Last updated: February 18, 2017
The Ragdoll cat is the fourth most popular breed in America according to the Cat Fanciers Association; coming in behind the Exotics, Persians, and Maine Coons. This success is well justified as it is a breed that is not only good looking but also renowned for its superb, gentle temperament. Its semi-longhaired coat is surprisingly easy to look after, making it an ideal pet for people who would like a fabulous looking cat yet lack the time required groom a more labor intensive breed such as the Persian
Ragdolls are striking, cuddly cats. The first distinctive feature is its size. Domestic shorthairs average around 8-12 pounds in weight, yet male ragdolls can weigh between 15-20 pounds. Females are around 5 pounds less. As a large breed, they are slow maturing, reaching full size at around four.
Their coat is medium long, super soft and as such rarely matts. During shedding, keep an eye out for any tangles that appear under the armpits but other than that little grooming is needed. A defining characteristic of the ragdoll is its patterning (the arrangement of color). While there are variations between the different governing bodies (that recognize ragdolls for showing purposes) three, in particular are universally seen. They are:
Colorpoints: Here the ragdoll has dark points, i.e. the ears, the mask (face), feet and tail. This color has to be noticeably dark to contrast with the light body color. The nose should also be dark.
Mitted: Again this is a cat with dark points, yet like the name suggests there are white mitts on the front feet and the back legs have white up until the hock joint. The chin is also white which progresses down to a belly stripe via the chest. Finally, the cat may also have a white stripe between the eyes. The nose should again be dark.
Bicolor: The Bicolor is similar to the colorpoint in that it has the same dark points (the mask, feet and tail). However, there are also a few key differences. Firstly, the mask should have an upside down white V in the center, resulting in a pink rather than a dark nose. There is also less of the dark shading, with the chest, stomach, legs and ruff all being white. The body color can be mainly white with splashes of color or completely colored. Therefore, the key difference between this and the colorpoint are the white legs and big inverted V shape on the face.
These patterns can all come in any of the color patterns that are accepted. The most common colors are seal, blue, chocolate, lilac, cream and red. Each of these colors can vary drastically in shade. Bear in mind that kittens are born white. Their color develops gradually, they reach full color at around 2 years of age.
Of course, one striking part of the ragdoll is its eyes. Being big and blue, they are a captivating feature. It is impossible not to melt when looking into the eyes of a ragdoll kitten!
The Ragdolls history is a rather dramatic and controversial subject. In the 1960’s, an American by the name of Ann Baker created the Ragdoll by chance. Ann originally bred black Persian cats and from time to time borrowed a male stud cat from a neighbor, Mrs. Pennels. Despite being the son of an unregistered female, he looked like a black Persian and was rather unimaginatively called ’Blackie’.
Now Blackie’s mom was a black and white semi-longhair called Josephine. She was a rather temperamental soul and had a tendency to produce kittens of a similar disposition. However at one point she was hit by a car. Luckily she recovered, yet for some reason, she started producing kittens with a happier disposition. One such kitten that stood out to Ann (and which she also started borrowing) was christened Raggedy Ann Daddy Warbucks and had similar coloration to a Birman. He was out of a different dad, although it was never known who. Together these two males, together with another daughter of Blackie and Josephine became the original foundation cats that helped to found the Ragdoll breed.
In the early years, there was a lot of mythology surrounding the Ragdoll. These are cats that often go limp when held, being floppy in the arms of their owner. Ann originally thought that this a phenomenon caused by Josephine’s car accident as it appeared to happen after she recovered. Yet this could not have genetically altered her so it was either due to how the kittens were raised with input from their father too. Either way, it became a defining trait of the breed.
Gradually the defining characteristics of the large size, distinctive coloration, and non-matting coat became established. Later on, other cats were sold to budding Ragdoll breeders but this is where the story gets a little complicated. After having created the breed herself, Ann wanted to retain control of the kittens and continue to make money out of stock bred by others. As she had also founded the International Ragdoll Cat Association and controlled all kitten registration she tried to create a franchise from her stock, albeit after she had sold many of the cats. Ann demanded money from kittens produced by other breeders, a tricky situation when she controlled the registration rights. Naturally this angered others, and while some simply gave up on the breed others took her to court. When the franchise was legally broken the Ragdoll was finally able to flourish.
Eventually, the ragdoll was accepted by the major cat associations and was granted championship status in 2000. Today they are one of the most popular breeds on the show bench.
