The Maine Coon Cat and the Norwegian Forest Cat are the two biggest breeds of domestic cats. Known as gentle giants, these two large cats are known to be excellent furry companions and make great family pets.
Within this article, we’ll explore the unique characteristics of both breeds, their history, and the best way to care for them.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about these amazing big cats!
Norwegian Forest Cat Characteristics
The Norwegian Forest cat is one of the two largest domestic cat breeds. It’s known for its huge size, as well as its thick, soft semi-long fur.
It’s also known for being loving, kind, gentle, and loyal. Oh yea, and they are from Norway!
Physical Characteristics of the Norwegian Forest Cat
Aside from the size and the fluffy coat that the Norwegian Forest cat shares with the Maine Coon, it has a number of unique features that distinguish it from its American counterpart.
- Longer Hind Legs Than Forelegs:
These longer limbs make ‘Wedgies’ great climbers
- Triangular or Wedge-shaped Facial Features:
Their facial structure tends to resemble that of a regular house cat, with a triangular profile.
- Straight Noses:
The wedge-shaped skull and slightly rounded forehead give Norwegian Forest cats a very straight nose in profile.
- Medium-Sized, Slightly Rounded Ears, Set Close to the Side of the Skull:
The large ears of these cats have a broad base and rounded point, rather than a sharp point. The shape is often camouflaged by the heavy ear tufts at the top, called furnishings.
Furnishings are important for helping keep the Norwegian Forest cat’s ears warm in cold weather, but they also provide a distinctive look
- Almond Shaped Eyes:
Norwegian Forest cats have very distinct, large almond-shaped eyes.
These are very expressive features of forest cats and they often possess a slight tilt downward from the outer corner to the inner corner.
- Weigh Between 13 and 20 lbs:
These cats are a large, muscular breed.
The females are often smaller and lighter than the males.
- Tufted Toes:
These cats have heavy, muscular rounded paws with heavy fur growth between the toes, called tufting.
Tufting helps retain warmth and traction for the cat’s paws.
- Double Coat With Water Repellent Outer Layer:
Norwegian Forest cats have a double coat, with a fluffy undercoat.
The topcoat is glossy and water-repellent, to help retain warmth.
- Distinctive Ruff at the Neck and Shoulders:
The fur is shorter on a Norwegian Forest cat’s chest and shoulders, resulting in a mane or a ‘ruff’ around the head and neck.
- Flowing, Silky Tails:
The fur of a Norwegian’s tail tends to be smooth and soft. Their silky coats flow in appearance and to the touch.
Norwegian Forest Cat Personality
- Sociability and Loyalty:
Norwegian Forest cats are social enough, but often, this breed is only loyal to their chosen humans.
They tend to be somewhat reserved and can take time to warm up to new people or other pets.
Norwegians are very intelligent. They can be trained to routines and certain behaviors…as much as their catlike personalities allow.
It’s a good idea to have plenty of cat toys for Norwegians to play with. Their active natures and intelligence make having plenty of stimulation essential.
- Love of Climbing:
Norwegians like to climb and settle in high places. You’ll need to make sure you have plenty of high spaces, such as over-the-door platforms or climbing trees.
- Quiet Cats:
Norwegians can be vocal, but they’re often only talkative when they need or want something. They will, however, purr loudly when they’re feeling happy and content.
- Family Cats:
Norwegians are excellent family cats that will do well, even with small children in the house. They’re highly affectionate and very tolerant of childish teasing.
- Needs Plenty of Exercise:
Norwegians enjoy playing, and can even be trained to walk on a leash. They’re a more active cat breed, so having ways for them to get plenty of exercise is a good thing.
Maine Coon Cat Characteristics
Main Coon Cats are similar to their Norwegian cousins in many ways. However, they also possess several key differences in both looks and temperament.
Physical Characteristics of the Maine Coon Cat
- Equal Length Limbs:
Unlike Norwegians, the Maine Coon’s hind legs are equal in length to the front legs.
This feature makes them slightly less agile climbers, but more streamlined in appearance.
- Square Facial Features:
The Maine Coon has a distinct head shape with a square face and jaw.
The muzzle is much the same, only slightly elongated.
These physical features give them their unique lion-like appearance.
- Gently Curved Facial Profile:
In profile, the shape of the jaw and the elongated nose give the face a slight concave curve. The nose is longer than a forest cat and has a gentle curve across the bridge.
- Large Pointed Ears:
The Maine Coon’s ears are tapered and set high on the crown of the head. The ears are very triangular, with sharp points on top that are often called lynx tips.
