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.
- Norwegian Forest cat vs Maine Coon appearance
- Which is bigger?
- Is one cat cuddlier?
- Comparing health issues and lifespan
- Norwegian Forest cat vs Maine Coon cat cost
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.
The History of Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats
The origins of these similar looking cats are quite different. 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.
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! The Maine Coon is a very popular pet around the world and is still the ‘state cat’ of its original home in Maine.
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. So here’s how to tell a Maine Coon apart from a Norwegian Forest cat.
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.
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!
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?
If you can get close enough to count, and the cat in front of you has more than five toes on their front paws or four on their back paws, this is another sign they’re more likely to be a Maine Coon.
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.
Noise vs Affection
Maine Coons are very vocal. They like to chat away making little chirrups. Norwegian Forest Cats tend to be quieter overall, but many owners report that they have a really loud purr.
Both have the potential to be affectionate family pets. Neither 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
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.
Norwegian Forest cats are more susceptible than most breeds to diabetes, especially males.
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.
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.
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. 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!
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.
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!
Catherine A says
I am going with Maine Coon for now! My sweet girl who has shown up on my back porch non stop is finally allowed inside to cuddle. Long tips on the ears, super mouthy-practically screaming at me some days lol, very long body with bushy tail.
No One in Particular says
A couple of years ago, we adopted a kitten from a local rescue organization. According to the foster caregiver, the kitten had initially been found all alone, at only 8 weeks old, in a gully that was known to be regularly frequented by coyotes.
He was understandably quite shy, and more than a little skittish, but his gentle and kind nature slowly emerged, with time. Also, he seemed to have unusually large googly eyes, and very very large feet….as well as an unusually loud purr for such a young kitten.
He befriended our other cat in less than 3 days! They are the best of friends, and enjoy doing everything together.
When our kitten blossomed into an 18-lb cat, in les than a year, we began to wonder if perhaps he might be a Maine coon cat…
As we read up on the unique traits of this special breed, it became clear that our foundling
was indeed, a MCC!
He is just about 2 years old, and if he’s a mix, will reach full adult size by age 3. If he’s 100 percent MCC, will reach full adult size by about age 4. He is around 20 pounds currently, so either way,
it will be a lovely surprise.
He’s such a smart boy, affectionate, playful, easygoing,
With a kind and gentle nature,
and a cherished part of our family.
Bernice Ivey says
My guy is a total lover. He weighs 22lbs. He is a Maine Coon cat.
Nicki Lilly says
Ours would put his legs around our neck & hug us. He wondered into our back yard. Took to Vet & he said you got a Maine Coon kitty. We put up flyers w/pics & in Newspaper & the shelter. No reply’s. Vet let us put flyer up in office. Vets said someone may have been moving & kitty got out. Sad to say but their loss & our find. He lived a long time & never wanted for anything. He loved our other cat from day 2 & he was an inside cat as our other was too. The Vet had told us few yrs prier stating “Stop giving me $$, keep cats inside” No more cat fight injuries, less diseases & will be healthier.. So we did & it saved us a good amount of money.. SO keeps your cats inside. After Ce Ce died, hubby found a cat or cat found hubby. Cat sat by door & wanted out & after a few times of in & out, I said if “Whitey” was to live here, he will stay in. He’d sit at door & cry, I got the squire gun out & filled w/water & every time he went by door, he got squire. After a few times, he stopped & it doesn’t hurt, its just they dont care for water..
The artical is very useful. But one thing I am sure to mention here that captive breeding always develop nany complicationa and immunity problems due to lack of natural selection. Same in case of dogs and other animals. Due to lack of serious study, In case of cat most ( I mean almost all) of people impose there choice, which creates the problem in breed.
Jason M says
We have a wedgie. Probably not 100% but he absolutely fits the archetype. Double coat, mild to moderately active, more “regular” shaped cat face, not terribly vocal with the meowing but purrs like a diesel engine, 12 pounds in weight, extremely kind and gentle. Doesn’t quite “fetch” but will definitely track down treats thrown at him (like a goalkeeper) or even jump for them when held at 3 feet.
We love him.
Always loved the Maine Coon myself but always had difficulty telling them apart. Thanks for the informative post detailing the differences and the pricing for kittens
We did not choose our cat she chose us. We found her on the street and the people in that neighborhood said she was stray. Vet said she 2-3wks old and barely alive. She is 2yrs old now weighing 12lbs. After researching we are pretty certain she is a Norwegian Forest cat. She is fantastic and the best pet we have ever had.
Tina M Russell says
I wish I could attach a picture of my kitty. I adopted a boy kitten from the shelter and he has grown huge, @10 lbs and as big as our full grown cats, and he’s not even 8 months old yet. He has long fur, a big bushy tail, silky fur that never tangles but does get staticy lol. He’s gorgeou but it’s hard to tell if his jaw is square or traingle. He’s still young and he is probably a mix I’m sure but I am very curious if he is part of one of these 2 breeds. He’s gorgeous, huge paws, long hair in his toes, long ear tufts but only very small ear tips. I know some maine coons don’t have big ear tips or it can also be reduced some due to mixed breeding. I don’t care what he is personally because he has such an amazing personality and I love him dearly, but I am still curious. His neck fur is really long and so is the fur on the back of his legs. In some pictures his jaw looks wide and square but others is looks a little narrow. His eyes do seem more round though, and he is very smart and LOVES belly rubs! He’s always rolling over for them. He doesn’t sleep as much as the other cats, is super playful, loves to bunny hop to attack things and plays in water. He peeked in the shower once and didn’t act like he would enjoy it haha, but who knows. He’s super friendly and loving with our other cat, and wants to play with our older cat but she doesn’t like other cats so he stays away. He comes out and sits and watches her though when she plays by herself. He isn’t a huge lap cat and has only laid on my lap 3 times, but he does like being near me. Very independent though still and really smart. Any thoughts?
Tina M Russell says
Oh, his fur isn’t super thick either. It’s long but our medium hair cats are thicker. He’s very laid back, and isn’t a huge talker. He does have the cutest, yet odd, meow at times too. He is gray and white with orange eyes and beautiful markings. He was a scruffy little kitten that weighed 4.5 lbs when we got him. They guessed him at 15 weeks but very rapidly he is growing!
We have a Norwegian given to me by my son to prevent it from going to the shelter. At first we had no idea what breed he was so we did some research. He is a bicolor harlequin which didn’t help to determine his breed.
What did identify him beyond doubt is that his front legs are a bit shorter than his rear in relation to other breeds . A trait not shared by Maine Coons.
He also has a very different meow it’s very drawn out, quiet and soft.
He absolutely loves to hang out looks so funny, he more or less leans on us. Instead of laying on my lap he sits right next to me with his elbow on me Just Leaning lol
I have adopte a kitty from someone who his cat had a one night stand while escaping out. in just a few month he became huge ! he is now 17 pounds and my vet have told me he is a Norwegian forest cat ( not a pure bread) but he definitely have all the characteristic of his bread. he absolutely love to play fetch, he know commande like sit and stay. he does freak out when stranger come home ( to the point i need to give him med sometime)
unfortunately my vet said we will need to watch his heart
he is and absolute loveball and for a very strange reason he absolutely hate snow XD despite totally being build for it