Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat: Which breed is better for you?

Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When pitting Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat, one thing is obvious from the start – both have very similar appearances. They have big ears with small tufts of hair sticking out as well as long, majestic coats. There is also a theory that the Maine Coon is a descendant of the Norwegian Forest Cat.

Examine them more carefully, however, and the differences become more stark, particularly if you study the features around their head and face. These differences will enable you to tell the two breeds apart and they can also help you to decide which of the two you’d prefer to welcome into your home. 

For while each breed has a loving, outgoing temperament, making them fantastic family pets, it’s still important to make a well-researched decision. So let’s take a closer look at the Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat debate and assess how they compare as pets. That way, you’ll also be able to work out which of the best cat food and best cat toys you should buy and have a clearer understanding of what to expect from your new family member.

Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat: Origins

Experts know a great deal about Norwegian Forest Cats. Their ancestors are believed to be British Shorthair moggies as well as long-haired cats brought by Crusaders. They were adapted to survive Norway's incredibly cold winters, served as mousers on Viking ships, and they’re believed to be references in Norse legend – a "skogatt" cat is said to have been able to climb rocks better than other breeds. 

Much less, however, is known of Maine Coons. Although the name is a strong indicator of them having originating from Maine, USA, some say they arrived on Viking ships in the 11th century while others believe they sailed on boats of European Seafarers 700 years later. There is a suggestion they are part of a lineage that includes Marie Antoinette's beloved Turkish Angoras who were put on a ship when she attempted to escape France and allegedly made it to Wiscasset, Maine.

Cat breeds that like water: Norwegian Forest Cat

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How can you tell the difference between a Maine Coon and a Norwegian Forest Cat?

Although they initially seem very similar, there are several visual differences between the two cats. Maine Coon's heads tend to be more square and their muzzles are wedge-shaped, for example, while Norwegian Forest Cats' heads are more triangular with round muzzles.

Main Coons also have large, oval, round-looking eyes while Norwegian Forest Cats are more almond-shaped. Norwegian Forest Cats tend to have shorter tails than Maine Coons, with longer hind legs than front legs (Maine Coons don't have this) while Maine Coons also tend to have a more distinctive ruff of fur on their neck and chests which Norwegian Forest Cats do not. Maine Coon ears are more highly set on their head.

Which is bigger, Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest Cat?

Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats are among 7 of the largest cat breeds in the world but, of the two, Maine Coons are quite a bit larger. In 2018, a two-year-old Maine Coon from Italy was named the largest domestic cat (living) by Guinness World Records, measuring 120cm (3ft 11.2 inches). The cat became so famous, it even has its own Instagram account.

Indeed, on average, male Maine Coons are generally larger in all respects. Males weigh from 8 to 25 pounds while females can weigh between 8 to 12 pounds. The breed can also be between 10 and 16 inches tall, and up to 38 inches long. Norwegian Forest Cats, on the other hand, can be between 8 and 16 pounds, 9-12 inches tall, and 12-18 inches long. Both cats have very strong builds and thick coats.

Maine coon cat eating her food and licking her mouth

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat: Behavior

First of all, bear in mind that every cat is inherently different and breed standards may not reflect the kitten you bring into your home. 

That said, traditionally, Maine Coons are considered gentle giants with pretty big brains, making them easier to train than some other breeds. They can be cautious when meeting new people and are very loyal to their family members, but they tend to be a bit more independent rather than needy. 

They may not be among the 24 most affectionate cat breeds who love a good cuddle but they are fairly relaxed and get along well with other animals. Many Maine Coon owners report that they can be a bit like dogs in that they're playful and have a decent amount of energy. They also have very interesting vocalizations, so expect to get a giggle out of their meows.

Norwegian Forest Cats are also considered gentle and kind cats who can be quite affectionate. But they are keen hunters and can get a bit lazy if they aren't physically and mentally stimulated. You'll want to ensure they have space to explore, simulate hunting, and play. Norwegian Forest Cats also have very interesting, chirp-like vocalizations.

Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat

Maine Coon (left) and Norwegian Forest Cat (right) (Image credit: Getty Images)


If you're considering adding one of these big, bold-looking cats to your family, the choice will simply come down to preference and how a cat will fit into your lifestyle. You also need to take size into account. If you're short on space, then you may want to consider another breed entirely.

One thing to think about is how you’ll likely acquire one of these cats. In general, you don’t find them in animal rescues so if you're a believer in adopting over shopping, Maine Coons or Norwegian Forest Cats may not be for you.


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