Maine Coon vs. Norwegian Forest Cat: Comparing these Giant Cat Breeds

Written by Heather Ross
Updated: September 13, 2022
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Key Points:

  • Maine Coons are full of energy while Norwegian Forest cats are laid back.
  • To tell the difference between the two, compare their builds, face shape, eye shape, and fur.
  • Norwegian Forest cats hail Scandinavia as home. Maine Coons, while they may have come over to America on a Viking ship, are from Maine.

Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest cats are both large, long-haired species of house cat. It’s easy to confuse these similar felines.

Neither are fully grown until around sometimes five years old due to their ginormous size, though Maine Coons may reach their full size as soon as three years old. Both cats have distinctive tufts of fur on their ears as well as between the toes on their feet.

These long-haired cats have similar grooming requirements; namely, a daily combing to avoid painful mats in their fur. However, Maine Coons require more activity.

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The easiest way to tell these cats apart is to look at their faces. While Maine Coons are a bit boxy in appearance, Norwegian Forest Cats have a slimmer, more angular face shape.

In this article, we’ll discuss all of the differences between Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest cats so that you can learn to tell these breeds apart!

Comparing Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat

Maine Coon kitten looking up at human
The Maine Coon originated in New England.

Grisha Bruev/

Each of these cats is known for their intelligence, laid-back dispositions, and long coats. Someone without knowledge of the breeds could easily confuse them, but they’re quite easy to tell apart once you know what you’re looking for.

Here are some of the most distinctive differences:

Maine Coon Norwegian Forest Cat 
Energy Level HighLow
HeadBoxy, with a snout extending outward starting between the eyesFlat snout extending from the top of the head
Body Large and muscular; legs are all similar in lengthLarge and muscular; back legs are taller than front legs
FurLong-haired, with longer fur on belly, hind end, and neckEven, long coat

The 6 key Differences Between Norwegian Forest Cats and Maine Coons

1.     Maine Coons are High-Energy Cats

Largest Maine Coon Cat
A girl holding a gigantic Maine coon cat in her arms. The Maine Coon is known for its large size and a thick double coat of long hair which is well suited for the harsh winters in Maine.

Sergey Ginak/

Maine Coons are known for their high energy levels and intense loyalty to their people. Owners of Maine Coons say that they could play all day long!

Some even refer to them as “dog-like,” a term I would discourage because it shows a lack of understanding of cats—namely, that any feline breed needs exercise, training, and attention!

While cats do communicate differently than dogs, they are still incredibly social animals that have evolved to depend on humans for survival.

Regardless, Maine Coons are a great breed for those who would like a higher-energy cat, or even one who likes to go on walks!

Keep in mind that harness training takes time, and some cats just don’t take to it. While we can make some generalizations based on breed, they won’t always apply because each cat has their own unique personality.

Norwegian Forest cats tend to sit at the other end of the energy spectrum. They can be seen as couch potatoes, preferring a good nap to an intense play session.

All cats do need play, however, and it’s especially important to entice your Norwegian to get up, exercise, and stay fit!

Cats of any breed should get at least 30-45 minutes of daily play, broken into 10-15 minute sessions throughout the day.

They might not race around this entire time, but instead focus on the toy for long periods—this is perfectly normal, as it’s how cats hunt in the wild. Stimulating their minds in this way is equally as important as physical exercise.

The difference between these breeds is that a Norwegian Forest cat is more likely to be done after 10 minutes of play, or spend more time passively “stalking” the toy, while a Maine Coon will play more intensely and might even want to keep going past the 15 minute mark!

2.     Norwegian Forest Cats have Flat Snouts and Triangular Heads

Pretty long-haired Norwegian forest cat lying on brown speckled cloth.
Pretty long-haired Norwegian forest cat lying on brown speckled cloth.


Physical traits are the most reliable way to tell these cats apart. One simple one is their face and head shape.

Norwegian Forest cats have snouts that come down from their head in a singular line, while the Maine Coon’s snout curves outward near their eyes.

Maine Coons have boxy features, while Norwegian Forest cats have a more triangular face shape.

Both have big ears, often with fur tufts, but the Maine Coon’s sit higher on their head. This gives the ears a more upright appearance, while the lower-set ears of the Norwegian Forest cat make them appear to come off of the face at an angle.

3.     Maine Coons have Varied Fur Length

Norwegian forest cat in the forest.
Norwegian forest cat in the forest.

Elisa Putti/

Maine Coons have long coats that grow longer around the mane, stomach, and butt areas. Norwegian Forest cats have even-length coats all over their bodies.

Both of these cats require a daily combing to keep them free of mats. Once the fur begins to tangle and mat, it will pull painfully against their skin—especially around the armpits and hips as the cat moves.

If your cat does become matted, it’s best to contact a professional cat groomer (not someone who works only with dogs!). Mats often develop very close to your cat’s skin, which will stretch away from their body if you tug the mat forward—making it incredibly easy to cut the skin without meaning to.

4.     Norwegian Forest Cats have Rounder Eyes

Norwegian Forest cats have round eyes, while Maine Coons have oval-shaped eyes. If a Maine Coon widens their eyes they might appear more rounded, but this isn’t typically their shape while rested.

5.     They Originate in Different Parts of the World

Maine Coon laying on couch looking at camera
The Maine Coon have personalities similar to Golden Retrievers. Komarova

The Norwegian Forest cat is an older breed, originating in Scandinavia. Their thick, double coat helped them get through harsh winters.

Many myths surround the origin of the Maine Coon. Some say a racoon and a cat fell in love and had offspring. While the markings of the cat make this almost believable, this is a tall tale for sure. Another idea is that Marie Antoinette bred the cats and shipped them ahead of her in her attempt to flee France with her beloved fur babies. Or, perhaps these long-haired, gentle giants were brought over by Vikings. This theory is the most plausible.

However they arrived there, Maine Coons originated in Maine, and are possibly a descendant of the Norwegian Forest cat! They are the official cat of Maine.

6.     Norwegian Forest Cats have Longer Hind Legs

Lastly, Maine Coons have legs of an even length—like most house cats. Norwegian Forest cats have slightly longer hind legs than front legs.

Up Next…

Learn the difference between similar cats, birds, and dogs!

Norwegian Forest Cat vs Maine Coon 1200x627
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About the Author

Heather Ross is a secondary English teacher and mother of 2 humans, 2 tuxedo cats, and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading papers, she enjoys reading and writing about all the animals!

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