Forest cats are not feral cats who live in the woods, though they could be. Technically, "forest cat" refers specifically to the Norwegian forest cat, originating from — no surprise — Norway. However, the term "forest cat" is used more conversationally to include certain cat breeds with a lush fur coat and larger-than-average body size. These feline breeds include the Norwegian forest cat, the Maine coon, and the Siberian cat.
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While it's easy to confuse these breeds, there are a few physical characteristics to look for when comparing a Norwegian forest cat vs. a Maine coon and other cat breeds. The fur of each breed is similar, but differences are found in the shape of the nose, head, and eyes.
Norwegian forest cat
The Norwegian forest cat evolved in Scandinavia and is thought to originally have been the choice of Viking ships thanks to the cat's predatory skills. Healthy females weigh between 8 and 12 pounds and males between 12 and 18 pounds, and the cats' thick, long coat adds visual size to the breed. This cat breed is also fodder for folklore in their native land and in 1938 was declared the official cat of Norway, where they are called "Skogkatt," meaning "forest cat."
The Maine coon
The Maine coon, the official state cat of Maine, is a large, impressive, affectionate breed that can reach a size of up to 22 pounds, though females are generally smaller. They appear in a variety of colors, and their fur varies in length over their body, creating an appealing lionlike mane around their head. However, it's the very thick, raccoonlike tail that's the source of their name. Interestingly, Maine coons are the only native longhair pedigreed cats in the United States.
Norwegian forest cat vs. Maine coon
The Norwegian forest cat is easy to confuse with the Maine coon because both are larger breeds known for their lush, full coat and fluffy tail. Both breeds are slow to mature thanks to their size, taking up to five years to reach adulthood. Both have characteristic lynxlike tufts on their ears and toes. However, Maine coons are usually larger and are known to be very active cats, unlike the low-energy Norwegian.
The shape of the head is the give-away. Norwegians have a distinctively triangular head, a flat nose, and rounder eyes. Maine coons have a more traditional cat face, a longer nose, and ears that sit higher on their head. Also, Maine coons have long fur around their neck, stomach, and rear, while Norwegian fur is even all over the body.
Siberian forest cat
True to their name of origin, Siberians are strong, powerful, and hardy cats defined by a substantial body structure. Considered heavy-boned, these are not petite cats nor are they lazy. Their powerful hind legs allow them to jump substantial heights. They are extremely agile and are known to be playful. However, like other forest cats, they are a slow-maturing breed, not reaching their full barrel-bodied size until the age of 5. The breed originates from Russia.
Norwegian forest cat vs. Siberian forest cat
Both the Norwegian forest cat and Siberian forest cat are large, hefty breeds with luxurious, full coats, mainly because both breeds hail from cold climates. Each type of cat requires significant grooming to keep the coat mat free, and the breeds are known to be vocal. The Norwegian is more likely to speak in short chirps.
The Siberian forest cat is usually the visually larger of the two breeds, though they might weigh slightly less. Siberians also come in more varieties of colors, including bicolored and gray, which are unusual colors for a forest cat. Of course, both have a full, beautiful tail they carry proudly, but the Siberian ears are larger and pointed. However, the Siberian eyes are smaller and more elongated than the Norwegian forest cat.
- The International Cat Association: Siberian Breed
- Hepper: Norwegian Forest Cat vs. Siberian Cat: What’s the Difference?
- The International Cat Association: Norwegian Forest
- AZ Animals: Maine Coon vs. Norwegian Forest Cat: Comparing These Giant Cat Breeds
- The International Cat Association: The Maine Coon Breed