To a lot of people, these two cat breeds seem totally identical and, therefore, are very often confused. In this article I will explain how to easily tell the difference between a Siberian and a Norwegian: from now on you won’t have any excuses! 😊 Disclaimer: the following tips only give an indication to help you visually recognize the two breeds, but the only way to know for sure if a cat is a Siberian or a Norwegian is to check the cat’s pedigree! So, if your cat matches some of these criteria, it does not necessarily make it a Siberian or a Norwegian! It needs to have a pedigree that proves its breed.

Breed history

First, let’s start with a bit of history that explains the similarities between the two breeds.norwegian forest cat
Aslan the Norwegian Forest cat from @aslantheforestcat.

Origins of the Norwegian

As its name suggests, the Norwegian forest cat comes from the region of Scandinavia. It is very likely that the ancestors of the Norwegians were semi-longhair cats from the Middle East. They arrived in Scandinavia around the Middle Age with the Vikings’ boats as mousers. Through the centuries, they evolved with a strong body and a thick coat to stand up to Norway’s climate. Also called “Skogkatt”, the Norwegian forest cat is part of the Nordic mythology, in which the goddess Freya’s chariot was drawn by longhair cats. The breed almost disappeared in the 20th century, but breeding plans started in the 1930s to save and protect it. The plans were interrupted during World War II. However, they made a comeback in the 60s, the breed started to be recognized by official associations in the 1970s, and King Olaf designated it as the official cat of Norway. siberian cat
Mona the Siberian (Neva Masquerade) from @mona_the_siberian

Origins of the Siberian

Similarly, the Siberian name tells its origins: the breed originated from the cold forests of Siberia. In fact, Siberians are also called Siberian forest cats. Like for the Norwegians, their ancestors were also cats from the Middle East. The breed developed naturally in the cold climate of Siberia without any human intervention for centuries, with the first reference to the breed which dates back to the 1000AD. The Siberian appeared for the first time in a cat show at the end of the 19th century. The breed finally reappeared after the end of the Cold War, and the first pedigree was issued in 1987 by the Kotofei cat club. The colorpointed (siamese patterns) Siberians are called “Neva Masquerade”: their name comes from the Russian Neva river. The Neva Masquerades are sometimes considered as an independent breed. We can now see that both breeds have some similarities in their history, as they are both natural, rustic, longhair cat breeds. They very probably have common ancestors from the Middle East, which explains their resemblance to each other.

Physical features

Having discussed their history and similarities, let’s now dive into the physical features that characterize the two breeds.face comparison siberian and norwegian cat
Face Comparison: On the left Boone the Siberian from @boone_the_siberian_cat, and on the right Néline the Norwegian Forest cat.

Head shape

The Siberian has a softly rounded head. The profile has a gentle concave slope from the forehead to the nose. The muzzle is short and rounded. The Norwegian has an almost equilateral triangular head. The profile is long and straight from the tip of the nose to the slightly rounded forehead.profile comparison siberian and norwegian cat
Profile Comparison: On the left Hilla the Siberian from @hilla_siberiancat, and on the right Magnus the Norwegian Forest cat from @magnus.thebatcat.

Eyes shape

Siberian’s eyes are large and almost round. They are slightly oblique and set wide apart. The Norwegian has large, almond-shaped eyes, set oblique and with an alert expression.

Ear shape

In both breeds, lynx tips are desirable but not mandatory. The Siberian’s ears are medium sized with rounded tips. Norwegian’s ears are large and wide, the outer line follows the triangular line of the face and chin.

Body shape

They both have a well-boned and strong body. The Siberian’s body is barrel-shaped. The legs are of medium length. The Norwegian has a long and muscular body. The legs are high with the hind ones, which are slightly higher than the front legs.norwegian forest cat
Pepper the Norwegian Forest cat from @we.are.chilipepper.

Fur

They both have a semi-long fur. Siberian’s has a triple coat, composed of a tight undercoat, a water-repellent overcoat, and a middle coat. Norwegian’s fur has a wooly undercoat and a water-repellent upper coat. The Norwegian always has a mane.

Size

The Siberian is a medium-large cat. Males weigh between 5 and 8kg (11-17 lb) and females between 3.5 kg and 5.5 kg (8-12 lb). The Norwegian is a large cat. Males are around 6-9 kg (13-20 lb) and females are 4-6 kg (9-13 lb).

Color

In both breeds, the colors chocolate, lilac, cinnamon, and fawn are not allowed. The colorpoint pattern (also called Siamese pattern) is allowed in the Siberian breed. Colorpoint Siberians are called Neva Masquerade (see previous history paragraph). Sepia and mink patterns (also called respectively Burmese and Tonkinese patterns) are not allowed (Burmese and Tonkinese patterns). The Siberian can have the sunshine color (also called golden), which is unique to this breed, as well as the bi-metallic color. In the Norwegian breed, all pointed patterns are forbidden. The Norwegian can be amber colored, a color unique to this breed. The amber and golden colors can look similar but come from two different genetic profiles.siberian cat
Monster the Siberian from @monster_and_melis

Character

I won’t talk of any character differences, because while it’s true that cats of the same breed can have similar traits, each cat has its own personality. That’s why I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to compare the characters of two breeds.

Other

The Siberian cat is said to be hypoallergenic. This doesn’t mean it entirely doesn’t cause allergies. Instead, it produces fewer allergens than other cat breeds. The level of allergens vary from a cat to another, and that’s why it is generally advised to meet with a breeder before adopting a Siberian if you are allergic to cats. I hope you now have enough information to recognize Siberians and Norwegian Forest cats! Stay tuned for a future article in which I will compare two other breeds. If you have any breed suggestions, send me an email.

Sources

Title picture: On the left Hilla the Siberian from @hilla_siberiancat and on the right Tonje the Norwegian Forest cat from @nfc_tonje_magnor Standard LOOF Standard FIFé Standard TICA