Getting to Know the Ragdoll

By Valentine Janet Meriwether, Ph.D
from The Cat Fanciers' Association Complete Cat Book

Ragdolls are loving, laid-back, longhaired cats. They are quite large with beautiful blue eyes and soft, plumed tails. These are gentle cats, careful not to scratch people, and good with children, older people and dogs. They tend to be floor cats, rather than jumpers and understand that humans prefer purrs to yowls, and keep their voices soft and musical. Ragdolls are loving companions, well behaved, and eager to please.

They are considerate of their humans' busy schedules, so they bathe and groom their moderately long, silky coats by themselves. Their coats are long, without being thick or dense, and have a minimal undercoat. As a result, they shed very little, rarely develop a mat, and seldom have hairballs.

They are moderate-type cats, with no extreme features. Altered males may reach 20 pounds or more, with an average range of 10 to 16 pounds. Females may reach 15 pounds, with an average range of 8 to 12 pounds. Ragdolls have good longevity. They typically live for 12 to 15 years or more, and remain healthy and vigorous. They naturally have a fat pad on their abdomen even when they are underweight.

Their light-colored bodies have darker Siamese-type points on the face, legs, tail and ears. In three of their four coat patterns, white markings partly cover the dark points and their soft coats feel more like cashmere than cat fur.

Ragdolls have four coat patterns: pointed, mitted, bi-color and van. Each pattern comes in eight colors: seal, blue, chocolate, lilac, red and cream. Points may be solid, lynx (tiger-striped points), or tortie (tortoiseshell points).

Pointed Ragdolls have the classic, Siamese-type markings: dark masks, ears, legs and tails, with a pale, creamy or misty colored body.

Mitteds look like pointeds that went wading in whipped cream and sneaked a sip. Their mittens and boots are soft, fluffy white, and so are their chins.

Bi-colors look like they lay down in whipped cream and dunked their faces in for a deep drink. All four legs, their underbodies, chest, and an upside-down "V" marking on their faces are white, and they may have a splash or two of pure white on their backs. Only the tail, ears, and the outer part of their masks show the darker markings.

Vans look like they went swimming in whipped cream. Their crystal white bodies contrast dramatically with their point markings and blue eyes. Only the top of the mask, ears, and tail, and perhaps a few spots on the body, show darker markings.

Ragdolls are slow maturing; they may take four years to reach full size, weight and coat. Kittens are born pure white. Their colored "point" markings develop gradually, with full point color coming in at two years. They have no breed-specific genetic or health problems. Kitten mortality is low. Ragdoll fertility is fair to very good. Mothers take excellent care of their nursing kittens.

Their Personality


The Ragdoll personality has a people-oriented, follow-you-everywhere quality. They greet you at the door when you come home, follow you from room to room, sleep with you, and will not let you go to the bathroom in peace. They never really grow up, and like eternal kittens, continue to be playful into old age. They are extremely gentle, and rarely bite or scratch even when frightened or in pain.

Combined with this, they have the moderate energy level of domestic longhairs. They are floppy and relaxed. You will not find them dangling from the curtain rod, or banking off the wall during a game of chase. They prefer to lie on the floor, preferably on your foot, or on the sofa beside you. These cats prefer to lie in your lap and purr while you drink your coffee, rather than knock the cup out of your hand to express their devotion.

Ragdolls love attention and human contact. They each have their own preferences. Some enjoy being held like a baby, some are foot floppers, some are lap layers, some prefer perching on shoulders, and some are attached hip and thigh whenever their humans sit down.

As a rule, they do not "talk" much, but when they do, they say a word or two in soft, musical voices. They are intelligent cats that like to play fetch, and can be trained to walk with a leash. Their gentle manner makes them a good choice for families with children as well as elderly people, and their devoted love makes them wonderful companions for those who live alone. They are nicknamed "puppycats" for good reason.

Care of a Ragdoll

Ragdoll growth patterns are completely unpredictable. Some kittens grow slowly and steadily into adulthood, taper off gradually, and stop. (This is rare; Ragdolls usually have at least one explosive growth spurt.) Most kittens have several bursts of rapid growth and take rests in between. Some kittens grow explosively, reach their full size at ten months, and stop. Some stop for a year or two, and then start growing again! This can happen anytime within the first four years of life.

Because of their rapid, but unpredictable growth patterns, Ragdolls have special feeding requirements. Most wet and dry cat foods provide lists of recommended daily feedings, based on the weight of the kittens. For Ragdoll kittens, limiting food to these amounts can be a disaster.

Ragdoll kittens are capable of gaining up to two pounds in a single month when they are having a major growth spurt. What was plenty last week may be a starvation diet this week. And of course, when kittens are in a growth spurt, they need far more food than kittens of the same size and weight who are growing moderately.

