Ragdoll Cats

Origin of the Breed

It is difficult to imagine that the beloved Ragdoll cat breed did not exist a mere 60 years ago. Though many sources offer speculative glimpses into history, the origin of Ragdoll cat is believed to have begun in 1963, by a woman named Ann Baker of Riverside, California. Baker happened upon a litter produced by a feral white Angora and sired by male cats whose ancestry was Birman or of Burmese origin. She named the white Angora Josephine, and began breeding her with other large tom cats of a Birman-mix background. When she found that the cats from these breeds were large in size, but as gentle and docile as new kittens as they grew to adulthood, she continued breeding the cats hoping to perfect the temperament and coloring to create a new breed. Baker promoted this newly developed breed of cats as "Ragdolls" because of their tendency to go limp whenever they were carried.

As the breed gained recognition, people began believing myths about the unique Ragdoll cats. One such fiction was that these mellow felines felt no pain, because of their lack of reactionary feistiness and other typical "cat-like" defensive behaviors when provoked. Ann Baker and other breeders worked to eradicate these kinds of theories, and continued to develop Ragdoll cats while increasing awareness about their traits. Finally, in 1967, the Can Fancier Association recognized Ragdoll cats as an official feline breed. In 1975 a group led by breeder Denny Dayton parted ways with Ann Baker's International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA), seeking to gain the breed credibility with more mainstream cat fanciers. Through these efforts, the breed standard was established, becoming widely recognized across the country, and later abroad. In the 21st century, the Ragdoll cat currently is listed as one of the most popular domestic feline breeds today.

Appearance & Description

This breed of cat is one of the largest feline breeds, having thick bodies with strong, stable limbs. The male Ragdoll can weigh as much as 20 lbs, while even females can be between 8-15 lbs heavy. On rare occasions, some big-boned Ragdolls have measured up to 35 lbs, proving almost three times bigger than other cats.

Ragdoll cats are known for their piercing blue eyes. All Ragdoll cats are born white, but between 8-10 weeks, the coloring differentiation can begin, only settling completely around 2-4 years of age. Ragdolls are most commonly known for being white or cream colored, but they can also come in blue, seal, chocolate/brown, tortoiseshell, lilac, or reddish.

Their patterns may be bi-colored, mitted, lynx, colorpoint or van. Ragdolls that are colorpoint are entirely without white markings in the coat, while mitted cats have white socks in the front, white hind legs as well as a white chin and underbelly, with a flash, star or patch on their nose or forehead. A bi-colored cat can have great majority of white patches and markings on the body, and a cat with van patterning will only have the ear tips, tails, the mask, and a few bits on the body being darkly colored. A lynx cat will have similar markings to that of a tabby.

The Ragdoll cat is a long-haired breed, with a silky plush coat that requires regular grooming. Detangling the hair of a Ragdoll works best with fine-tooth steel combs, and the occasional spritz of de-tangling spray or leave-in conditioner if the fur gets wet or knotty. While this breed does tend to shed seasonally, the shedding of the Ragdoll is minimized due to the lack of an undercoat. Ragdolls do not have the thick undercoats that other long-haired breeds do, so with regular brushing, they are less likely to shed copious amounts of fur than other cats.

Temperament & Behavior

Ragdoll cats are celebrated for their ideal personalities. They are happy-campers, no matter who is present. Ragdolls get along well with children, yet are content to lounge alone in their solitary hours, or roam around keeping their owners company. Ragdolls are affectionate without being fastidious, and do not get snappy or sensitive if they receive too much petting and preening. Best of all, when a Ragdoll cat is picked up, they do not squirm and try to escape, but rather lay helplessly and happily in their owner's arms. Ragdolls are not as "talkative" as other breeds, and seldom call out, wail, or meow repeatedly unless they are in pain, or something is wrong. In spite of their laid-back attitudes, Ragdolls are eager to play, cuddle, chase toys, and stay involved in whatever activity available. They work well with young children, other pets (including most dogs), and are great pets for first-time cat owners. This breed should not be left as an outdoor cat, since unlike other breeds, the Ragdoll is not inclined toward fighting and defending himself if needs be. They thrive better in an indoor environment where they are safe and can enjoy human companionship.

Fun fact: Ragdoll cats have been called "puppy cats" because they like to follow their owners from room to room. Like dogs, these cats can also learn to walk on a leash, and come when they are called by name.

Health of the Breed

Like all cats, Ragdolls suffer from common ailments, many of which are common of other long-haired breeds, such as regular hairballs, matted fur, etc. One unfortunate side effect of this cat breed originating from only one breeder (Ann Baker), is that Ragdoll cats as a whole suffer from inbreeding. It is believed that about 40% of Ragdolls have some kind of inbreeding in their ancestry.

Some studies conducted in Scandinavia have shown that Ragdolls, like Siamese cats, have a surprisingly low survival rate, with just under 65% of the cats making it past ten years of life. The same study showed that Ragdolls have a tendency to die from urinary and kidney diseases. However, for the most part, Ragdoll cats are a healthy breed with a hearty appetite, and have been reported to live between 10-25 years.

Sadly, this beautiful cat breed is particularly inclined to struggle with bladder stones, and heart disease. Ragdolls are also known for the genetic disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is one of the most common kinds of heart disease that afflicts felines. Symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may include: respiratory difficulties, fainting, dizziness, gagging, exhaustion/lethargy, panting, shortness of breath, and a lowered appetite. Tragically, there is no known cure for this heart condition, but there are treatments and medications that ailing cats can take to extend their life and increase their comfort.

Note: Another disease that Ragdoll cats are prone to suffer from is Feline Mucopolysaccharidosis, which affects a cat's vision, joints and mobility. However, this is only likely to occur in cats that are related to the Ragdoll cats in Australia who carry the Feline Mucopolysaccharidosis VI gene, so it is not a common disease for the majority of Ragdolls.

Popularity of Breed

In the United States, the Ragdoll breed has been ranked on many "Top Ten" lists of the most beloved cat breeds in the country. The charming blend of Siamese-like coloring, with luxuriant coats like those of the fluffy Persians, and their gloriously hypnotic blue eyes, Ragdolls are regarded by many to be the perfect aesthetic blend. Additionally, their amiable personalities make them suitable for first-time pet owners, dog-lovers, active families with children, and even to the elderly or those with a more sedentary lifestyle. Their versatility, predictability and gentle demeanors make the Ragdoll cat one that is widely and consistently celebrated as a favorite.

This breed first officially began entering shows and competitions in 1973, at the NCFA, where they were first eligible to receive champion status. By 1980 a Ragdoll cat was featured on the cover of Cats Magazine. Ragdoll cats have been famously owned by celebrities such as Betty White and Dusty Springfield, among others. According to the Cat Fancier's Association, the Ragdoll cat has held his rank as the 4th most popular breed in America for the last several years. For the CFA's 2015 show, a seal lynx point & white female Ragdoll named Queen Lust was awarded the "Best in Show" title for Best of Ragdoll Cats. For more details about past Ragdoll Breed Winners, the CFA keeps details records and galleries of their champion pets.