Many people are hard pressed to distinguish between a Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest cat. But there are some key differences.
A Maine Coon’s face is broad and lion like, whilst a Norwegian Forest cat’s is triangular and more typical of a domestic cat.
Plus, a Maine Coon is usually slightly bigger than a Norwegian Forest cat.
Of course to choose one over the other as a pet, you’ll need to know a little more than that! So let’s also find out how their personalities, health and care needs differ.
Maine Coon Vs Norwegian Forest cat – Which is Best?
There’s no such thing as the ‘better cat’ in this equation.
Both breeds have stand out qualities which could charm any cat lover.
And they both also vulnerable to some notable health conditions.
You can only choose the best cat for you, based on all the information available. So let’s compare the Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat.
To help you navigate that information you can use this menu to skip to the differences between Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest cats which most interest you.
- Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest cat history
- Norwegian Forest cat vs Maine Coon appearance
- Which is bigger? Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat size
- Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest cat temperament
- Which cat is cuddlier?
- Norwegian Forest cat vs Maine Coon health issues
- Which lives longer?
- Differences in looking after Norwegian Forest cats and Maine Coons
- Norwegian Forest cat vs Maine Coon cat cost
- Which breed makes a better pet?
The History of Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats
The origins of these similar looking cats are quite different. Let’s see how the Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat compares.
The Norwegian Forest cat is a European breed. As their name suggests, they first started out in Scandinavia.
Their ancestors may have been introduced there from Britain centuries ago by Vikings or Crusaders
Also known as the ‘Wegie’, Norwegian Forest cat numbers fell very low in the 1940s.
Today their numbers have recovered somewhat, and Wegies are especially popular in France, and their native Scandinavia.
Norwegian Forest cats are relative newcomers in the U.S. – the first pair arrived in 1979.
The First Maine Coons
By contrast the Maine Coon is one of the oldest American breeds and probably arrived with some of the earliest English settlers.
Though it is possible they were introduced centuries earlier by Viking visitors. If so, then their relationship with the Norwegian Forest Cat could be closer than we realise!
A Battle of Looks?
There’s no denying that these two majestic felines have more appearances in common than separating them.
But a true cat connoisseur will want to know how to spot the difference.
Maine Coon Vs Norwegian Forest Cat Size
The Norwegian forest cat is undeniably large. Females weigh in at 9-2lbs, whilst males can grow all the way to 16lbs.
But Maine Coons can get even bigger, with males reaching up to 18lbs.
In fact a Maine Coon called Barivel from Italy holds the record as the world’s longest cat. Barivel is an astonishing 4ft long!
But size comparison between the two breeds is not the best way to tell them apart, as individuals may vary so much.
If a Norwegian Forest Cat and a Maine Coon are sat side by side, the Maine Coon will probably be a little larger. But not always.
A better way to distinguish between these two cats is the shape and structure of their faces.
Norwegian Forest Cat Vs Maine Coon Head Shape and Structure
Maine Coons have a very distinctive shape to their muzzles which set them apart in appearance.
The squarish muzzle shape of the Maine Coon is almost ‘lion-like’.
Whereas Wegies have slanting eyes, set in an altogether more dainty and regular cat-like face.
So if the cat in front of you reminds you of a lion, it’s more likely to be a Maine Coon than a Norwegian Forest cat.
Just a Coat To Keep You Warm…
Both Maine Coons’ and Wegies’ coats are double layered – ideal for keeping them warm in very cold climates.
If you live in a warm part of the world, your hardy, outdoor loving cat’s coat may not grow as thick and long coat as it would in colder climates.
Which is fine, of course, as it helps them stay more comfortable.
Breeders describe both the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest cat as ‘semi-longhaired’, rather than truly longhaired.
Their coats demand less grooming than those of truly longhaired cats, despite being think and shaggy.
The Maine Coon breed standard written by the CFA describes nearly 80 accepted colors, in solid, tabby, tortoiseshell and calico patterns.
Whilst the Wegie isn’t far behind, boasting approximately 60 recognised colors.
In fact you’d be hard pressed to tell these breeds apart at all based on color alone.
But we love that both these cats are officially recognized in so many colors – it’s not often the case, and it’s a fitting tribute to their many fabulous hues!
Norwegian Forest Cat Vs Maine Coon Cat – Do The Ears Have It?
Both the Wegie and the Maine Coon have very distinctive ear tufts.
Breeders often call these ‘furnishings’.
They consist of long fur that sticks up above the tip of the ear, giving each cat a lynx-like look.
