Ragdoll cats are also often known as ‘puppy cats’, though they are most famous for going absolutely limp “as a ragdoll” when they are picked up, mostly because they really love being scooped up by their humans!
Ragdoll cats are most well known for their gentle disposition, their love of all people, and their incredibly soft vocalizations, especially when you consider the fact that this is one of the largest of the cat breeds. They are also quite beautiful!
What more should you know if you are thinking about adopting a member of this breed of cat?
Table of Contents
History of the Ragdoll Cat
The history of the Ragdoll cat is surprisingly quiet considering how many rumors swirl around the person who originally created the breed.
It is a breed that is close to sixty years old, so not a very old breed in the larger picture and came about as a result of a breeding program spearheaded by Ann Baker.
She used free-roaming cats in her neighborhood, the main one being a long-haired white cat of unknown parentage. She bred this cat to a neighbor’s cat that had the striking appearance of the Burma cat.
As a result, many of the cat’s kittens ended up with a nice combination of long hair and the points of the Burma, so Ann began breeding them to maintain their dark points and long hair, as well as their temperament.
Four cats: Josephine (The original mother), Daddy Warbucks, Fugianna, and Buckwheat, became the founders of the breed, but only Daddy Warbucks and Fugianna were registered as Ragdoll cats in 1966.
Ultimately, the Ragdoll breed was created and registered in 1993, gaining full recognition in 2000, so the breed is technically less than twenty-five years of age.
Ann herself had a falling out with many breeders because she tried to franchise catteries that would only purchase breeding Ragdoll cats from her, as well as getting a patent on the breed.
Many breeders wanted no such art of the franchise and since some owners had bought their ragdolls before the franchising, several breeders went with that line instead.
It gave Ann a bad reputation and many stories chased her afterward, including stories that she claimed alien influence or infusing the cats with human genes.
Characteristics of the Ragdoll Cat
Ragdoll cats are one of the largest domestic cat breeds with breeds like Maine coons being the only ones that are, on average, larger. They tend to be ten to twenty pounds in weight (or more!) and have a large and solid body build with heavy bones.
Males tend to be a lot larger than females. It takes a long time for Ragdolls to fully mature physically – up to four years in fact.
Ragdolls are most well known, physically, for their striking coloration. This is another seal point and white breed with long hair. Pint colors can also include blue, lilac, chocolate, lynx, red, and cream. They can also be mitted and colourpoint.
They always have a darker tail and mask, but they often have white paws and then the dark point on their lower legs, creating a ‘legging’ look. (Though they certainly can have point-colored paws as well). They always have bright sapphire-colored eyes and a long, fluffy tail.
There is quite a bit of variation otherwise is where the color is (aside from face and tail), ranging from patches of color all over their body like ripple ice cream to only showing up in distinct ‘points’.
Ragdoll kittens are always white at birth and then their colors and points start coming in at 10 days old and finish their full development when the cat is two to three years old.
Ragdoll cats are considered to be longhair cats, but they do not have an undercoat, making them easier to groom since they don’t mat. While they don’t require regular grooming, they often enjoy it because of all the attention they get! They still require the same tooth care as any other cat, which they may not appreciate as much as brushing.
Ragdoll cats are no anymore resistant to pain than any other cat (not sure where this rumor came from). They are quite long-lived though, often reaching over fifteen years of age and sometimes getting close to twenty. This means that if you are planning to get a ragdoll cat, be prepared for a long commitment!
Ragdoll cats should be kept indoors, though they sometimes like going out on a leash. They are fairly docile, so they often won’t stand up for themselves against other animals and they can be stolen. And of course, you want to make sure they don’t get sick or injured!
Many ragdoll cats can be trained to go outside on a leash and to come when you call their name, so that can make it safer for them to go outside under careful supervision. They like chasing bugs when they do go out.
Ragdoll cats don’t shed too much, considering they are a longhair breed, but they aren’t particularly hypoallergenic either. A lot more shedding happens in the fall and spring, so staying on top of a weekly combing will go a long way towards keeping them comfortable.
Temperament of the Ragdoll Cat
If Ragdolls aren’t known for being large and beautiful cats, they are definitely known for their temperament! This breed is called a ragdoll because they go completely limp with happiness when they are picked up by their owners.
They are incredibly laid back, very docile, and love people as well as other dogs and other cats (properly introduced of course).
They are the type of cat who will greet you at the door when you come home, will hang out on your lap (all fifteen pounds or more of them!), and don’t really like to climb too high, preferring to hang out on chairs and sofas. They don’t mind people leaving to go to work or school, but they are extremely happy when people come home.
Ragdoll cats are gentle enough to be safe with most children as long as the child isn’t too rude to them. They will generally put up with being dressed in doll clothes and pushed in doll buggies. They can also be trained to respond to their names and even play fetch and walk on a leash.
