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The Ragdoll is a large, muscular semi-shorthaired breed of cat with blue eyes, and is probably most famous for its docile temperament. The first cats were bred in America in the1960s, and were named after the popular American floppy, fabric toy because of their tendency to go limp when they are picked up and their totally laid-back disposition, and their great success is attributed to the demand for placid indoor-dwelling cats. In Australia, the Ragdoll is popular as a breed that shows very little interest in hunting, which has endeared it to a nation concerned with the preservation of wildlife.
The history of this breed makes a bizarre story, but is well documented and can be pinpointed to a Californian breeder of Persian cats, Ann Baker, and her Raggedy Ann breeding prefix. Ann Baker used to borrow an entire male cat called Blackie from her neighbour for breeding purposes as he looked very much like a Black Persian, even though he had no registered pedigree, and his mother, Josephine, was an unregistered white longhair. Josephine used to produce kittens of very unsound temperament until she had a road accident. Following treatment at a local animal hospital, the kittens she now produced had a completely different personality and were suddenly good-natured and very relaxed. Ann was very interested in this personality change, and using other inter-related cats belonging to her neighbour (including one looking rather like a Birman), together with her own Persian cats, she then bred the first Ragdolls in 1963 with the laid-back temperament that she was seeking. However, the development of this new breed took an interesting turn as Ann Baker trademarked the name 'Ragdoll' and anyone else wishing to breed them could only do so on a franchise basis through her own International Ragdoll Cat Association (if they wished to call their kittens 'Ragdolls'), and by adhering to her own very strict breeding policy. Although other breeders did join the franchise, Ann Baker tied to extort more money from them for registering kittens, and finally, following a series of court cases, the franchise situation was finally broken. The trade marking of the 'Ragdoll' name in America was finally dropped in 2005 when it was not renewed. A couple of experienced British cat breeders had become very interested in this breed, and in 1981, the first Ragdolls were imported to the UK. These two breeders imported a number of different coloured Ragdolls, which became the foundation for the breed we see in this country today. With an enthusiastic group of breeders interested in developing this new breed, a Club was founded in 1987, and the breed was formally recognised by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in 1990. The breed has rapidly gained popularity in the UK and at their specialist 2012 show more than 100 Ragdoll cats were entered.
The coat of the Ragdoll is soft and silky, with a beautiful ruff going down between the front legs like the Persian, and it has very fluffy hind legs, giving the impression of knickerbockers. Like many other longer-coated varieties, the Ragdoll looks best in winter, although coat length does vary between individual cats and neutered pets usually have the best coats of all! The breed now appears in colour pointed, mitted and bicolour patterns (although the latter pattern is still to gain Championship status in the UK), although the kittens are born white and develop their distinctive colour and pattern over two years, sometimes not reaching full maturity until three or four years. The UK breed standard currently allows for the following point colours - seal, blue, chocolate, lilac, red (known in America as flame-pointed), cream, tortie, tabby (known in America as lynx pointed), and tortie-tabby. The body has good length with a long tail, medium-size ears and large round tufted paws. Their eyes are always blue, medium-sized, but the shade can vary from deepest sapphire to a delicate china blue, although for showing the deeper the blue the better. The breed clubs aim to maintain the original standard, without any modifications generated by crossbreeding, and the Ragdoll has proved to be breed 'true' without losing any of the original features or attributes.
The Ragdoll was originally bred for its calm temperament, (now thought to derive from the Persian and Birman ancestry) and that has remained true to this day. They make wonderful pets and are full of fun and personality, loving to greet their owners with almost dog-like devotion. They are very people-orientated, good with all members of the family, right down to the smallest child, although as they can develop to over 14lb in weight, children may need to be shown how to hold them properly in order to support the back feet.
This is generally a healthy breed of cat without any breed-related defects, although they are sometimes beset by kidney disease in later years. Ragdolls need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors.
Although the coat of the Ragdoll is described as 'non-matting', this breed is nevertheless a semi-longhaired variety and will get knotted if it is not groomed every day with a brush and comb, especially under the legs, and if any loose fur is ingested this could cause hairballs. Both cat and owner will enjoy the close time spent together, and Ragdolls do not object to being groomed at all. It is also recommended that they are given a very thorough grooming about twice a week. They will eat most good quality brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese. However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available.