The Maine Coon is unique in many ways but it does have a competitor in the looks department.
In fact, they are often mistaken for each other – that’s how similar they are.
So, how do you tell the difference between a Maine Coon and a Norwegian Forest cat?
From a side profile of the face, the Maine Coon has a flat head that dips at the forehead and flattens out again at the nose. The Norwegian Forest cat has a head and nose bridge that is flat, not angular. They are also a smaller breed and have almond-shaped eyes compared to the Maine Coons round eyes.
To the untrained eye, these cats can look very similar to one another to the point where one breed will be confused with another.
This article will explore how to tell them apart, how to identify each breed, and what their similarities and differences are.
Just how similar are these two breeds?
Well, take a look at the table below to get an idea.
|Maine Coon||Norwegian Forest Cat|
|Cost||$1000 – $2000||$800 – $1500|
|Health||polycystic kidney disease, spinal muscular atrophy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, hip dysplasia||hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, hip dysplasia, glycogen storage disease|
|Height||10”-16″ (25-40 cm)||9”-12″ (23-30 cm)|
|Weight||female 8-12 lbs (3.6-5.4 kg). male 15-25 lbs (6.8–11.3 kg)||female 8- 18 lbs (3.6 – 8 kg), male 10-20 lbs (4.5 to 9 kg).|
|Body shape||body shape: rectangular body, athletic, muscular cats with large body||body shape: rectangular body, athletic, muscular cats with large body|
|Coat||double coated, long, glossy, silky, fluffy, mane||double coated, long, glossy, silky, fluffy, no mane|
|Maturity||long (3 to 5 years)||long (4 to 5 years)|
|Average lifespan||12+ years||12+ years|
The Maine Coon is a medium to large cat, with females being smaller than males.
They have a long and rectangular body with the tail being about three quarters of their body length.
The coat is often described as ‘shaggy’ because it’s double coated, and it’s silky to the touch which makes them look larger than their already sizable frame.
They have a broad frame that is muscular in nature, making them excellent mousers.
The descendants of the Maine Coon were kept on ships to keep rodents at bay.
They have a large head with erect, lynx-like ears.
The Maine Coon is a powerful cat that displays a mane, with the hair shortening over the shoulders, but longer on the legs.
The Norwegian Forest cat is a large, heavily coated feline, similar in many ways to the Maine Coon.
This is another cat that is powerfully built with the looks of a hunting cat.
They have a more triangular head shape and a muscular neck.
The ears are considered normal in size and the chin is strong and rounded.
It is similar to the Maine Coon in that the fur can make the animal look larger than its frame but they are both well adapted to outdoor living.
Stand a Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest cat next to each other and at a glance they look pretty similar.
They’re large cats with a similar physique and coat.
Also, their ears can make a Maine Coon look like a Norwegian Forest cat and vice versa.
As a quick summary, the key differences are as follows
When you take a facial side profile of the Maine Coon you can discern a square head and a square muzzle.
The forehead is flat that descends at an angle into the muzzle before flattening out again.
By contrast, the Norwegian Forest cat has a continually flatter profile.
When facing the two breeds’ face on, the wedge shaped head of the Maine Coon is harder to see, but in the Norwegian Forest cat, you can detect the triangular face shape.
From the back of the jaw to the tip of the snout you can see the straight contour of the triangle shape in its snout.
Once these breeds develop into adults, whether fully grown or not, they adopt a very muscular frame.
There’s no doubt that the Norwegian Forest cat develops into a large breed of cat.
An average female will weigh 8- 18 lbs (3.6 – 8 kg) with males being about 10% larger, weighing 10-20 lbs(4.5 to 9 kg).
That’s much bigger than a normally sized domestic cat.
However, the Maine Coon is still larger.
They can grow an additional 3 of 4 inches in height and a female will weigh 8-18 lbs (3.6-8 kg) while the male weigh 15-25 lbs (6.8–11.3 kg)
The Maine Coon can grow much bigger as well than that average, with many topping 25lbs.
