Cat Breeds 101: The Ragdoll

Purebred Ragdoll CatIf you’ve ever met a Ragdoll cat or kitten, you’ll likely have noticed their adorable markings, their cute and playful temperament, and their patient way with people. Ragdolls are popular throughout the United Kingdom and the United States and are regularly shown in cat shows, in commercials, and on television. After learning all about the Ragdoll, you might just find yourself wanting to add one to your family!

Where do Ragdolls come from?

Ragdolls originated in the U.S. in the early 1960s. A white domestic longhaired Persian cat named Josephine mated with a male Birman cat, producing a kitten with point coloration. This was the first known kitten to have the Ragdoll look of a fluffy cat with blue eyes and dark spots on their ears, muzzle, and paws.

Ann Baker, an American breeder, purchased kittens from one of Josephine’s next litters, in the hopes that she would produce a new breed of cats. She began to breed these self-named “Ragdoll” kittens, trademarked the name, and set up her own registry called the International Ragdoll Cat Association. The breed was eventually accepted by most major U.S. cat registries, and stuck to its strict breed standards until 2005, when the trademark “Ragdoll” wasn’t renewed. To this day, around 45% of the genes in the ragdoll breed come from the original pair produced by Ann Baker, which is why so many are prone to genetic health problems.

What do they look like?

The look of a Ragdoll is very distinct. These cats are large and sturdy, as opposed to being slender and sleek. Adult females will range between 8-15lbs, while males weigh between 12-20lbs. The most noticeable trait that overcomes all Ragdolls is their striking blue eyes. These blue eyes come along with the breed’s point coloration. Point coloration refers to animals that have a light-colored torso with darker extremities. This means that the color comes in on the cat’s tail, ears, face, and paws.

Closeup Kitten FaceThe reason that these areas are darker-colored than the rest of the cat has to do with temperature. Point coloration is a form of albinism, meaning that the cat’s melanin production is different than that of most cats. The dark colors are the result of cooler areas on the cat. On that note, it is worthwhile to point out all the color variations that Ragdolls come in. They can be red, seal, chocolate, blue, lilac, cream, and tortoiseshell. The most recognizable colors of a ragdoll are white with dark brown color points.

What do they act like?

These cats aren’t called Ragdolls for nothing. They have a tendency to go limp when picked up, much like a ragdoll or a baby. Their docile-ness has been a key trait of the breed, going so far as to have certain breeders question whether or not the trait helps or harms the breed. They are so snuggly and trusting that some breeders fear that they may have lost the ability to detect danger or pain. However, as long as a Ragdoll is in good hands, there is simply no reason to stray away from this sweet breed.

If you have a Ragdoll, or more than one, you’ll notice that they will infamously flop all over what is around them. This could mean sleeping right on top of each other, or in other silly locations. This flopping puts them up at the top of the list to be a lap cat. They are intelligent and relaxed and ready to hang out in a calm environment. They enjoy playing and being playful, but their most famous personality traits are their dog-like loyalty and calmness.

What is their general health like?

Unfortunately, Ragdolls aren’t known for being the healthiest cat breed. This is due to inbreeding as an attempt to keep the breed going. Since the breed is relatively new and has so many distinct aspects to the look and behavior, as many as 40% of Ragdolls are inbred. This means that their parents were very close in relation; either stemming from the same litter or parents.

It is estimated that only 63% of Ragdolls live past the age of 10, which is a high early mortality rate for a cat. They are prone to Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a painful heart disease that shows up in many felines. It is important for breeders to only breed parents that lack the gene so common in Ragdolls in order to ensure that it is not passed on.