert ratters for homes with rodent issues.

Personality

Maine Coons are highly social and love to be close to their owners. They can usually be found wherever their owners are and love interaction and attention, as much as they can get! They have a strong hunting instinct that makes interactive play with toys a fun bonding experience, and they enjoy play sessions more than most other cat breeds. That said, they are not overly clingy lap cats and are happy as long as they are close to, not necessarily on top of, their owners.

They retain many of their kitten-like characteristics well into adulthood and leap at any chance to play. They are supremely intelligent and love attention from and interaction with their owners, making them a breeze to train.

Training and exercise

Maine Coons are active cats that love to play, chase, and pounce, anything that stimulates their natural hunting instincts. They do not need a huge amount of exercise — around 20-30 minutes a day is ideal — but they love interactive toys and benefit greatly from climbing trees and perches. That said, a ball of wool is enough to keep them entertained most of the time!

Maine Coons are notoriously easy to train and in fact, are one of the easiest cat breeds to train. They are fast learners, love to interact with their owners, and are highly intelligent, all of which are ideal traits for successful training. They can easily be taught basic commands and trained to walk on a leash, and their love of praise and attention (and treats!) makes reward-based training methods perfect.

blue tabby maine coon cat_Nils Jacobi_shutterstock
Image Credit By: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Health and care

Maine Coons are a generally healthy breed with few genetic health problems, but they are prone to issues that can affect large breeds. These include joint issues like hip dysplasia and arthritis, both of which allow your cat to still lead a relatively normal life with specific management. More rarely, spinal muscular atrophy is a possibility, characterized by the loss of motor function in the lower spinal cord, and so is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that leads to an enlarging of the heart.

The long coat of the Maine Coon is smooth and silky and not overly prone to knotting and matting. Still, their fur will matt eventually, and you’ll need to give them a regular brushing at least every other day to remove any dead hair.

Like the Norwegian Forest Cat, protein is the most essential part of these obligate carnivores’ diet, and this should be obtained from animal sources. The food that you give your Maine Coon should have some form of animal protein as the first listed ingredient and be free from any filler ingredients like grains. These cats are fairly susceptible to getting overweight, so their diet needs to be as nutrient-dense as possible.

Suitability

Maine Coons are great family cats due to their playful, friendly, and gentle nature. They are typically great with cats and other dogs and tend to make friends quickly with new faces. While they are not overly clingy cats, they do need a fair bit more attention than Norwegian Forest Cats and do not enjoy being left alone for long periods. They are ideally suited to a home where their owners are around as much as possible.

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What Are the Differences?

The Norwegian Forest Cat and Maine Coon are similar in both size and appearance, and both cats have a distinctly wild look. They are large in personality too, and both cats make great pets due to their friendly and loyal natures.

While these cats have similar appearances, they are easily told apart by their uniquely shaped heads and muzzles; the Maine Coon has a wedge-shaped head compared to the Norwegian’s triangular head, and Maine Coons are typically on the larger side, especially males.

Maine Coons love and crave loads of attention and playtime, whereas Norwegians are more independent and happier to entertain themselves. They are both great with children and other pets, though, and each breed makes an ideal family cat. Finally, Maine Coons may be slightly easier to train due to their eagerness to please their owners and their joy of human interaction, but Norwegians are not difficult to train in general.

If you are looking for a “dog-like” cat that craves your attention as much as you crave theirs, the Maine Coon is the more obvious choice. If you are away from home frequently and can’t give constant attention to your pet feline, the Norwegian is likely the better option.