Norwegian Forest Cats are one of the oldest domesticated cat breeds in the world. They are believed to have originated in Scandinavia over 1,000 years ago. Maine Coons, on the other hand, are one of the earliest domesticated cat breeds in North America. They were first bred in the state of Maine during the 1800s.
Norwegian Forest Cats and Maine Coons are both large, long-haired cat breeds. They are also both very social and affectionate towards their humans. However, there are some major differences between these two popular cat breeds.
Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat Breed Origins
Let’s start by looking at the history’s of these two magnificent large cats.
Maine Coon Cat History
The Maine Coon is one of the largest breeds of domestic cat, known for its intelligence, playfulness as well as distinctive physical appearance. The breed is one of the oldest natural breeds in North America and originated from New England, making it America’s first indigenous show cat.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, domestic cats brought over from Europe faced very severe winters in New England where only the strongest and most adaptable cats survived. Through natural selection (as opposed to selective breeding), the Maine Coon developed into a large, rugged cat with a water-resistant, thick coat and a hardy constitution. The origin of the breed (and its name) has several (often fantastic) stories surrounding it.
One comes from a legend that a domestic cat released in the wilds of Maine interbred with a raccoon, resulting in offspring with the Maine Coon’s characteristics. Though this is biologically impossible, this myth, bolstered by the bushy tail and the most common coloring (a raccoon-like brown tabby) probably led to the adoption of the name ‘Maine Coon.’
Another popular story is that the breed sprang from the six pet cats which Marie Antoinette sent to Wiscasset, Maine when she was planning to escape from France during the French Revolution.
However, most breeders today believe that the breed originated in matings between pre-existing short haired domestic cats and overseas longhairs (perhaps Angora types introduced by New England seamen, or longhairs brought to America by the Vikings).
The Maine Coons’ long coats resemble their European counterparts, the Norwegian Forest Cats.
Norwegian Forest Cat History
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a breed of domestic cat native to Northern Europe, and adapted to a very cold climate. In Norway they are known as Skogkatter or more properly, the Norsk Skogkatt (literally, Norwegian Forest Cat).
The breed is a very old one which occurred as a natural adaptation to the cold climate of the region, but it was not regarded as anything other than a standard house-cat until the late 1930s, when a small number of ‘Skaukatts’ were shown in Germany and received very favourably by the judges. World War II brought an abrupt end to the fledgling Norwegian show cat industry, and the breed was forgotten until the 1970s. The cats are now being bred and shown in several countries including the United States. The first international association to accept the breed was FIFe, in 1977. They are rumoured to be the early ancestors of the Maine Coon and the long-haired Manx.
Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat Physical Attributes
Both of these cats are large sized cats and have long thick coats, however, the Maine Coon Cat is larger than the Norwegian Forest Cat.
Maine Coon Size
Maine Coons are very large (but energetic) cats, sometimes weighing 11.3 kilograms (25 pounds); the average weight is 6 to 9 kilograms (13-20 pounds) for adult males and less (7-11 pounds) for females. Growth to full size often takes longer than for most cats, with Maine Coons usually reaching full size at age three or four.
Norwegian Forest Cat Size
Norwegian Forest Cats (NFC’s) are a large breed of cat with weights of full grown males averaging around 7-8 kgs , with females weighing a little less at 4-5kgs. As a slow-maturing breed they may take 3-4 years to ‘fill out’.
Maine Coon Appearance
The most common color/pattern in the breed is brown with tabby markings. Maine Coons are recognized in all colors except for chocolate, lavender, ticked tabby, and the point-restricted (“Siamese”) pattern. Eye color also varies widely. All patterns may have green, green-gold, or gold. Blue eyes, or one blue eye with one gold eye, are possible in white coat cats.
Maine Coons have medium-long, dense fur, with longer hair, or a ruff, on their chests similar to the mane of a lion (which is why the breed is sometimes humorously called the “Mane Coon”). Their fur consists of two layers – an undercoat and an additional layer of longer guard hairs, which gives the breed their key physical feature. The fur is generally very soft.
