The ragdoll is a breed of semi-long haired cat that was developed by American breeder Ann Baker. It has blue eyes, distinct colourpoint coat and is known for a docile and placid temperament. The name came about from the original cats who had a habit of going limp and relaxed when picked up, hence ragdoll.
The breed can be traced from a long haired cat named Josephine who was a Persian/Angora type who had mated with various unknown males of a Burmese type. She was involved in a car accident and after recovering, her next little of kittens were very docile and placid with the ragdoll behaviour they were named for. Ann Baker bought several kittens from this and the following litter who were all the same and set about enhancing the breed.
Some of the early ragdolls were Blackie, an all-black, Burmese like male and Daddy Warbucks, a seal point with white feet. Blackie sired a dark brown female called Buckwheat while Daddy Warbucks sired a bi-colour female called Fugianna and all Ragdolls are descended from these cats.
At first, there was no recognition for the breed with the major cat registries but in 1975, Denny and Laura Dayton began developing the standard for them that eventually led to acceptance with the CFA and other major standards.
The Ragdoll is described as affectionate and intelligent along with its relaxed temperature and gentle nature. Some breeders’ worry the cats are too relaxed even calmly approaching a moving car or a vicious dog leading to injuries. This temperament is thought to be genetic, though from what part of the genes it comes from is unknown.
Physically, the ragdoll is a large cat. A female will weigh around 8-15 pounds with males larger at around 12-20 pounds. Their coat is very plush but doesn’t have a dense undercoat so can become snarled and knotted. They are often confused with Birmans but can be told apart due to size and chin colour as ragdolls have white chins while Birmans are coloured.
There are six different colours and some dilutes of them that are recognised; red, seal, chocolate, flame and the dilutes of blue, cream and lilac. There is also a tortoise shell pattern in the colours along with pointed, mitted, bicolour and lynx as the other recognised patterns. Traditionally, Ragdoll kittens are born white and get their colour through at 8-10 weeks.
Ragdolls, along with Siamese, have been shown in some studies to have the lowest survival rate with around 63% living to 10 years old. Background inbreeding is another cause of problems, with around 45% of genes coming from a single cat, Daddy Warbucks.
Ragdolls are also susceptible to Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a common heart disease in cats. This is because they have two copies of the HCM genes and means the symptoms can present as early as six months and lead to death by the age of three years. A DNA test has been developed to identify the gene and it is now recommended only to breed from Ragdoll cats that don’t have the gene to avoid the problems.