On both breeds they serve the same practical purpose of helping to keep the ears warm in cold weather. As well as looking beautiful.
But if anything the Maine Coon’s ear tufts are even larger and more distinctive than those of the Norwegian Forest cat – as you can see in these beautiful photos!
You Can Always Try Counting Their Toes!
All breeds of cat can experience polydactyly – or extra toes.
But did you know that genes for extra toes have become a fixture of several Maine Coon breeding lines?
Maine Coon Vs Norwegian Forest Cat Personality
With so much in common on the looks front, maybe a closer look at the personalities of the Maine Coon and the Wegie will help you choose between them.
Both breeds are active and busy cats.
If you are planning to keep one indoors permanently, plan plenty of suitable entertainment to stop them finding their own at the expense of your furniture!
Wegie’s have particularly strong claws and love climbing.
Both breeds are intelligent and trainable.
Some Maine Coon cats may even be happy to walk on a leash and play fetch!
However Maine Coons and Wegies are among the breeds most likely to engage in wool sucking.
This is usually a stress related behavior, because they feel uncomfortable in their environment, or they haven’t been able to engage in enough normal feline behaviours.
Which Cat Is Noisier?
Maine Coons are very vocal. They like to chat away making little chirrups.
And Which Is The Most Affectionate?
Both have the potential to be affectionate family pets.
Neither breed is likely to be aggressive to strangers, family members or other cats.
Compared to other breeds they are neither the most overtly friendly, nor the most shy and reserved.
They are often described by their owners as dog-like in the way that they seek out human company.
But this study found that Norwegian Forest cats are especially likely to seek out the company of their people.
Maine Coon And Norwegian Forest Cat Health
Whichever big fluffy cat breed you go for, knowing the health problems they’re prone to and how long they are likely to live is reassuring, and helps you spot and manage problems early.
Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopthy
Like many cat breeds, Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest cats are prone to a progressive form of heart disease called feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Luckily, it’s now possible to test parent cats for the gene which causes this distressing illness ahead of breeding.
If you choose to buy a Maine Coon kitten, or Norwegian Forest kitten, a good breeder will show you the testing certificates for their parent cats, so you know your kitten is safe from developing this disease.
Large cats are more prone to joint problems than smaller ones.
And both the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest Cat are susceptible to hip dysplasia, a condition more familiar to dog owners.
According to data held by the Orthopedic Foundations for Animals, one quarter of Maine Coons tested had symptoms of hip dysplasia.
When an animal has hip dysplasia, the socket part of the hip joint becomes malformed, so the top of the thigh can’t sit comfortably inside it.
This leads to painful arthritis, and eventually lameness.
Vets can check cats before they breed and score the health of their hips. So whichever breed you choose, it makes sense to buy a kitten from hip scored parents with good scores.
Other Health Concerns Of Maine Coon Cats
Maine Coon cats also seem more prone than any other breed to slipped capital femoral epiphysis, a condition where the ball-shaped ending at the top of the thigh bone grows at the wrong angle.
Other Health Concerns Of Norwegian Forest Cats
>Norwegian Forest cats are more susceptible than most breeds to diabetes, especially males.
How Long Do Maine Coon Cats and Norwegian Forest Cats Live?
Lifespan figures quoted by breed clubs aren’t always accurate, but there is some data on cat longevity in published feline research.
A study of cats in England included fourteen Maine Coon cats and the median age at death was 11 years.
Compare this with an average of 12.5 years across all pure breeds, and 14 years for crossbred cats.
And despite the fact that crossbred cats in the UK generally have free access to the outdoors, whilst purebred cats are increasingly kept indoors.
Put simply, it’s a little short.
What About Norwegian Forest Cats?
Unfortunately there is no data in this study for Norwegian Forest Cats. However, we do have data from Sweden where both breeds are popular.
Researchers looked at the probability of survival for different breeds based on records from Swedish insurance companies. And there were striking differences between them.
Maine Coons have an 80% chance of making it to age 5 but only a 41% chance of making it to age 12.5. Which supports the results of the English study
The Norwegian Forest cat fared better, with a 91% chance of making it to age 5 and a 62% chance of reaching 12.5 years old.
The study looked at over forty nine thousand insured cats and both breeds were well represented. So it does appear that the Norwegian cat is the longer-lived of the two breeds.
Finally, Andrea Jenssen’s extensive report on hereditary disorders of the Norwegian Forest Cat notes that the breed considered to be healthier than many other breeds and may live up to 20 years.
Norwegian Forest Cat Vs Maine Coon – Which Is Easier To Care For?
