How to Distinguish Between a Norwegian Forest Cat, a Maine Coon Cat & Other Forest Cats

By Sharon Platz

Norwegian forest cats hail from Norway, and were exclusive to Scandinavian countries until they protected the food supply on Viking ships. Norwegian forest cats are the only domesticated "forest" cats around the world.

Maine coon cats are one of the oldest natural breeds of North America, according to "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Cat Breeds." This Maine native was given the moniker "Coon" because it's believed the breed is the result of mating between semi-feral cats and raccoons.

It's difficult to tell these two breeds apart. There are subtle differences, however, to look for when picking out your forest or coon.

Check the size of the cat if it's an adult. Norwegian forest cats have large builds, and Maine coon cats have a medium to large build. Forest cats are larger than coons.

Comb the fur backward (gently) to determine the undercoat. Norwegian forests have a smooth, water-repellent topcoat, with a woolly, almost curly, undercoat. Maine coons have a shaggy coat that is soft as silk and no undercoat.

Gauge the head shape and size. Forests have a large head that is triangular in shape. They have long noses, and their foreheads and cheekbones are not defined. Maine coons boast a medium-sized head that is square-shaped. Their noses are medium-length, foreheads curve and they have high, prominent cheekbones.

Look into the cat's eyes. Forests' eyes are almost perfectly round. Coons have oval-shaped eyes, slanting slightly upward on the outside -- the classic "cat eye." Both cats commonly boast green, green-gold, golden or copper eye colors.

Measure the cat's legs to see if the front legs are shorter than the back legs. Forests' have long legs, and their back legs are longer than their front legs. Coons have medium-length legs that are even.

Look at the cat's tail. While both breeds' tails are bushy, the forest cat's tail will have even longer fur than the coon's. The fur on both cats' tails might be longer than the fur on its body.