Advances in veterinary medicine have resulted in us being more aware of the diseases that can affect our pets and the ragdoll is no exception. One condition that they can be susceptible to is Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HMC). This condition is a hereditary heart defect which results in an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle walls. As such, the cat can end up in heart failure or other complications such as blood clots can occur. As it is caused by a genetic mutation, adults can be screened before they are bred from to ensure that the problem is not passed onto kittens. With 30% of ragdolls carrying the problem gene, effective screening is the only way to ensure that it is gradually eradicated.
The Ragdolls good nature led many to believe that it didn’t feel pain in the early years, yet this is just a dangerous myth. They feel pain in the same way as other cats do, they are just incredibly good natured around people. This temperament is what the ragdoll is most famous for.
Laid back, gentle and devoted to their owners; the ragdoll is a great choice if you want a cat you can cuddle. They quickly learn their names and will come when called, loving nothing better than sitting on your lap and getting fussed for hours on end. Saying this, they are also very playful and will provide you with endless entertainment.
Despite its playful yet gentle nature, the ragdoll is very intelligent. Your kitten should come to you already able to use a litter tray. If you would like them to come when called or for their dinner, encourage them to be with you by making yourself an inviting option! When feeding your kitten, start by making it obvious and placing the food very close in front of them. Then start to introduce the ‘cue’, which is the command. This can either be tapping the bowl or saying a certain word or phrase such as ‘kitty come’. They will start to associate the sound with food which can either be their dinner or a treat. While they will not get as well trained as a dog (cats are just too independent in general!) with a bit of patience and bribery they may also learn to sit, lie down and even high five.
Buying and Caring cost analysis
It is important to do your research when looking for a Ragdoll. Avoid buying from pet shops, or backyard breeders who are just looking to make money. Kittens should be at least 12 weeks old before they leave the breeder and be suitably vaccinated. In addition, they should also be registered with an appropriate cat association. Make sure that you receive the relevant paperwork to transfer ownership when you collect your kitten.
While there are many people advertising kittens for $300-$450 on the internet, this is likely an indication of either poor quality or unregistered kittens. A good quality, well reared kitten from a breeder that cares is likely to cost in the region of $600-$900. Expect to pay more for a kitten with show potential, or one that can be bred from.
Apart from the initial expenditure, keeping a ragdoll costs only slightly more than any other cat due to their size. First-year costs are generally slightly higher as most people will need to factor in the cost of neutering their pet. If you are not looking to breed from your ragdoll, this is highly advisable. Entire male cats will spray to mark their territory in addition to roaming far and wide to find females. The girls can be just as bad, calling incessantly and attracting the males to them. Not only can this lead to fights (which often results in injury) but it can also result in kittens being produced. Due to the vast amount of cats in rescues already it is not advisable to produce cross breed kittens which may add to their numbers. Expect to pay around $50-$70 to castrate a male cat and $70-$110 for a female to be spayed.
Your kitten should have been vaccinated by their breeder before they leave home, but if they are to be an outside cat they might need additional jabs before it is safe for them. Ensure they have received everything they need before letting them brave the outside world. Each year your ragdoll will need regular worming and flea control. Outdoor cats should be wormed every three months whereas indoor cats can be done less often at every 6 months. Flea treatment should be applied monthly. Use a brand that targets all life stages of the fleas if possible. Overall, budget around $150 per year to cover these costs.
Being obligate carnivores, cats need to eat meat to survive. Unlike dogs, they cannot be kept on a vegetarian diet. This is because the ancestor of the domestic cat also survived on a meat only diet, therefore they stopped being biologically able to produce certain vitamins and fatty acids important for survival and instead relied on getting these from their food. One example of this is the taurine which is found in meat. This amino acid is essential to keep them in good health, as a lack of it can cause blindness and severe tooth decay.
Luckily commercial pet foods take their needs into account, yet avoid feeding cheaper brands if you can as they are often bulked out with cheap ‘fillers’; carbohydrates that have little nutritional value for your ragdoll. Feed according to life stage, kittens have specific needs to accommodate their growing and as such should be fed a kitten formula.
Finally, it is always advisable to take out pet insurance for your ragdoll. In recent years, there have been fantastic advances in veterinary medicine, yet these do come at a price. By taking out insurance you are able to give yourself peace of mind. Budget around $14-$26 per month for this. It will vary depending on the provider and the age of your cat but remember to check the small print. Avoid companies that stop paying or drastically increase the excess when your cat ages and make sure long-term ailments (i.e. diabetes) have lifetime cover.