The Ragdoll is a very popular breed, both for its looks and its personality, and appears regularly in the top ten breeds on both sides of the Atlantic. Ragdolls have semi-long fur, sparkling blue eyes, and come in some lovely colours. They are very relaxed, gentle cats, and were named for their supposed tendency to flop like rag dolls. But is this in fact true? And are any of the other strange myths about Ragdolls actually true? Here are some facts about Ragdolls, which will hopefully help you to separate fact from fantasy...
Ragdolls were created in California in the 1960s. A Persian breeder called Ann Baker began selecting kittens from Josephine, a white, longhaired, non-pedigree cat, and mating them to various sires. All subsequent Ragdolls are descended from these early matings.
Somewhat unfortunately, Ann Baker made several outlandish claims for the origins of the breed. She said that Josephine had had a car accident in her early life, and for this reason her kittens were very placid and cuddly, flopped like rag dolls when picked up, and did not feel pain. Of course, modern genetics proves that this type of inheritance would be impossible, even were the road accident story to be true, and indeed Ragdolls feel pain like any other cats. Other stories claimed that the cats were the result of secret mutation work carried out by the government, and contained either skunk or alien DNA – the story changed at different times. Ann Baker's wild claims certainly gained her publicity, but brought the breed into disrepute for a long time.
It is certainly the case that Ragdolls are very docile, placid cats. They love to be picked and to sit on laps, and they purr a lot. They are quiet, gentle, and friendly, and they make perfect family cats. They are good with children, and rarely complain at rough treatment. But as mentioned above, they do feel pain as much as any other cat, so young children should be supervised when playing with them.
The people oriented Ragdoll will even do many things normally associated with dogs. They have a tendency to follow their owners from room to room, cuddle up to them on the couch, and wait outside while their owner takes a bath or shower. Some of them will even carry toys around and play 'fetch'. Many people find these traits very endearing, but if you want a more independent cat, then the Ragdoll is not for you.
Although not nearly as large as Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats, Ragdolls are usually much larger than the average cat. The males tend to weigh between 12 and 20 pounds, while the females range between 8 and 15 pounds. So you could find yourself with a very large, cuddly, gentle cat with long hair – perfect for keeping you warm on a cold winter night.
A large number of colours are accepted for Ragdolls, but they nearly all have a light body colour with darker face, ears, legs, and tail. They come in three colour patterns – colourpoint, ie Siamese type patterning; mitted, which means they also have white paws and abdomen; and bicolour, which means they have other areas of white. It is the darker points which can vary in colour. But solid colours are not allowed...see the next fact...
For a long time Ann Baker kept a pretty tight rein on the breed; she decided on the colours allowed, and she demanded to make all decisions concerning the breed. In the 1990s, some Ragdoll breeders decided to set up on their own. Ann Baker held a trademark for the name 'Ragdoll' so these breeders renamed their cats as 'Ragamuffins'. Ragamuffins are essentially Ragdolls in other colours, often solid colours or bicoloured, which are not allowed for Ragdolls.
No matter what the fur colour, almost all Ragdolls have blue eyes. Indeed, some people think that the breed has to have blue eyes, but this is not the case, and in a minority of Ragdolls, the eyes darken after kittenhood to a gold or greenish colour, much like that of most other cats.
If you want an indoor cat, or a cat which would be happy to live in a flat, the Ragdoll is the perfect breed for you. Many pedigree breeders ask that their cats be kept indoors for safety, but some active breeds are not that happy with this. But the placid Ragdoll will have no problem with it. Most of them have no desire to hunt, don't want to go out, and are never happier than when snuggled up with their owners. So they are the perfect flat cat.
Finally, a very strange fact... Occasionally a cat is born with two faces, caused by a rare congenital deformity called diprosopia. These cats are often called 'Janus cats', from the Roman god Janus who had two faces. Many end up being put down or dying early in life, but in 1999 a woman called Marty Stevens rescued a Ragdoll from this fate. She called him 'Frankenlouie', and he lived for 15 years. The Guinness Book of Records lists him as the world's oldest Janus cat.
Hopefully you will by now have managed to sort out the truth from the mythology, and will have a fairly good idea whether or not the Ragdoll is the cat for you. If you would like one, they are relatively common, owing to their popularity, so breeders should not be too difficult to find. So good luck!