How to Tell the Difference between a Wegie and a Maine Coon

By Catherine Troiano

At a glance, the Maine Coon and the Norwegian forest cat, affectionately known as the Wegie, appear strikingly similar. While they do share some commonalities in their appearance, temperament and health, there are differences including their background.

History and Origin

The Norwegian forest cat originated in Norway thousands of years ago. These are the cats who likely accompanied the Vikings on their expeditions, controlling the ships' rodent populations. The Norwegian forest cat was not actually presented as a breed until 1938, when he was shown at a cat show that took place in Norway's capital city of Oslo. During the 1970s, King Olaf V declared the Wegie as Norway's official cat. The Norwegian forest cat made his debut in the United States in 1979. The Cat Fanciers' Association recognized the Norwegian forest cat in 1993.

There are many myths that surround the origins of the Maine coon, but the breed most likely began when America's domestic shorthair mated with the long-haired cats who were imported by New England seamen as mementos of their travels during the 1800s. The breed developed naturally, evolving to adapt to life in America's northeastern climate. The resulting cat was soon prized by farmers and other local residents for his impressive mousing capabilities. The Maine coon was first recognized as specific breed in the state of Maine, where he is now the state's official cat. The Maine coon was officially recognized by the Cat Fanciers' Association in 1976.

Physical Appearance

The Norwegian forest cat and the Maine coon both sport long coats, ruffs around their necks, plumed tails and tufts of fur on their ears and paws. There are subtle differences in their coats. The Norwegian forest cat's smooth coat generally falls in an even length and is more sweeping in nature. The water-resistant double coat is dense to protect the cat against the harsh winter environment of his native homeland, but the undercoat is shed for the summer season. The Maine coon coat is also long, but it is not dense and it has a shaggier appearance. The texture is silky and may be slightly oily. The Norwegian forest cat's coat may be of any color or pattern except for the colorpoint pattern that is seen in the Himalayan or the Siamese. The Maine coon's coat may be any of 75 color combinations and either of two tabby patterns. Like the Norwegian forest cat, colorpoint patterns are not available on the Maine coon coat.

Weighing between 9 and 18 pounds, both cats are considered large cats with their big-boned and heavily muscled physiques. The shapes of their heads present some differences. The Norwegian forest cat's head is distinctly triangular, and his profile is straight. The Maine coon's head is squared at the muzzle, and his profile displays a slight depression. The Norwegian forest cat's eyes are almond in shape and may be set at an angle. The Maine coon's eyes are oval. Both of these breeds are slow to mature to their full adult size, which is achieved between 4 and 5 years of age.

Some additional cats who can share a somewhat similar appearance to the Maine Coon and the Norwegian forest cat include:

  • Siberian, a large, semi-longhaired feline breed from Russia.
  • Domestic long-hair, a cat with a long coat and a mixed breed background.
  • Ragamuffin, a medium to large cat who is clad in a semi-long coat and was developed in California.

Temperament Traits

Both the Norwegian forest cat and the Maine coon are excellent companion choices for families. They are both outgoing and affectionate, getting along with just about everyone they meet. While the Norwegian forest cat is agile and revels in soaring to elevated vantage points to survey his surroundings, he tends to be mellow and is content to lounge. The Maine coon prefers to pursue exploration and adventure at ground level, and he tends to be more playful. Both of these cats are highly intelligent and enjoy the company of their family members, but the Maine coon is said to be doglike in his abilities to engage in a game of fetch, learn to walk on a leash and find his way into every household activity. The Maine coon communicates by emitting soft, chirps and trills.

Health Concerns

There are two genetic health problems to which both the Norwegian forest cat and the Maine coon are prone. One of these conditions is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a cardiac disease in which the heart muscle is thickened. The other health problem is hip dysplasia, a defect in the hip joint that leads to difficulty with mobility.

A genetic health problem that is of concern in the Norwegian forest cat is called glycogen storage disease type IV. This is a condition that cause a deficiency in the enzyme that is required for efficient glycogen metabolism.

Spinal muscular atrophy is a genetic health condition that afflicts the Maine coon. As neurons in the spinal cord that are responsible for stimulating the cat's limb muscles die off, the muscles weaken and deteriorate.

While the Maine coon and the Norwegian forest cat seem to exhibit more similarities than differences, they are two unique breeds that each present some distinct traits. Whichever breed you choose, either one makes a loving and sociable family companion.