Cats are from Mars and dogs are from Venus. Dogs are generally considered to be loyal, affectionate, and courageous, while cats have a reputation for being independent, standoffish, self-centered and well…catty. But, just like with any other generalization, there are some exceptions.
Join us for this edition of Animal Facts as we shed some light on a cat that just might make you think twice about getting a dog—the Ragdoll.
The Ragdoll cat was developed in the 1960s in Riverside, California by breeder Ann Baker. Baker laid the foundation for the breed with a white, domestic longhair named Josephine, and an assortment of other longhaired felines that she either owned or purchased as kittens from neighbors.
She methodically chose large, docile cats that had thick, lush coats marked with the classic Himalayan pattern or “points” that Siamese cats are known for. At some juncture, Birmans, Persians, and Burmese were likely added to the mix. The end result was a kitty she named the Ragdoll, after its tendency to go limp and settle blissfully into the arms of whomever picks it up.
Baker made several bizarre claims about the origins of the unusual breed, including CIA and alien involvement, and the infusing of human genes with feline genes. None of her allegations were ever proven. Or perhaps they were…
Fun Fact: In 1993, the Cat Fanciers Association began registering the Ragdoll, giving them full recognition in 2000. The breed is now recognized by most registries.
Color and Appearance
The Ragdoll is one of the largest domesticated cats. Females weigh between 8 and 15 pounds, while males weigh in at 12 to 20 pounds. Its lush coat is double-layered, consisting of an outercoat made up of long guard hairs, and a sparse undercoat that helps control shedding and matting.
Ragdolls come in several colors including chocolate, cream, seal, red, blue, and lilac. Tortoiseshell and lynx variations in all colors and patterns are also common. Pattern types include colorpoint (a darker color presenting on the nose, ears, paws, and tail), mitted (white paws, abdomen and chin), and bicolor (white inverted “v” on the face, white paws, white abdomen). Less common is the Van pattern (more pervasive amounts of white on a bicolor).
All Ragdoll kittens are born white, with the first hints of coloration appearing between 8 and 12 weeks. It takes 2 to 4 years for them to achieve full coloration and patterns.
Fun Fact: All purebred Ragdolls have blue eyes which is caused by the same genes responsible for their point coloration.
Temperament and Family Life
As previously mentioned, Ragdoll cats are typically placid and sweet, and are notorious for comfortably flopping into the arms of anyone willing to hold them. Like “Velcro dogs,” they love to follow their people from room to room and try to get involved in whatever they’re doing. From chasing down a good squeak toy, to a cozy snuggle on the couch, Ragdolls are game to try any activity that makes their humans happy—at least once.
But you won’t have to worry about your kitty knocking over the knick knacks on the mantle or commandeering the kitchen counter. Since they prefer to be on the same plane as their people, this breed is not likely to venture higher than your sofa or bed.
Fun Fact: Some attribute the Ragdoll’s “floppiness” to a genetic mutation passed down from the Birman and Persian breeds.
Training and Intelligence
Everyone knows that cats are highly intelligent, but did you know that some breeds are trainable, too? Well, pick your chin up from the floor, because the Ragdoll just happens to be one of these breeds.
It’s easy to assume that some cats are more trainable because they possess a higher degree of intelligence than others, but unlike dogs, trainability is not a reliable means of measuring feline intelligence. These cats are more trainable not because they are intelligent, but in spite of their intelligence. Ragdolls are highly motivated by the approval of their humans, so they learn commands because of their desire to please them—their “cool as a cucumber” demeanor doesn’t hurt either.
Through a combination of clicker training and positive reinforcement, you can train your Ragdoll to come when called, to pick up toys, and even teach them to do tricks.
Fun Fact: Ragdolls love water. They’ll trip over their paws to get to the faucet when they hear the sound of running water. To keep your kitty safe, never leave them alone in a pool or large body of water.
Health and Lifespan
The average lifespan of a well-kept Ragdoll is 12 to 15 years. Common health problems include urinary conditions like bladder stones, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a potentially fatal thickening of the heart wall), crypotococcosis( a respiratory infection causes by yeast-like fungus), and feline infectious peritonitis (an abdominal infection caused by a mutation of the feline enteric coronavirus—a distant cousin to COVID 19).
Fun Fact: Ragdoll cats don’t fully mature until they’re about four years old. So be prepared to have a kitten around for quite some time.
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