Guide to Cat Breeds (See Full List)

Ragdoll

Ragdoll

Ancestry: Domestic longhairs, likely Persian, Birman,and/or Angora lookalikes
Place of Origin: Riverside, California, USA
Date of Origin: Early 1960s
Accepted by: All North American cat associations (championship)

 
Description

The Ragdoll is medium to large, with a long, broad, heavily boned body and an impression of graceful, flowing movement and subdued power. The body is large and long, broad and solid, firm and muscular, with heavy boning. It’s rectangular in shape, with a full chest and equal width across the shoulders and hindquarters. While not fat, a moderate stomach pad on the lower abdomen is acceptable. The legs are heavily boned, medium length with the back legs slightly longer than the front. The tail is long, with a full plume.

Ragdolls are moderate in all ways, with no extremes. Mature males weigh 12 to 20 pounds; mature females weigh 8 to 15 pounds. Females may be substantially smaller in size. Altered males are more likely to reach 20 pounds than whole males. No outcrosses are allowed.

The head is proportionately large with a broad, modified wedge that is equilateral in shape, where all sides are of equal length as measured from the outside of the base of the ear to the end of the gently rounded muzzle, with the appearance of a flat plane between the ears. The cheeks are in line with the wedge. The chin is well developed and the neck is heavy and strong. The profile is slightly curving, ending in a straight, medium-length nose. The chin is well-developed, strong, and in line with nose and upper lip.

The ears are medium in size, wide set and moderately flared, continuing the line of the wedge. They’re wide at the base, have rounded tips, and tilt forward. The large eyes are vivid blue ovals, wide set and moderately slanted, complementing the wedge.

The naturally non-matting, moderately long coat is characterized by abundant guard hairs and minimal woolly undercoat. It flows with the body. The fur is short on the face, longer on the ruff, and shorter on the shoulder blades, lengthening toward the tail. The fur on the front legs is short to medium; the fur on the hind legs is medium to medium-long with full, feathery britches. The tail has a full plume.

All Ragdolls are pointed, but the points are partially overlaid with white in some patterns. The Ragdoll comes in six colors: seal, blue, chocolate, lilac, red, and cream. Accepted patterns are colorpoint, bicolor, van, and mitted. Colorpoint Ragdolls have dense and clearly defined masks, ears, legs, feet, and tails; the points may be solid, lynx, tortie, and tortie-lynx. Bicolors have a white inverted "V" on the mask, and the chin, chest, and underside are white; the upper body may show white spotting. Legs and feet are preferably all white. Mitted Ragdolls have well-defined points on legs (except the feet), ears, masks, and tails. The front feet have evenly matched white mittens on both feet up to and around the wrist joint. The back legs are white up to and around the hocks. In van pattern, point color is restricted to the ears, tail, and mask. The body, legs, and feet are white with minor spotting allowed. Ragdolls can take three years, sometimes more, to reach their full color potential.

History

The Ragdoll, a large blue-eyed breed dressed in long, silky fur and sporting the colorpoint pattern, is well-loved by an ever-growing group of fanciers addicted to the breed’s charms. Despite a bewildering past, the breed’s sweet nature, non-matting fur, and lovely colors and patterns have helped the Ragdoll overcome myth and mystery to claw its way up to become one of the most popular longhairs, topped only by the Persian and the Maine Coon. The Ragdoll’s history is as confusing as it is controversial. Instead of facts, we have colorful narratives, speculation, hypotheses and flat-out fiction.

The Ragdoll was developed in the 1960s by the late Ann Baker of Riverside, California, a former Persian breeder. In fact, who, where and when are just about the only details involving the breed’s origins that are not subject to debate. Now that Baker has passed on, it’s likely the true story will never be told.

According to Baker, in the early 1960s the Ragdoll’s foundation cat, a longhaired white Angora look-alike named Josephine, was taken to a laboratory after being hit by a car, where she was genetically altered as part of a secret government experiment. All subsequent offspring possessed the same characteristics: non-matting fur, docile nature, large size, and the tendency to go limp in your arms like a child’s rag doll—thus the breed's name. However, this couldn’t be confirmed, Baker claimed, since the government suppressed all the evidence.

