Norwegian Forest Cat vs Maine Coon Cat: Which Is Best?

norwegian forest cat vs maine coon cat - side by side image of a grey maine coon and a calico norwegian forest cat, closeup

Last updated on February 4th, 2024 at 03:29 pm

by Dr. WL Wilkins, DVM, PhD

Many people are fascinated by big cats. For cat lovers who think bigger is better, the question is: when it comes to a Norwegian Forest cat vs. a Maine Coon cat, how do they stack up against one another?

While there are many similarities between these two large cat breeds, there are also subtle differences that prospective cat parents need to know. This comprehensive guide aims to provide you with valuable insights into the similarities and differences between these two majestic breeds.

From physical traits, grooming needs, dietary requirements, longevity, to their social behaviors, we delve into everything you need to know to determine which breed is the right fit for your home and lifestyle.

Read on to discover a treasure trove of information about these wonderful cats and take a step closer to finding your purr-fect companion!

Where Do Norwegian Forest Cats and Maine Coon Cats Come From?

Before we get into a direct comparison of these two breeds, let’s have a look at their respective histories.

Origin and History of Norwegian Forest Cats

The Norwegian Forest cat breed is believed to be one of the oldest and naturally evolved domesticated cat breeds, with roots that stretch back for centuries. Often referred to as the “Skogkatt” in Norway, it has its origins in the wild forests of Norway.

It is believed that these cats are descendants of domesticated cats that accompanied Viking explorers and settlers around 1000 AD. These cats interbred with wild Norwegian cats, resulting in a breed adapted to the harsh Nordic climate.

Throughout Norwegian history, these cats were highly regarded and even featured in Norse mythology and folklore. They became an essential part of rural Norwegian farm life, as they were excellent hunters and kept barns and homesteads free of rodents.

By the mid-20th century, the Norwegian Forest cat faced a decline in numbers due to interbreeding with other cat breeds and changes in agricultural practices. In the 1930s, concerned cat enthusiasts in Norway began organized efforts to preserve and protect this unique breed. These efforts led to the breed’s recognition and eventual standardization.

The Norwegian Forest cat was officially recognized as a breed in Norway in the 1970s, and it soon gained recognition from international cat associations. They quickly found popularity outside of Norway due to their striking appearance, and friendly personalities.

closeup image of a calico Norwegian forest cat laying in greass
Norwegian Forest Cat

Origin and History of Maine Coon Cats

One of the most enduring legends surrounding the Maine Coon breed suggests that they are descendants of domestic cats that mated with raccoons (hence the name “coon”). However, this is biologically impossible since raccoons and cats belong to different species.

Another legend speculates that Maine Coon cats are the offspring of cats brought to North America by seafarers, such as Captain Charles Coon or Vikings. There is even a theory the Maine Coon are descendant of the Norwegian Forest cat due their potential linkage with Vikings.

While the folklore surrounding these cats is charming, their true history is more grounded in historical records.

Maine Coon cats are believed to have originated in the northeastern United States, particularly in the state of Maine. The breed likely developed in the 19th century from a combination of domesticated cats brought by early European settlers and cats native to the region.

This large breed made its debut at a cat show in Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1895. A large, tabby-colored Maine Coon named “Cosey” was among the entrants. The breed quickly gained popularity due to its impressive size, friendly disposition, and striking appearance.

The Maine Coon cat breed was officially recognized by cat breed associations in the early 20th century. The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) granted championship status in 1976. Today, they are among the most popular domestic cat breeds in the United States and internationally.

norwegian forest cat vs maine coon cat - close up images of a grey tabby maine coon
Maine Coon Cat

Norwegian Forest Cat vs Maine Coon Cat: A Side-By-Side Comparison

Personality

Norwegian Forest Cat Personality

Norwegian Forest cats are renowned for their friendly and intelligent nature. They are often quite playful and enjoy interactive toys and games, showcasing their hunter instincts.

Highly social, they are known to form strong bonds with their human families, often favoring one person whom they will follow from room to room. Despite their social nature, they are also quite independent and are content with their own company, which makes them a good choice for owners who work longer hours.

They are generally unflappable and adapt well to change and new environments, making them excellent companions for families, couples, or singles.

Maine Coon Cat Personality

Maine Coon cats are often regarded as gentle giants due to their large size coupled with their affable, friendly personality. They are known for their intelligence and curiosity, often displaying interest in their surroundings and what their owners are doing.

While they are not typically lap cats, Maine Coons enjoy spending time with their human families and are known for their dog-like behavior, such as playing fetch or greeting their owners at the door.

They are sociable creatures that get along well with children and other pets, making them a great choice for families. Despite their friendly demeanor, they also display a certain independence and can entertain themselves when needed.

Their playful nature lasts well into adulthood, and they are not shy about expressing their needs or desires.

