How to Tell the Difference Between the Norwegian Forest Cat and the Maine Coon

norwegian forest cat

The Norwegian Forest Cat is a name most people don’t hear very often. Someone exceptionally knowledgeable about cats will know all about this cat, but someone who is just a cat lover but not an expert might find that this is a name he or she does not recognize. It’s not uncommon or unusual in the least. Many people are unaware that these cats exist, even if they do recognize the cat almost immediately. The reason for this is that most people assume cats are cats, and associate dogs as the animals with the vast number of breeds.

The Norwegian forest cat is one that has some very distinct features, and it’s often mistaken for a Maine Coon, despite the fact that these are very different breeds. While a person with extensive cat knowledge is going to be able to tell the difference between the two, it’s not always possible for the non-cat expert to tell the difference. This means that you could end up misinformed when it comes to the cat you’re purchasing or adopting, and that is never something you want to happen. What we’ve done is take the guessing out the game for you. We’re going to break down the differences between these two large, lovely cat breeds and make it possible for you to choose the correct cat for your family. Don’t worry; no cats were harmed in the making of this list of differences.


The first difference we will discuss is the size of these cats. Believe it or not, they’re two of the largest cats you’ll find in a house. However, they’re not the same size. One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between a Maine Coon and Norwegian forest cat is to compare the size of full-grown males. While the Maine Coon can get as big as 20 pounds, the Norwegian is more likely to stick to a much smaller 15 pounds at the most. There are some exceptions to ever rule, but the average cats fall into this spectrum, which makes it much simpler to tell the difference.

Additionally, both breeds are famous for having much smaller females. However, they’re both still much larger than the average indoor cat, but the Norwegian female will be a bit smaller than the Maine Coon female, who tends to top out at around 13 pounds. Like we said earlier, these are very large cats. They do resemble a lion in their appearance, and many people associate a lot of that with the size of these very large cats.

The Ruff

We know, we know; we’re talking about cats, not dogs. But we’re not talking about the kind of noise a dog makes. We’re talking about that very lion-like mane of hair around the neck and face of both these breeds. While it might seem impossible to tell the difference at first, it’s not. The Norwegian has a mane – or ruff if you want to be precise – that’s very large. It tends to fluff a lot more than the Maine Coon’s ruff. This is a ruff that should start around the base of the ears and be very lion-like in appearance. The difference is that the Maine Coon has the same ruff, but it’s a much smaller base. It has a moderate sized ruff, and it still looks a lot like a lion, but nowhere near as much as the Norwegian.

So essentially, if you can’t tell the difference, remember that the Maine Coon is the larger cat with the smaller ruff, if that helps to put things into perspective for you.

Legs and Feet

Another very noticeable difference between both these breeds and your everyday house cat is their feet and legs. These large cats have very large feet, and they can be a little intimidating. However, they’re very different if you take the time to compare the two. The Norwegian, for example, has a much higher set of back legs. What does this mean? This means if you see a Maine Coon and a Norwegian walking together, the Norwegian is the cat with the higher back legs. It almost tilts downward at an angle because the front legs are so much shorter than the back legs.

As far as their fur goes, however, you’re out of luck looking for differences in the legs. They’re very similar in terms of their coat, and that extends down their legs as well. Both have very long fur on their legs, which makes it difficult to differentiate between the two when focusing solely on leg hair.


Here’s another big difference. The Norwegian forest cat has very long hair and it’s doubled-coated whereas the Maine Coon does not have a double coat. Additionally, where the Norwegian has a very thick coat, the Maine Coon does not. The Maine Coon, however, does have a coat that has some very interesting features. These features include uneven coating. Some hair is much longer than other hair, and it can cause the hair to look as if it’s a different color in many places, even if the cat is actually the same color all the way across.

Another difference in the coat of these two cats is that the Norwegian has a very thick undercoat, which is not something that the Maine Coon has. Most people don’t want to have a thick undercoat, but it’s impossible to resist the Norwegian forest cat, so they go with it. The Norwegian is going to require a bit more time grooming because of its thicker fur and rougher coat. However, the Maine Coon is going to shed just as frequently, but it won’t take as long to brush because its coat is a lot silkier and thinner. And the Maine Coon does not have a very thick undercoat, which makes for easier maintenance.

Lovely cats through and through, the Norwegian and the Maine Coon are very similar in appearance, but once you know where to find their differences, it will make a big difference in how you approach the cats and how you recognize them.

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