While most well-balanced people scoff at this conspiracy theory, and genetics experts say that this kind of genetic engineering wasn’t even possible in the 1960s, this story and other Twilight Zone tales uttered by Baker have plagued Ragdoll breeders for years, since cat associations found it hard to take the breed seriously. According to the Ragdoll Connection Network, a group committed to promoting the breed, Baker’s claims became even more strange and hard to believe as time went on. For example, they say she claimed Ragdolls were crossbred with skunks to improve the cats’ tails and also represented a link between humans and extraterrestrials.

It’s more likely that Josephine simply possessed a pleasing combination of recessive genetic traits. When bred to males who added aesthetic traits of their own, Josephine produced eye-catching offspring. These attention-getting progeny, however they were produced, became the foundation of the Ragdoll breed. In particular, three of Josephine’s progeny were noteworthy—Buckwheat, Fugianna and Daddy War Bucks—and evidently all subsequent Ragdoll generations can be traced back to them. Apparently, none of these cats or their parents were purebreds, although that can’t be proven since Baker didn’t document the trysts and in fact didn’t even own Josephine, who was a semi-feral cat who lived on the property of Mr. and Mrs. Pennels, Baker’s neighbors.

Josephine and a Birman look-alike owned by the Pennels produced Daddy War Bucks, who also resembled a Birman. Baker referred to him as the father of the Ragdoll look. Josephine mated with Daddy War Bucks and produced Fugianna. Buckwheat was the daughter of Josephine and an unknown male, possibly Daddy War Bucks. Baker acquired all three offspring from the Pennels. At this point, according to some sources, Josephine was euthanized by Mr. Pennels, along with many of her offspring who were living on the Pennels’ property.

Baker bred Buckwheat to Daddy War Bucks and produced two solid colored cats and two colorpoint cats. These two colorpoints, Kyoto (a seal mitted colorpoint) and Tiki (a seal colorpoint), were registered as Ragdolls with the National Cat Fanciers' Association (NCFA) on December 30, 1966.

Over the next few years Baker increased her breeding stock and band of breeders. In 1971, Baker founded her own registry called the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA), and, in an attempt to protect her proprietary interests and keep control of the breed, she trademarked the Ragdoll name. The trademark was valid until 2005.

She sold Ragdoll franchises, which meant IRCA breeders had to pay licensing fees, breed according to Baker’s carefully controlled guidelines and get her approval for all Ragdoll matings in order to use the Ragdoll name. In addition, breeders had to pay a 10 percent royalty for each kitten they sold. IRCA Ragdolls could only be registered with IRCA, and were not allowed to be shown or registered with the mainstream cat associations.

Many breeders were not pleased with this arrangement, and also wanted to distance themselves from the questionable claims being made about their beloved breed. These breeders split from Baker and IRCA and in 1975 formed the Ragdoll Society, later changing it to the Ragdoll Fanciers’ Club International (RFCI). Founded by Denny and Laura Dayton, the first breeders to buy Ragdolls from Baker, this group was dedicated to developing the breed and achieving recognition with the mainstream cat associations. The Daytons and the other breakaway breeders felt the Ragdoll’s trademark didn’t apply to them, since they had purchased their cats before the breed name was trademarked. Baker didn’t agree, and years of bitter litigation followed.

Later, other breed groups affiliated with the mainstream cat associations formed to promote the Ragdoll, such as the CFA-affiliated Ragdolls of America Group (RAG) in 1993. It took many years to overcome the past controversy, but the RFCI and RAG breeders and other breeders not affiliated with IRCA finally advanced the Ragdoll to championship status in every major North American cat association—even CFA, which belatedly granted championship in 2000. The Ragdoll has earned its place in the spotlight, just as it has earned its place in the laps and hearts of fanciers everywhere. Misinformation still creates occasional confusion, but Ragdoll fanciers are striving to move past all that, and look toward a bright future with one of the cat fancy’s rising stars. Today, the Ragdoll is the third most popular longhair and the fourth most popular breed overall, according to CFA’s 2013 registration totals.