The care needs of both these cat breeds are similar. Let’s take a look at Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest cat care.
Despite their full coat, they don’t matt as easily as many of the true longhaired cat breeds.
So you could probably get away with grooming either of them twice a week with a well made slicker brush.
However, we recommend you groom your cat every day you can manage.
It won’t take long, you are less likely to forget and end up with a matted fur that is difficult to remove.
It will also help to reduce the risk of hairballs and vomiting. Which is always a good thing!
Best of your cat will get used to the daily handling, and this little ritual will become the bedrock of your bond, instead of a source of stress!
All cats need a diet which is high in animal sources of proteins and fats.
We examine why, and share some of our favorite wet and dry examples in this article.
When feeding large breeds like Maine Coons and Wegies, it’s really important to keep their weight within a healthy range.
That’s because being overweight places strain on their joints which can increase the risk of them developing hip dysplasia.
Annual check ups with your cats vet are a great way to keep an eye on their body condition and make sure they’re receiving the right diet in the right quantity.
Lively cats like Wegies and Maine Coons like to spend part of their day exploring, playing, or hunting.
If you plan to keep them indoors all the time, you’ll need to provide outlets for this energy, or you’ll find that they use your house and everything in it to invent their own games. And not necessarily ones you approve of!
Both these cats love to climb, and any one of these extra big cat trees will give them a bird’s eye view of their environment.
A basket of interactive toys are also a fun way to build a bond with your cat, and let them act on their natural instincts to stalk prey, chase and catch.
Norwegian Forest Cat Vs Maine Coon Cat Price
Whilst Maine Coon kittens cost in the region of $700 – $1,500.
At the time of writing, Norwegian Forest cat kittens cost anywhere between $600 – $1,200 depending on region, pedigree, breeder, etc.
The difference between a Norwegian Forest cat and Maine Coon is probably due to Maine Coons being better known and consequently more commonly sought-after than Wegies.
Bear in mind that whichever breed you choose, the cost of your kitten (whilst a big lump sum to pay upfront) is only a small fraction of their lifetime cost.
This article examining the lifetime costs of owning a cat will make sure you know exactly what to expect!
Maine Coon vs Wegie: Which Is The Better Pet?
Both Maine Coons and Wegies are giant cats which take up giant places in their owners’ hearts.
The Maine Coon is usually the bigger of the two, and their distinctive lionlike muzzle is unlike any other breed’s.
If those are the features you’ve fallen for, it’s unlikely another cat will ever compare.
But for many cat lovers, the good health and longevity of the Wegie, coupled with their strong desire for human companionship, makes them unrivalled pets.
Of course, if you still can’t choose between them, you could always consider a Maine Coon Wegie cross!
Do You Have A Maine Coon Or Norwegian Forest Cat?
Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat – which will you pick? Tell us about your reasons for choosing them in the comments!
If you’re reading this article to help you decide between them, do come back and tell us which breed you go for!
References and Further Reading
- Kittleson et al. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Maine Coon Cats. Circulation 1999.
- Marz et al. Familial Cardiomyopathy in Norwegian Forest Cats. Journal of Feline Medicine And Surgery 2014.
- O’Neill et al. Longevity and mortality of cats attending primary care veterinary practices in England. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 2015.
- Egenvall et al. Mortality of Life Insured Swedish Cats during 1999-2006: Age, Breed, Sex and Diagnosis. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 2009.
- Jenssen A. Breeding Traits and Hereditary Disorders of the Norwegian Forest Cat During Breed Development (A Review Of Literature). Institute Of Animal Breeding 2012.
- Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association
- Salonen et al. Breed differences of heritable behavior traits in cats. Scientific Reports 2019.
- Ohlund et al. Incidence of Diabetes Mellitus in Insured Swedish Cats in Relation to Age, Breed and Sex. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 2015.
- Loder and Todhunter. Demographics of Hip Dysplasia in the Maine Coon Cat. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 2017.
- Borak et al. Slipped capital femoral epiphysis in 17 Maine Coon cats. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 2015.
- Hamelin et al. Clinical characterisation of polydactyly in Maine Coon cats. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 2016.
Your Amazing Cat!
We are so excited to share our new book with you!
If you have enjoyed your visit to The Happy Cat Site we think you'll love The Happy Cat Handbook.
Written by the founders of this website including the author of the hugely successful Happy Puppy Handbook, it's packed with cat care information and fascinating cat facts.
Grab your copy today!
Free Updates For Cat Lovers!
Our cat care articles, tips and fun facts, delivered to your inbox