They are in the Guiness World Record books several times for longest, largest, and largest living domestic cat breed.
Both these breeds have quite a similar body shape that’s rather disguised by all the fur.
They are both strong, athletic, and muscular.
Both breeds have origins and have a harsh environment in their respective pasts.
Norway can become a frozen wasteland, as can Maine, so strong features with a coat adapted for retaining warmth is a trait of both breeds.
As they are both large breeds, this commonality from their origin might explain the larger frames with respect to other domestic breeds.
Interestingly, in proportion to the body, the Norwegian Forest cat has slightly longer legs, particularly the hind legs.
The breeds have slightly different tails, which in practice can be difficult to differentiate the breeds.
Both breeds have fur that can look fluffy which is prevalent on their tails.
The Maine Coon’s is said to be ‘bushier’ but frankly, my own Maine Coon has a less bushy tail than most so it’s more of a confirming indicator than distinctive trait.
Something similar to that is that Maine Coons are said to carry the polydactyl gene, which means there is a greater tendency for a Maine Coon to have 6 toes rather than the Norwegian Forest cat.
The Maine Coon has much rounder eyes when compared to a Norwegian Forest cat.
The Maine Coon’s eyes are larger and appear more ‘wide open’.
The Norwegian Forest cat is said to have ‘almond shaped’ eyes.
Obviously a Maine Coon can squint and a Norwegian Forest cat can stare wide eyed, but in a natural state, the Maine Coon will have eyes of a more rounded appearance than the Norwegian breed.
At first glance, it looks like the two breeds have both large and pointed ears that are identical.
There are minor differences though.
The ear furnishings in the Maine Coon are slightly more pervasive.
The Maine Coon has slightly larger ‘lynx tips’ (eyelashes on the ears) than the Norwegian Forest cat.
The ears of the Maine Coon are set more atop the squarer head and point upwards a little more than its natural competitor.
The Norwegian Forest cat’s ears are a little more triangular and smaller in nature.
The outer edge in many cases is a little more convex as well.
The fact that both cats are built for cold weather is evident from their coats.
That long fluffy hair on both breeds keeps in warmth and allows them to hunt during a harsh winter.
There are minor differences in how the two breeds display them.
As an irony, not only is the Maine Coon said to be from Maine, but it also has a mane.
It looks like a little lion cub as they get older, more mature, and in the cold weather.
The hair on their head is often shorter by comparison.
Although both breeds have long hair, the Maine Coon does not have a singular length for the fur.
The ‘britches’ have longer hair than other places.
By contrast, the Norwegian Forest cat will have fur that is of even length over the body.
If the two breeds have a similarly sized frame and are built for the same climates then it’s unsurprising that each breed has a somewhat parallel history, possibly even related.
The Maine Coon has some interesting twists to its tale though.
When you have the name of a country built into your breed name it’s a fair guess that most people could guess their origin story.
And so it is with the Norwegian Forest cat, with King Olaf of Norway making this breed the official cat of the Country.
Perhaps more accurately, they are from Scandinavia.
Although the breed may have come from the Middle East originally the descendants of this breed will have been around when the Vikings were dominating the area.
During their raiding parties and ship voyages, they are said to have used the Norwegian Forest cat aboard to keep rodents at bay.
This breed are excellent mousers still.
They evolved and adapted to the climate within which they found themselves, the snowy barren landscapes of Norway and Scandinavia.
The breed nearly disappeared between the world wars but made a comeback in the 1960s with concerted breeding programs.
Then they became the official cat of a whole Country.
This breed also has the name of a location built-in.
Rightly, you might surmise this also has something to do with their breed history.
The Maine Coon is the official state cat of Maine and it’s likely that the region has something to do with how they started.
Exactly how they got there is ripe with speculation.
From breeding with raccoons or bobcats which is genetically impossible to other fanciful tales.
