Published on May 25th, 2016 | by Debbie Martin0
Cat Breed Series: Ragdoll
Cats, for the most part, are fiercely independent creatures with a strong sense of personal autonomy. But there are some breeds which are a little more laid-back. The ragdoll is perhaps the most well-known of these breeds – legend has it that they’re named for their habit of going completely limp whenever they’re handled.
This is a quality that appeals to many owners, and for this reason the breed enjoys enormous popularity – it’s the second most-registered breed with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, the body charged with monitoring and regulating breeders in the UK.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at this most famous of breeds, and see how it came to be, and whether it would fit into your home.
Profile: What is a Ragdoll?
When you first glimpse a Ragdoll, the impression is far from that of an imposing creature – they’re large and powerfully-built, to be sure, but they’re very warm and friendly, and will quickly try to make friends with you.
Ragdolls are famed for their intense blue eyes. This quality is genetically linked to the pint colouration the breed often exhibits. Ragdolls have long fur coats, but many owners claim that they don’t shed as often as other long-haired breeds, as their fur consists mainly of the topmost ‘guard’ hairs designed for waterproofing, rather than the thick undercoat that helps to insulate them.
Ragdolls are available in a whole host of different colours, with red, seal and chocolate, and all the shades in between. Ragdolls typically exhibit one of several different colour-patterns on their fur: There are pointed cats, which have differently-coloured extremities; there are cats with markings or spots on their face and bellies; there are cats which are entirely bi-colour; and there are so-called ‘lynx’ variants with tabby markings across their bodies. Most ragdolls kittens are born white, however; it’s only when they’re a few years old that their fur becomes fully coloured.
History: where did the ragdoll come from?
While domestic cats have been around for many thousands of years, this particular breed only came to be very recently. In the 1960s, Persian breeder Ann Baker noticed that one of her cats, which had been allowed to mate with various male Burmese, had produced a litter of very docile and affectionate kittens. These qualities were seized upon as desirable, and efforts were made to select for them. Before long, a slightly larger, gentler cat was born – as was the tendency to go limp, after which the ragdoll breed is named.
Things took a turn for the rather unusual from there. Instead of attempting to register the breed with an existing, recognised breeders association, Baker decided to set up her own association. She set up the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA) in 1971. She trademarked the name of the breed, and enforced strict standards in order to maintain the quality of the breed.
A few years later, a husband-and-wife team of breeders, Denny and Laura Dayton, used an IRCA-approved cat to create the standard of ragdoll we know today. The Dayton’s thought that the ragdoll deserved more mainstream recognition, and their standards were eventually recognised by major breeding associations. Yet more breeders would quit the IRCA in the mid-90s, and establish an offshoot of the breed known as the ‘ragamuffin’.
After Ann Baker’s death in 1997, the future of the breed appeared uncertain. The offshoot groups were unable to call their cats ‘ragdoll’ until 2005, when the trademark on the name finally expired.
Personality: what’s the ragdoll like to own?
Ragdoll owners will need to be very careful when exposing their cat to the outdoor world. While most cats are able to fend for themselves in the wider world, the ragdoll lacks the required ‘street smarts’. They’re too easy-going to stick up for themselves when faced with other cats, dogs, human beings and cars – and will usually approach problem situations without a care in the world.
For this reason, ragdolls are best restricted to an indoor life. They’re at their happiest in this environment – like their cousins the Siamese, Ragdolls crave human contact, and will gratefully receive love and attention. They’re liable to become depressed if they lack routine in their lives, or if they’re denied contact for long periods of time. For this reason, they’re best in crowded households with predictable working hours. This shouldn’t, however, imply that the Ragdoll is a stupid breed. On the contrary, it’s intelligent, and this intelligence requires stimulation.
Being a long-haired breed, Ragdoll cats will require occasional grooming. Give their fur a brush a few times a week in order to prevent it from becoming matted. Every so often, you’ll want to enlist the services of a qualified groomer in order to give the cat a more thorough clean. But if you find that you’re unable to do this, you might consider making the attempt yourself – but be prepared for a steep learning curve.
At first, the ragdoll will be full of life, and will run around at every opportunity. This is not a cause for concern; as a kitten grows older, it will mellow considerably. Be sure that any ragdoll adults you buy were born and raised indoors, as this will go a long way toward ensuring that their temperament is good, and that behavioural problems won’t crop up later down the line.
Older ragdoll cats do, however, retain their sense of fun and playfulness. This makes them ideal for households with small children in them. While older cats will tend to shy away from overbearing or boisterous toddlers, a ragdoll is mellow enough to handle them.
Every cat is an individual, and it’s impossible to know for sure what sort of personality your new cat will have until it’s well-settled into your home. That said, if you’re looking for an animal that will be able to relax even in the noisiest of circumstances, and that will introduce some warmth and affection into your home, then a ragdoll will make a perfect pet.