Maine Coons have long hair on the backs of their legs (called pantaloons or britches) and between their toes which helps to keep warm in the cold. They also have bushy plumed tails and broad, angular heads, squared-off muzzles and wide-set ears topped with tufts of fur. Most Maine Coons keep their fur in good order without the need for additional human grooming, but due to the length and quantity of hair, most will also benefit from a simple brushing once a week.
While the Coon may be polydactyl, having one or more extra toes on their paws, this trait is generally bred out, as it has been rejected by the standard.
Norwegian Forest Cat Appearance
Norwegian Forest Cats have a thick fluffy double-layered coat, tufted ears and a long bushy tail to protect them against the cold. Their coat is essentially waterproof due to its coarse outer layer and dense underlay.
As a natural breed, they have altered little since they wandered out of the forests, and in their full winter coat are a magnificent looking cat. Adding to the grandeur of a fully coated cat are the ruff, mane, fluffy knickerbockers and beautiful long fluffy tail which should extend back to at least the shoulders in a cat of good ‘type’.
They also have hairy tufts between their toes (to protect feet from the cold) and well-furnished ears with ‘lynx like’ tufts. In summer, the cat loses a lot of the bulk of its winter coat in a seasonal moult. They are a strong boned cat with a distinctive triangular head, with the ears following the line of the triangle from the chin. In profile, they have a straight appearance, with no nose break, and are very distinctive. The eyes should be slightly almond shaped, and angled up to the base of the ear. Altogether, the Norwegian Forest Cat is a very handsome animal
They are semi-long haired, with a double coat. This comprises a woolly undercoat, topped with longer waterproof guard hairs. this helps insulate them in their natural environment, keeping them warm and dry in the snow of Norway.
Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat – Behavior
Maine Coon Cat Temperament
Maine Coons are a breed distinguished by intelligence, dexterity and playfulness. They have a tendency to use their front paws extensively (often curling the paw round to pick objects up) and as a consequence will easily learn to open cabinet doors, turn on water faucets, or pick up small objects. Some Maine Coons will eat with their paws, rather than eating from the bowl itself.
Due to their above-average intelligence, Maine Coons are known to be one of the easiest cat breeds to train. Maine Coons are generally very quiet and do not meow much. However, they are noted for their ability to trill their meows, which sounds like a combination of a purr and a meow, and they tend to make this sound when happy or startled. Maine Coons are a very independent breed, and they do not often “beg” for attention. They are noted for rarely eating alone, preferring to eat in the company of other cats or humans. Maine Coons are usually not “lap” cats, and many Maine Coons, probably because of their size, are not comfortable with sitting on a person’s lap or chest, though this may depend on the personality of the individual cat.
Some Maine Coons enjoy playing with, but not usually in, water. They may dip toys in their water bowls before playing with them, or just tip the water bowl over. They may also skim their paws across the surface of their water bowl. Maine Coons occasionally engage in mischievous behavior when bored, such as deliberately pushing things off tables and the tops of fridges with their paws.
Maine Coons can be very dog-like in their behavior. Playing fetch is a favorite game. As with dogs, they will bring their ball, drop it at the feet of their intended playmate and wait patiently for the ball to be thrown.
Maine Coon Cats are wonderful family cats as they enjoy “just hanging out”.
Norwegian Forest Cat Temperament
Here is where the NFC excels, as the perfect companion to humans, other cats and even dogs. They are friendly, intelligent, loyal, energetic animals who will return any love offered ten-fold!! Because of their fearless nature, many breeders recommend that they be kept indoors (for their own safety) or in a safe cat garden.
They love to climb and hunt, and for a large cat, can exhibit an incredible turn of speed. The NFC is playful and inquisitive even into adult life, and craves company, but on its terms. They like to be boss, and will quickly take over any household.