There are three hypotheses that have a ring of plausibility to them.
The first is related to the Norwegian Forest cat and they were brought over the Atlantic with the Vikings where settlements have been found in Newfoundland.
The ship’s cats would have bred with local breeds to start the Maine Coon.
It also makes the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest cat related.
Cats from Europe were routinely used on the trade ships between the continents and there’s even the tale of a specific one, Captain Charles Coon who used to travel to Maine.
He used to go ashore with them where they are said to have bred with local cats.
The most extravagant history option by far involves Marie Antionette.
Before she was beheaded, she was said to have had some Persian and Angora cats and planned to escape to Maine.
She didn’t make it, but the ship’s captain did before he met with the same fate, with the cats on board.
The Maine Coon started to gain more popularity in the 1960s, and has grown into one of the most common breeds in the US.
Whatever tale you prefer it’s clear both breeds have some common ancestry, and this nicely explains why they look somewhat similar.
So similar in fact, that the two breeds are often mistaken for each other.
The lifespan of a cat can vary quite a lot as it depends upon many factors, not least of which is breed, diet, or whether the cat is an indoor cat.
Nevertheless, the Norwegian Forest cat based upon averages lives slightly longer than the Maine Coon.
Both breeds have reported cases going up to 20 years of age, but Maine Coon are said to average around 12 to 14 years with the Norwegian Forest cat slightly eclipsing it with a range of 14 to 16 years.
Both these breeds are intelligent, trainable, and excellent mousers.
They look similar and personality-wise can be similar as well, although there are a few known breed differences.
Further, they are both not needy cats not requiring a lot of attention although the Maine Coon has a habit of following you around, without being underfoot.
Where they begin to differ is the Maine Coon is quite talkative and expressive. They chirp, trill, meow, and make silent pleads with their mouth.
Maine Coons definitely talk to you.
While the Maine Coon can remain playful, their Norwegian counterpart is a little less enthusiastic.
The Maine Coon is also more likely to want to walk on a leash.
My own Maine Coon loves to go out on a walk and I take trips frequently to coffee shops by lakes.
They really do like an adventure with their owners.
If you like a cat with a dog-like behavior then either of these breeds will fit the bill.
As opposed to general illnesses and diseases that affect all felines each breed will have a set of health conditions that make them more prone.
It doesn’t mean that a breed is certainly going to get a known condition just that the breed has a certain proclivity to it.
There are 4 known conditions that a Maine Coon is susceptible to
The Norwegian Forest cat is also prone to hip dysplasia and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy so share this with the Maine Coon.
Additionally, the Norwegian Forest cat can also suffer from glycogen storage disease (glycogen storage problems).
Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats are so similar in looks that they’re often mistaken for each other.
They are both great breeds and wonders of both are normally smitten for a reason.
The Maine Coon is the larger of the two with rounder eyes, but the key difference is the face shape.
The Norwegain Forest cat has a continuously sloping forehead to the nose tip while the Maine Coons is more of a wedge with angles.
The Maine Coon is a little more communicative and playful but they are both intelligent breeds that keep those pesky rodents at bay.
Of these two breeds the Maine Coon is the larger of the two. They are both large domestic cat breeds but the Maine Coon has heights between 10 to 16 inches whereas the Norwegian Forest cat is 9 to 12 inches tall. The Maine Coon is the largest domestic cat breed.
The Maine Coon is a slightly bigger breed of cat and the eyes are round. The Norwegian Forest cat has more almond shaped eyes. The Maine Coon has a more rectangular face shape that dips into a muzzle wedge. The Norwegian Forest cat has a forehead that is gently sloping with a triangular face shape.
The Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest cat aren’t directly related but they may have shared a common ancestry. It’s thought that either Viking ship cats or European seafarers brought cats to the US that led directly to the Maine Coon breed.
Maine Coon 101 | Read This Before Getting One