For a breed that is known for becoming heavy and ragdoll-like when picked up (hence the name), the Ragdoll is actually a laid-back cat with a great disposition. Its people-oriented personality and affectionate nature make the breed a family favourite and keep Ragdoll aficionados coming back for more.
The Ragdoll is a fairly new breed that was developed by Ann Baker in the early 1960s. According to The International Cat Association (TICA), Baker’s pure white longhaired cat, Josephine, is believed to be the matriarch of the breed. After Baker bred Josephine with other male cats she owned or found, she noticed that the offspring of Josephine had unique temperament traits that were very endearing. One of the most popular traits of the offspring was the relaxed nature of the cats when picked up, similar to the heaviness of a doll—this is where the “Ragdoll” nickname came from.
Baker set up her own registry—the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA)—and strict breeding standards were enforced. In 1975, a group led by Denny Dayton broke rank with IRCA in order to gain mainstream attention for the Ragdoll. Dayton’s mission was a success; this group eventually developed the Ragdoll standard currently accepted by major cat registries.
Breeders are insistent on the description of the Ragdoll to be a blue eyed and “pointed” breed, which means the body is lighter in colour than the points—the face, legs, tail, and ears. But don’t let the Ragdoll’s regal looks fool you into thinking this is a stuffy breed. Most Ragdolls are very relaxed and docile, and enjoy being around people. “They love their people and they get along well with other dogs and cats,” says Sue Shorey, president of the Ragdoll Fanciers Club International (RFCI). In fact, according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), many Ragdolls are very devoted to their owners and will even run to greet their people at the door.
The point design that Ragdolls are known for isn’t evident at birth. Kittens are born pure white and start to develop their colouring within the first few weeks of life. Within two to three years, the Ragdoll will fully develop its colours.
The Ragdoll is a cat of medium to large build. On average, male Ragdolls range from 15 to 20 pounds; females usually range around 10 to 15 pounds.
Grooming requirements for Ragdolls are fairly minimal, as they do not possess a double coat. But rest assured, even without a double coat, the Ragdoll’s fur is soft and plush, with a silky touch.
Although Ragdoll cats are known for going limp when picked up, not every Ragdoll has this trait—especially playful kittens. But no matter if a Ragdoll has this trait or not, they always bring a smile to their owners’ faces with their even disposition.
Their intelligence continues to amaze Ragdoll owners. According to Shorey, Ragdolls can learn their names when called, can be taught how to fetch, and learn what they are allowed to do (and not to do). “They don’t have that destructive trait to them,” Shorey says.
The Ragdoll did receive somewhat of a black eye from reports that said the breed was more prone to feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a heart disease where areas of the heart muscle enlarge and thicken. HCM is the most common heart disease in felines and an alarming trait of the disease is that a cat could seem healthy but will become seriously ill very quickly, or even die suddenly. However, DNA tests have been developed in the past few years that can recognize the mutation, and it has helped Ragdoll breeders to take it out of the breed, so today HCM is not prevalent nor is the breed prone to any other specific health problems. It might be best for a Ragdoll cat to remain indoors, however. Because of their non-violent and relaxed nature, they could become victim to other outside cats or unpredictable elements.
Bottom line? The Ragdoll is a great companion for a cat lover. They beg to give affection and attention to their owners—and they certainly love to get the same in return. Chill and docile, the Ragdoll is the perfect addition to a family wanting to maintain a relaxed vibe throughout the household.