Maine Coons, like Norwegians, have tufted ears for warmth, giving them a slight lynx-like appearance. Their ear tufts are generally longer and thicker than those of Norwegians.
- Oval Shaped Eyes:
Large wide-set eyes with an oval shape
Eyes slant very slightly toward the base of the ear.
Highly expressive eyes.
- Weight Between 18 and 25 lbs:
Maine Coons are heavier than Norwegians on average.
Like Norwegians, female Maine Coons are usually smaller than male Maine Coons
- Tufted Toes:
The Maine Coon has large tufts of fur between its toes, for insulation and traction in cold climates.
- Polydactyl Toes:
Maine Coon cats often have a condition known as polydactyly or extra toes.
This usually presents as an extra toe on the hind paws.
- Doubled Coat:
Maine Coons have thick coats that have a fluffy look. They’re also described as shaggy.
The undercoat is thick and short.
The overcoat is long, soft, fine, and sleek despite its rougher appearance.
- Small Neck Ruff:
Maine Coons have shorter hair on the shoulders and chests, resulting in a mane-like ruff around the neck.
The ruff on Maine Coons is less pronounced than the ruff on a Norwegian but still prominent.
- Bushy Tails:
The Maine Coon’s tail is thick and fluffy.
They often resemble a bushy, fluffy brush
Maine Coon Cat Personality
Maine Coon Cats have a reputation for being highly social animals. As long as they’re given plenty of attention, these cats will supposedly welcome anyone.
- Social Cats:
Female Maine Coons are more reserved than males, but all Maine Coons are fairly social.
Male Maine Coons are likely to socialize with anyone around and any other pets in the household.
They bond well with other pets
- Highly Affectionate:
Maine Coons are very affectionate. They bond with their owners, but they will also seek affection from other people who are available.
Maine Coons are very intelligent
Easy to train
They like to have plenty of stimulation
They can be trained to walk in a harness and accompany their owners.
- Playful and Energetic:
Maine Coons are very energetic, much more so than Norwegians.
They like to play, so they need plenty of toys
They don’t like to climb as much as Norwegians do, but that won’t stop them from choosing higher perches if they are available.
Given an opportunity, these cats will play all day.
- Vocal Cats:
Maine Coons are very vocal cats. They like attention.
These cats aren’t shy about asking for attention, and speaking their minds.
- Family Animals:
Maine Coons are demanding and social.
They’re excellent family animals who will make good companions for people of all ages.
They do well with children and other pets.
History of The Norwegian Forest Cat
The Norwegian Forest Cat has a long history, especially in Scandinavia and Norway. It is thought the Norwegian Forest cat’s origins trace back to the Vikings.
Some tell the tale of the Norwegian Forest cat being known as the fairy cat even possessing mystical powers in Norse mythology!
The Norwegian Forest cats adapted quickly to the cold climate, as well as shipboard conditions. They were excellent hunters and mousers, making them a critical part of the ship’s crew.
The ‘Forest’ part of their name came from their love of climbing trees.
During the 1940s, the Norwegian cat had such a low population they were in danger of going extinct.
However, in the 1960s they regained popularity, and their numbers spread across Norway and France.
King Olaf of Norway favored Norwegian Forest cats above all other domestic animals. In the 1970s he officially named the Norwegian Forest Cat the official cat of Norway.
Legends of the Norwegian Forest Cat
Norwegian Forest cat origins include being discussed in Norwegian legends and mythology.
In one legend, Freya’s (the Norse goddess of love, beauty, sex, and war) carriage was pulled by large, majestic cats, thought to be Norwegian Forest cats.
Under their other name ‘Skogkatt’, they were rumored to chase trolls in and around the forests of Norway.
History of the Maine Coon Cat
The Maine Coon breed is thought to be a mix of Angora cats, brought over from Europe, and American Shorthair cats.
After years of adapting to Maine climates, it was recognized as a unique breed in its own right.
Maine Coon Cats were almost forgotten, even by the farmers they served, until they were rediscovered and regained popularity in the 1950s.
In 1967, Maine Coon Cats were recognized as an official breed by the American Cat Fancier Association.
Legends of the Maine Coon Cat
Stories of the Maine Coon origins usually involve the transport of cats from Europe that became part of the Maine Coon breed in the United States.
Some say they are actually descendants of the Norwegian Forest Cat, rather than the Angora, and arrived with the Vikings long before the rest of Europe discovered the New World.
Other stories claim that Marie Antoinette sent her possessions, including her six cats, to America in preparation to flee France during the French Revolution.
She never arrived, but the cats did, mingled with the native animals, and were later taken in by farmers looking for cats to keep away various pests.