Notes

Even though Ragdolls have long coats, they have minimal awn and down undercoats, the hair types mostly responsible for matting. Because of this, they do not shed as much as some breeds and require only a good weekly grooming with a quality steel comb to remove loose hairs and keep them looking their best. Pay particular attention to the neck ruff and hindquarters during grooming, since the coat is generally longer there. Ragdolls usually enjoy the attention they get during grooming, so if you’re so inclined, groom your puppycat more often.

Although few breed-specific health problems or diseases have been noted in the Ragdoll, it’s still wise to buy from a breeder who offers a written health guarantee. With such a jumbo-sized breed, the possibility of hip dysplasia is a concern for this breed, though as yet no accounts of this condition have been reported. The most life-threatening disease that has been found to exist in some lines is the inherited heart disease feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The first noticeable symptom of HCM is often sudden death at a relatively early age. The genetic mutation specific to the Ragdoll causes early onset HCM at an average age of 15 months. Ragdolls who inherit two copies of the mutated gene tend to develop the disease earlier than Ragdolls who inherit only one copy. HCM is the most common feline heart disease, and has been found in other breeds and in random-bred cats as well. Fortunately, the Veterinary Cardiac Genetics Lab of Dr. Kathryn Meurs at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, has developed a do-at-home genetic test for the HCM genetic mutation found in Ragdolls. The test can identify which cats may develop the disease and how severely, depending upon whether the cat inherited the gene from one parent or both. The test is also available at the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at UC Davis, California. Breeders can now screen their breeding stock, identify those who test positive, and remove them from their breeding programs. Owners can also have their cats tested so treatment can begin early, if necessary, although this should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Talk to your breeder about these and any other health concerns you may have and ask about any known problems inherent in the breeder’s lines. Also, ask your breeder if she screens her breeding stock for HCM. Even if she says no problems exist, a written health guarantee is good insurance.

Did you know?

The Ragdoll is a large breed, with a growth pattern that’s unpredictable. Kittens may grow steadily or have sudden bursts of rapid growth, with periods of slow growth in between. Ragdolls can take three to four years to mature and achieve their full size and weight.

Personality

Docile, sweet and really neat—all Ragdoll fanciers agree on that much about this large and lovable breed. True to their name, Ragdolls tend to go limp in your arms due to their easygoing, laidback temperament. Playful and agreeable to just about any suggestion, Ragdolls make ideal indoor companions and adapt easily to most environments. They get along well with adults, children and dogs, are easily trained (for cats). They are docile, mild-mannered, people-oriented, and usually well-behaved. Ragdolls are quiet cats but will chat in soft, polite voices if they have something important to say.

Moderately active, Ragdolls love to play and are particularly good with children, since they are gentle and tend not to scratch. However, young children should be supervised so they do not take advantage of the cat's placid, accepting nature. They are cats, after all, and can be pushed to defend themselves if hurt or harassed. This breed also gets along well with like-minded cats and cat-friendly dogs, as long as the proper introductions are made.

Many Ragdolls can be trained to walk on a leash. They remain kittenish and eager to play all of their lives. They crave human companionship, will greet you at the door and follow you around the house. Some jump in your lap when you sit down, while others prefer to sit beside you. Some like to flop on your feet, while others prefer perching on your shoulder. In other words, they want to be near you, on you, with you at all times. Their affectionate, playful nature has earned them the nickname "puppycats."

Breed Characteristics

Size:Medium to large.
Coat Length(s):Long hair.
Body Type:Moderate.
Grooming Requirement:Once a week.
Talkativeness:Quiet.
Activity Level:Fairly low.
Affection:Very affectionate.
Usually Good With:Everyone.
Time Alone:4 to 8 hours per day.
Attention:Needs average attention.
Handling:Easy to handle.