Temperament Comparison

When it comes to temperament, both the Norwegian Forest cat and the Maine Coon cat share some common traits, being friendly, sociable, and intelligent creatures.

Norwegian Forest Cat Temperament

The Norwegian Forest cat is known for their adaptive nature. They are excellent at dealing with changes in environments or routines, which makes them a good choice for households where owners may have irregular schedules.

However, they do also enjoy their own company and can be somewhat independent, which can be helpful for owners who are unable to provide constant companionship.

Maine Coon Cat Temperament

On the other hand, Maine Coons are often referred to as ‘gentle giants’. Despite their large size, they are extremely friendly and sociable, always eager to be involved in whatever their human family is doing.

Both breeds are intelligent, with the Norwegian Forest cat often showing off its natural hunting instincts during play, while Maine Coons are known for their curiosity and playful nature. They both enjoy interactive toys and games, and neither breed is particularly vocal.

In summary, while both breeds make for great companions, the Norwegian Forest cat might be better suited for individuals or families with more independent lifestyles, while the Maine Coon could be a better choice for those looking for a more engaging and sociable pet.

brown tabby Norwegian forest cat laying under a christmas tree
Norwegian Forest Cat

Head and Face

Norwegian Forest Cat Face and Head Characteristics

  • Head Shape: They have a flat forehead and a triangular-shaped head, which is almost equal in length and width. The sides of the triangle are formed by the line from the outer base of the ear to the chin, and meeting at the tip of the nose when viewed in profile.
  • Ears: The ears are medium to large in size, with good width at the base. They are set as if to continue the lines of the triangle. The ears are heavily furnished and may have lynx-like tufts and long hair that extends beyond the outer edge of the ear.
  • Eyes: They have large and expressive, almond-shaped eyes which are set obliquely. They’re wide open at the base but slightly rounded at the edges. All colors are accepted, with green, gold, or copper being the most common. Blue and odd eyes are allowed in white and van-patterned cats.
  • Nose: The nose is straight in profile and long, contributing to the triangular shape of the head.
  • Chin: The chin is firm, reflecting the straight lines of the profile without being overly prominent.
  • Cheeks: The cheekbones are high, but not prominent, contributing to the overall triangular shape of the face.

Maine Coon Cat Face and Head Characteristics

  • Head Shape: The Maine Coon’s head is medium in width, with a squareness to the muzzle. Full cheeks and high cheekbones give the head a modified wedge shape.
  • Ears: Maine Coon cats have large, wide-set ears that are high on the head. The inner ear has tufts of fur, while the tips are often adorned with lynx-like tufts.
  • Eyes: The eyes are large, round, and set wide apart, contributing to the cat’s expressive look. Eye color can range from green to gold and copper, although white Maine Coons may have blue or odd eyes.
  • Nose: The nose of a Maine Coon cat is of medium length and can have a slight concave curve when viewed in profile.
  • Chin: Maine Coons have strong chins that align with the upper lip and the tip of the nose in profile.
  • Cheeks: Prominent cheekbones help give the Maine Coon its distinctive “wild” look.

Body Size and Shape

In comparison, both breeds are notably large and robust, but Maine Coon cats have a slight edge in terms of size, particularly in males. They tend to be longer and heavier than Norwegian Forest cats.

Norwegian Forest Cat Body Size and Shape

Norwegian Forest cats are large and muscular, with a full and robust body that is well balanced and proportionate. They have a broad, strong chest and a powerful, muscular neck.

Their body length is usually medium to long, and they are known for their heavy bone structure. Females are noticeably smaller than males. Adult males typically weigh between 12 to 16 pounds, while females usually weigh between 9 to 12 pounds.

Maine Coon Cat Body Size and Shape

Maine Coon cats are one of the largest domestic cat breeds. They possess a strong, muscular body with broad shoulders. The body is long, and males can reach lengths of up to 40 inches.

They have a substantial bone structure, and their chest is deep. While the kittens are similar in size at birth, adult male Maine Coons are significantly larger than females, with some males weighing up to 25 pounds or more. Females are usually smaller, typically weighing between 10 to 15 pounds.

Fur Coat Comparison

Norwegian Forest Cat Fur Coat

The Norwegian Forest cat sports a double coat which provides excellent insulation against harsh weather conditions. The undercoat is dense and woolly, which pairs with a long, glossy, water-repellent upper layer that’s noticeably smooth to the touch.

This top coat is adorned with a full mane around the neck and a bushy tail, both of which are striking features of this breed. Their coat is typically thicker during winter and sheds to a lighter version during summer.

Maine Coon Cat Fur Coat

Maine Coon cats, like their Norwegian counterparts, also have a double coat but with a slightly different texture. The undercoat is soft and fine, providing good insulation, while the upper layer is heavy and shaggy, but not as long as the Norwegian Forest cat’s.