Furthermore, their fat little tummies can deceive owners (and veterinarians) into thinking the kittens are well fed. The Ragdoll stomach pad of fat is genetic, not nutritional. A Ragdoll kitten may be down to skin and bones, and still have a fat pad on its belly. A healthy Ragdoll should be meaty and solid; built like a wrestler, not like a marathon runner.

Therefore, to avoid unrecognized malnutrition and stunted growth, Ragdoll kittens should be given unlimited access to dry kitten food in a very large bowl or a self-feeder. Wet food should be given in amounts slightly greater than they are able to finish. A polished plate is a sure sign of a still-hungry kitten. Put down a few more spoonfuls, until the kitten stops eating.

Will free feeding make the kitten obese? No. Kittens that are always given unlimited access to food will snack when the urge arises, but aren't very interested in food -- because they know its always there. No deprivation means no bingeing.

Free-fed Ragdolls are a bit meaty, but not obese. Remember, they always have a genetic stomach fat pad. In adulthood, continue free feeding with adult food, as Ragdolls may continue growing, off and on, up to four years of age.

Pet Ragdolls rarely need grooming and they are almost maintenance-free. They have a naturally non-matting, moderately long coat that flows with the body, rather than stand away from it. It has abundant guard hairs, but no dense undercoat to mat, tangle, or drop all over the house.

If they do get an occasional knot, it will usually be in the mane or "armpit." However, Ragdolls enjoy a daily combing, and if they are used to it, they will not be upset if actual grooming is needed. Bathing is optional for Ragdolls that are pets.

Kittens should be groomed with a steel comb as a part of cuddling ("one hand stroke, one comb stroke; one hand stroke, one comb stroke..."). Use a very fine-toothed steel comb to remove any loose hair, and a coarse-toothed steel comb to remove any knots. Never use a slicker brush on a Ragdoll, or anything else you would not want to scrape across your own cheek.

Grooming Ragdolls for cat shows is easy in comparison to other breeds. All that is necessary is a shampoo formulated for white cats, and bathe them until they are immaculate. With adults, especially whole males, it is best to use a de-greaser first, bathe them several times the weekend before the show, and then re-bathe them. Use the de-greaser and then lather and rinse again at least three times the night before the show.

Because of their weight, Ragdolls normally should be lifted and carried with two hands, rather than dangled from one hand.

Breed History

The Ragdoll was developed in California in 1963 from a combination of sturdy, free-roaming domestic longhairs of unknown ancestry. The foundation cat, Josephine, was a white domestic longhair, with a loving, gentle personality. She carried Siamese-type markings known as the "Himalayan pattern". Josephine's white fur masked either a seal mitted or a black tuxedo pattern. All Ragdolls are descended from Josephine or unknown domestic longhair males, or from Josephine and her seal mitted son, Daddy Warbucks.

The originator of the Ragdoll was a gifted breeder, Ann Baker. She had a fine eye, a clear sense of purpose, understood the potential of the cats she found, and was determined to create a wonderful new breed. By selecting individuals with the look she wanted for her breeding program, she created the classic type standard for the Ragdoll.

In 1998, CFA voted to accept the van patterned Ragdoll, in addition to the original three patterns: pointed, mitted and bi-color. Vans occur in about one quarter of the kittens from bi-color to bi-color matings. Point-restricted vans are a natural part of the Ragdoll breed. The pattern genetics were not as well understood in earlier years, and the vans that appeared in bi-color to bi-color matings were considered to be bi-colors "with a lot of white on them."

Initially, most breeders were primarily interested in developing and establishing the breed, rather than showing it. Over time, breeders worked together to have their cats recognized and registered in various associations. CFA began registering them in 1993 and they were advanced to championship status at CFA show in 2000. Today, Ragdolls are bred and shown all over the world.

CFA-registered Ragdolls are bred from two Ragdoll parents, and must have at least three generations of Ragdolls in their immediate ancestry. No outcrossing is permitted.

Families with young or very active children should consider choosing male Ragdolls, since they are often much bigger, sturdier and meatier than females, and can handle minor mishaps more easily. Larger, older kittens are also a good choice. Also, breeders occasionally retire adults to good homes. These are less expensive, and make wonderful family pets.

Ragdolls are extremely affectionate, and love to lie on their humans. Therefore, petite, physically limited, or elderly people may prefer female kittens because of their smaller size and weight. It is not unusual for new Ragdoll owners to contact a breeder for a second companion kitten. Over the years, Ragdolls have developed a consistent reputation as wonderful cats with easy-to-live-with personalities.

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