They also tend towards being polite, so training them to stay off places like counters isn’t difficult (training them off your bed may be a lot harder though!)
They tend to enjoy traveling and despite being large in size, they are surprisingly quiet with quiet vocalizations. Ragdolls are playful without being hyper and they adapt well to their surroundings.
That being said, even ragdoll cats have their limits, so it’s important to supervise children and introduce other pets carefully. They absolutely feel the same level of pain as any other cat, so they won’t take it too kindly if they get stepped on. And when you do pick them up (because who could resist), use both hands to support them as they are long and large and floppy!
Health Conditions of the Ragdoll Cat
Ragdoll cats are generally a pretty healthy and sturdy breed, but they still have some genetic dispositions towards potential problems. These include:
- Cardiomyopathy is heart muscle disease and can include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or dilated cardiomyopathy (though that is extremely rare since it’s caused by a taurine deficiency and most cat foods are infused with taurine)
- Arterial Thromboembolism: This is blood clots in the arteries seen in cats that have developed heart disease. They cause the hind legs to become paralyzed, cold or painful and can quickly be fatal.
- Polycystic Kidney Disease: This is a genetic disorder that is more commonly seen in Persians, but also in Ragdolls. The disease won’t generally become apparent until around seven years of age and there is no cure, though special diets and medications can slow the destruction of the organs.
- Mast Cell tumors: mast cell tumors are a nasty form of skin cancer that needs to be diagnosed and removed as quickly as possible. Talking to your vet if you notice any weird lumps or skin problems is important
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis: A type of coronavirus that all cats carry, but is generally dormant unless it goes through some very specific mutations that then cause FIP. Ragdolls are more at risk of developing FIP than any other breed of cat and it caused damage to the blood vessels and fluid build up in the chest. Purebred cats from breeders are at the highest risk. It’s fatal and there is no effective treatment.
- Cryptococcosis: an infection caused by a yeast-like fungus that Ragdolls are more susceptible to compared to most other breeds. It can be treated with a good oral antifungal medication, but it’s pretty uncomfortable and can cause your cat to sneeze, lose weight, get a fever, get a swollen nose, and even have seizures.
Ragdoll cats can also have trouble with weight gain. They tend to be docile and more low energy, so they can gain weight easily which leads to other health problems like arthritis and diabetes. To prevent this, make sure to feed your cat properly on a good quality diet and encourage daily playtime with toys and games.
Like any other cat, make sure to brush your cat’s teeth regularly to prevent gum disease and keep an eye on it for urinary tract infections (pain urinating or urinating in strange places).
Getting your cat spayed or neutered is also good for keeping your cat healthy and prevent them from going into heat unless of course, you intend to breed.
What kind of Owner is Ideal for a Ragdoll Cat?
Ragdoll cats are adaptable, and they love people, so as far as they are concerned, humans are good. But it’s still good to take stock of what you have to offer and whether you can meet the needs of a Ragdoll.
It’s important to be sure that you (or someone) are home regularly as these cats are very social and they will get lonely if they are left alone for too long. When at home with your cat, be prepared to spend some time playing, petting, and generally hanging out with your cat!
Ragdolls are not particularly high energy, but they are big, so making sure you have space for one to play, hang out, and sprawl out will be important. They aren’t very loud, so they can usually live in places like multi-family homes without irritating anyone. If they are going to go outside, it should be in a well-fenced yard and better still, on a leash to prevent injury or theft.
Ragdolls are even good with children and pets (assuming they are properly introduced), so you don’t have to worry about them not integrating well with your family. If they get really annoyed, they tend to just leave and hide somewhere out of reach.
But if you have allergies, this may not be the cat for you as they are not particularly hypoallergenic. And if you don’t have the ability to give it a lot of attention, it may end up sad or acting out in ways that you wouldn’t want.
Ragdolls aren’t always the easiest cat to find, so you may have some searching to do. They sometimes show up in shelters, but you’d probably have an easier time going through a breeder or through a specific ragdoll shelter.
If you are prepared to give a cat regular attention, do some games and training, and commit to at least weekly combings, the Ragdoll will probably be an ideal cat for you and your family!
Summary of the Ragdoll Cat
Ragdoll cats are popular for a reason. They are loving, they are playful, and they can be trained. They love people, they aren’t too noisy, and they will put up with children. And when they go limp in people’s arms and look up with those big blue eyes, well, they’re awfully hard to resist!
This is an ideal breed for families with children or people who just want a pet to love for many years to come. If that sounds like you, then a ragdoll may be a perfect fit!
Have you ever had a ragdoll cat? Did it enjoy learning tricks and going limp in people’s arms (To better facilitate being carried around of course!)?
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.