Maine Coons have a distinct ruff of fur extending from the base of each ear, much like a lion’s mane. Their bushy tails heavily furred, which is beneficial for wrapping around their body during cold weather. These cats’ coats are designed to be semi-waterproof and are thicker in the winter, shedding to a shorter, lighter coat in the warmer months.

grey maine coon cat staring at the camera, blurry green background
Maine Coon

Color Comparison

Norwegian Forest Cat Colors

Norwegian Forest cats come in a wide array of colors and patterns, including most colors seen in cats (except for pointed patterns like those seen in Siamese or Himalayan cats). Most commonly, however, they are seen in brown tabby and white.

Maine Coon Colors

Like the Norwegian Forest cat, the Maine Coon cat can also be found in a variety of colors and patterns. The cat Fanciers Association recognizes a staggering 75 different color combinations for this breed, including solid, tabby, tortoiseshell, and more.

Energy and Activity Levels

Norwegian Forest Cat Energy and Activity Levels

Norwegian Forest cats are known for their energetic and playful nature. They enjoy climbing and perching in high places, thanks to their strong claws and muscular bodies. This breed also has a curious and exploratory side, often investigating their surroundings and participating in interactive play.

However, they are not overly demanding of attention and are perfectly content spending time alone. In general, they have a moderate energy level that requires a fair amount of physical stimulation to keep them happy and healthy.

Maine Coon Cat Energy and Activity Levels

Maine Coon cats, like Norwegian Forest cats, are quite active and playful. They also enjoy climbing, though perhaps not as much as their Norwegian counterparts. They are fond of interactive toys and games that challenge their intelligence.

They have a slightly higher energy level compared to Norwegian Forest cats and need a good amount of physical and mental stimulation to keep them content.

Health Profiles

Norwegian Forest Cat Health Profile

Norwegian Forest cats are generally healthy, robust cats with a strong genetic makeup. However, they are prone to certain inheritable conditions.

The breed’s large size and rapid growth can lead to hip dysplasia, a condition that causes malformation of the hip joints. They can also be susceptible to glycogen storage disease IV, a rare genetic disorder that affects metabolism, as well as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease that is often hereditary.

Maine Coon Cat Health Profile

The Maine Coon breed, despite their sturdy constitution, is also predisposed to certain health issues. They are known to suffer from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Hip dysplasia can also be a concern due to their large size.

Additionally, Maine Coons can be affected by spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder leading to muscle atrophy, and polycystic kidney disease which is a genetic defect caused by the formation of cysts in the kidneys which leads to kidney failure.

Life Expectancy

Norwegian Forest Cat Life Expectancy

Norwegian Forest cats typically have a long lifespan. These cats often live between 14 to 16 years, and with proper care and diet, it is not uncommon for them to reach into their late teens.

Maine Coon Cat Life Expectancy

Maine Coon cats, despite their large size, also tend to have a long lifespan. On average, these cats live between 12 to 15 years. However, many Maine Coons have been known to live well into their late teens or early twenties, particularly if they receive regular veterinary care and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Cost Comparison

Norwegian Forest Cat Cost

The cost of a Norwegian Forest cat can vary based on factors such as the breeder’s reputation, the location, and the cat’s age, color, and pedigree. Kittens typically cost between $800 to $1500. It is important to note that additional costs for vaccinations, neutering, and regular veterinary check-ups should also be considered.

Maine Coon Cat Cost

Similarly, the price of a Maine Coon cat can greatly differ, depending on the same factors mentioned above. Generally, Maine Coon kittens are priced between $1500 to $3000, making them slightly more expensive than Norwegian Forest cats. As with all pets, prospective owners should also factor in the ongoing costs of food, healthcare, and other necessities.

In conclusion, while both breeds can come with a significant initial cost, the Maine Coon cat tends to be slightly pricier than the Norwegian Forest cat. However, the lifelong costs of pet ownership, including food, regular veterinary care, and other needs, are similar for both breeds.

Feeding Cost Comparison

Norwegian Forest Cat Feeding Cost

Feeding a Norwegian Forest cat can be relatively economical due to their moderate appetite. Being an active breed, they require a diet high in protein, which can be obtained from various high-quality cat foods.

On average, a month’s supply of nutritious cat food can cost approximately $40 to $50, depending on the brand and the specific dietary needs of your cat.

Maine Coon Cat Feeding Cost

On the other hand, feeding a Maine Coon cat can be slightly more expensive due to their larger size and voracious appetite. Like their Norwegian counterparts, they also require a high-protein diet.

Given their size, they consume more food, and consequently, you might find yourself purchasing food more frequently. The average monthly cost of feeding a Maine Coon can range between $50 to $60.