The third set of stories involves a seafarer named Captain Coon, who allegedly anchored his ship near the Maine coastline.
The longhaired cats he kept aboard for vermin control came ashore with the captain and crew and mated with local cats.
The offspring of which was named after the captain, and the region in which they were found.
Care Needs for Maine Coon and Norwegian Cats
As big cats, both Norwegians, and Maine Coon Cats require certain things to be healthy.
Like all cats, they need regular visits to the vet for health checks, shots, deworming, and flea control.
They also need plenty of exercise and entertainment, to keep down the risks of obesity and maintain a healthy mental and physical state.
Care Tips for Maine Coon and Norwegian Cats
- Regular brushing to reduce shedding and keep the fur untangled
- Occasional baths with cat-friendly shampoo, especially if your cat is an outdoor or indoor/outdoor cat
- Heavy water and food bowls that won’t tip over as easily.
- High quality, high protein cat food is also recommended
- Plenty of food and water – both of these large breeds require more than the average house cat.
- Plenty of medium-sized toys for mental and physical stimulation
- Scratching posts and climbing trees to satisfy natural instinct
- Provide plenty of play-time, affection, and physical activity to keep them from becoming restless.
- Cooler and shaded locations if you live in an area with warmer seasons than the northern areas these cats are originally from.
- Cool water and snacks, and places with colder environments
Care Concerns for Maine Coon and Norwegian Cats
When it comes to these gentle giants, there are some things that always need to be watched for.
- Boredom or lack of stimulation can make your furry friends irritable and unhappy.
- Not enough exercise or playtime can lead to weight problems.
- Warmer climates can lead to a risk of heat exhaustion or other similar problems.
- Not enough grooming can result in excessive hairballs, tangled fur, and overheating.
Health Issues for Maine Coon and Norwegian Cats
Both breeds have health concerns specific to big cats. It’s important to keep an eye on these health issues, to make sure you take care of them as soon as possible.
- Hip Dysplasia:
Hip Dysplasia is when the joints become loose and misaligned. This is common in larger animals, including both Norwegians and Maine Coons.
Without treatment, this can be painful, and result in arthritis and lameness.
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy:
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a genetic disorder that causes the heart muscle to gradually thicken. This causes it to become more difficult to pump blood.
It’s possible to test for this disease in parents of newborn kittens to see if they have the genetic markers for this disease, and the kittens as well.
- Polycystic Kidney Disease:
This is another genetic condition both Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats suffer from.
This condition causes a gradual and progressive failure of the kidneys.
Unlike Cardiomyopathy, there is no way of telling if your cat has this condition, except by careful monitoring of your cat’s health.
- Spinal Muscular Atrophy:
This is a condition suffered more by Maine Coons than Norwegian Forest Cats.
The muscles in the back legs weaken over time.
It causes problems with gait and posture.
The best way to prevent this is to keep a close eye on your cats and their movements.
Avoid overstraining their bodies, to prevent muscular damage.
- Glycogen Storage Disease Type IV:
This is a genetic condition more common to Norwegian Forest Cats.
This disease makes it difficult for them to produce glucose.
Indicators include muscle tremors and weakness
Untreated, this condition can be dangerous, even fatal
- Feline Diabetes:
Both cat breeds are at risk for diabetes, but studies show that Norwegians are slightly more susceptible to the condition than Maine Coons.
How Long Do Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest Cats Live?
Both breeds are known to have an average lifespan of 12 to 20 years. With indoor cats, the life expectancy is often longer, due to the lack of exposure and stress.
Where Can You Find Maine Coon and Norwegian Cats?
Naturally, these cats are found in Maine and Norway but these breeds are very popular and found throughout the world.
Search for a local breeder in your area if you are interested in a purebred.
How Much Does a Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest Cat Cost?
If you’re looking for a purebred kitten or adult cat, the price can be higher than adopting one out of a shelter. Local shelters will always be the most affordable route.
From a breeder, Norwegians will often cost between $500 and $1000. Maine Coon cats will generally cost between $400 and $1600, based on the age and condition of the cat.
Is the Maine Coon Cat a Descendant of the Norwegian Forest Cat?
Some people say the Maine Coon cat is a descendant of the Norwegian Forest cat because they have many similar characteristics but there is no documented proof of this.
Both Main Coon Cats and Norwegian Forest Cats are elegant, beautiful breeds, with rich histories.
These gentle giants are also wonderful companions for families and people of all ages.
If you’re looking for a fluffy family member with a warm personality, you can’t go wrong with either one of these beautiful cat breeds.