Grooming Requirements Comparison

Norwegian Forest Cat Grooming Requirements

Norwegian Forest cats have a thick, water-resistant double coat that requires regular grooming to keep it in good health. Their long fur tends to become denser in the winter, so more frequent brushing may be required during this time.

Typically, brushing once or twice a week with a high-quality pet comb or slicker brush can keep their coat tangle-free and glossy. Although these cats do a good job grooming themselves, they may also need occasional bathing, especially if they have access to outdoor environments.

Maine Coon Cat Grooming Requirements

Maine Coon cats also have a dense double coat, but it’s slightly different from that of Norwegian Forest cats. Their fur is silkier and less prone to matting, but they have tufts of fur between their toes and copious ruffs around their necks that may require attention.

If not groom, these cats may become so matted they need to be shaved. Regular brushing, at least once a week, is usually sufficient to keep their coat healthy and mat-free. However, given their love for water, Maine Coons may appreciate a bath more often than their Norwegian counterparts.

three main coon kittens - a light ginger tabby, an orange tabby, and a grey tabby

Summing Up: Differences at a Glance

So far in this article, we have provide you with a lot of information about Norwegian Forest cats and Maine Coon cats. There are a lot of similarities between the two breeds, but there are also significant differences.

Let’s sum up some of the key similarities and differences to look for.

Similarities

  • Coat: Both Norwegian Forest cats and Maine Coon cats have thick coats suitable for colder climates, with dense double layers of fur that require regular grooming to keep them healthy.
  • Size: They are both large breeds that can be predisposed to hip dysplasia due to their size.
  • Lifespan: Both breeds are known for their long lifespans, often reaching into their late teens with proper care and diet.
  • Cost: The cost of owning either breed is significant, taking into account not only the initial purchase but also ongoing expenses such as food, regular veterinary care, and other necessities.
  • Diet: Both breeds have a good appetite and require a diet high in protein.
  • Coat Care: Regular brushing is essential for both breeds to keep their beautiful coats healthy and glossy.
  • Personality: Both Norwegian Forest cats and Maine Coon cats are known for their friendly and sociable nature. They enjoy the company of their human families and often bond strongly with them. Their playful and affectionate temperaments make them excellent family pets.
  • Intelligence: Both breeds exhibit a high level of intelligence. They are curious creatures that enjoy mental stimulation through interactive toys and play.

Differences

  • Size and Appearance: Both are large breeds but Maine Coons are usually slightly larger than Norwegian Forest cats. Norwegian Forest cats have a straight facial profile, while Maine Coons have a distinctive square muzzle and high cheekbones.
  • Grooming: Both breeds are fluffy cats that have dense double coats that require regular grooming. However, Maine Coons may appreciate baths more often due to their love for water, and Norwegian Forest cats may require more frequent brushing in winter due to denser coats.
  • Feeding Costs: The cost of feeding a Maine Coon can be higher due to their larger size and greater food consumption, while feeding a Norwegian Forest cat can be slightly less expensive due to their moderate appetite.
  • Purchase Cost: Maine Coon cats are typically more expensive to purchase than Norwegian Forest cats based on average breeder prices.
  • Life Expectancy: Both breeds have long lifespans, often reaching into their late teens with proper care and diet. However, many Maine Coons are known to live well into their early twenties.
  • Coat Types: Norwegian Forest cats have a thick, water-resistant double coat, while Maine Coons have a silkier double coat that’s less prone to matting.
  • Temperament: Maine Coons have an outgoing nature and love for play, often displaying dog-like tendencies such as playing fetch or following their owners around. Norwegian Forest cats, on the other hand, are a bit more reserved and independent, though they are still very loving and enjoy the company of their human families.
  • Interaction with other pets: In general, Maine Coons tend to be more adaptable and get along well with other pets, including dogs. Norwegian Forest cats can also coexist with other pets, but they are likely to establish and maintain their territory, showing a bit more independence.

Which Breed Is Right For You?

At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Both Norwegian Forest cats and Maine Coon cats are loyal and loving family pets that require a moderate amount of care and attention.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference — do you prefer an outgoing and playful breed like the Maine Coon or a more independent and reserved breed like the Norwegian Forest cat? Are you looking for a closer bond with your cat, or are you comfortable with a bit of distance?

These are all important questions to consider when deciding which breed is right for you. Whichever of these giant cats you choose, they both make great pets that will love and care for their owners in return.

Whatever you decide, do your research and understand the needs of both breeds before making a commitment. With that in mind, we wish you all the best with your cat search!

Sources

Author

  • Dr. Wendy Wilkins DVM PhD.

    Dr. Wendy Wilkins is an experienced veterinarian and epidemiologist with over 20 years of expertise. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Dr. Wilkins has excelled in clinical practice, academia, research, and regulatory veterinary medicine. She is a respected voice in knowledge dissemination, delivering factual information in a readable and understandable manner through articles, books, and public engagements.

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