Ragdoll Cat Breed Characteristics and History

Terry Hurley
Ragdoll kitten
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Ragdoll cats are large, gentle cats whose name comes from the fact that they go completely limp when picked up. Ragdolls have a reputation for being a serene and friendly breed, and they are notably affectionate toward their owners.

The Origin of Ragdoll Cats

Beginnings of the Breed

The Ragdoll actually originated in California in the early 1960s. Ann Baker, of Riverside California bred a white stray female she found with other cats that were mostly strays to achieve the very calm and gentle temperament that is so well established in the breed today.

Why These Cats Are Called Ragdolls

Ragdolls get their name from one of the key characteristics Ann Baker was breeding for. When these cats are picked up, they tend to go rather limp in your arms, just like a stuffed, cloth ragdoll toy that flops without support.


Ragdolls have a naturally relaxed and easy going personality. Their gentle, sweet natures and love of people make them wonderful family pets. They are safe to keep around small children, but consider covering the claws with a product called Soft Paws if you're concerned about scratches.

It is much safer to keep these felines as indoor house pets. Most Ragdolls are so docile it can be dangerous to let them go outside since most do not hunt and some don't seem to understand how to defend themselves if attacked by another animal.

Physical Characteristics

According to the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA), a mature Ragdoll of between three and four years of age can weigh ten to fifteen pounds for females and from fifteen to twenty pounds for altered males.

Mitted Ragdoll kitten

These cats are semi longhaired with silky, plush coats.Their fur colors include:

  • Seal
  • Chocolate
  • Lilac
  • Blue
  • Cream

Additionally, these colors also come with different patterns, including:

  • Van - A darker coloring than the body is limited to the top of the head and ears, on the tail, and an occasional color spot on an otherwise solid body.
  • Mitted - The cat's front legs have white feet that give the impression of wearing mittens. The white on the back legs extends up from the feet to around the hocks. They usually also have a white marking on their foreheads,noses and chins, as well as a strip of white on their undersides.
  • Bi-color - These cat are mainly a creamy white on their entire body with the exception of coloring on their ears and the outer portion of their facial mask, as well as their tails.
  • Solid pointed - These cat's faces, legs, tails and ears are darker than their bodies. Most pointed kittens are born white, and their true colors begin to show after about one week old. Pointed Ragdolls usually darken with age, so older cats will have a marked opposition of light and dark on their bodies. I addition to being pointed, the pointed extremities can also exhibit various patterns of their own.
Seal point lynx Ragdoll

These additional patterns on pointed cats include:

  • Lynx - This pattern is most aptly described by the CFA as "ghost striping."
  • Tortie - This pattern produces mottled coloring on the pointed areas.
  • Torbie - This pattern is a combination of lynx and tortie markings.

For a complete run down on colors and patterns, visit the CFA breed standard.

Health Issues

According to VetInfo.com, there are certain health issues associated with this breed. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy - This condition leads to a thickening of the heart muscles and interferes with the organ's ability to contract properly.
  • Feline Mucopolysaccharidosis - This condition can lead to problems with vision and mobility.

Common Ragdoll Myths

Adult Ragdoll cat

Perhaps because of their popularity and docile nature, Ragdolls have become the brunt of a number of urban myths. Despite popular opinion, these felines are not from another planet and are indeed normal cats, just a little calmer.

Here are a few of the more common myths:

  • Myth: Ragdolls are never frightened and feel little pain.
  • Truth: Although these kitties are very calm and collected, they can certainly get frightened and feel pain just like any other living creature. Don't let their apparent apathy fool you!
  • Myth: Ragdoll cats can't hunt or defend themselves.
  • Truth: While it's true cats of this breed rarely hunt or fight with other animals, they do have the ability. However, clumsiness can be a trait with this breed, so don't expect a Ragdoll to keep your home mice-free.
  • Myth: Ragdoll cats aren't intelligent.
  • Truth: Just because they're relaxed doesn't mean they're dumb. Ragdolls are just as trainable as any other breed.
  • Myth: People allergic to cats can tolerate Ragdolls.
  • Truth: Despite their thick coat, Ragdolls lack a layer of undercoat and shed very little. This certainly makes house keeping easier, but the fact is that allergies are commonly caused by a certain protein found in pet dander and saliva. This unfortunately means that Ragdolls will cause allergic reactions just like any other breed.

Books About Ragdolls

If you're truly considering make a Ragdoll part of your life, the following books can help you learn even more about these lovely cats.

Locating a Breeder

The following referral services can help you locate breeders. It is up to you to carefully evaluate the breeder and the cattery to make sure you are dealing with a reputable person with healthy stock. Aside from that, visiting breeders gives you a chance to interact with a number of Ragdolls and hopefully find just the right pet for you.

Should You Get a Ragdoll?

Ragdolls can be excellent pets, especially if you want a loving, friendly companion that will be affectionate to everyone in your home and visitors. They're large cats, so make sure your home is equipped for them. Ragdolls require almost no grooming, shed very little and can be trained quite easily. They also adapt very well to small apartment life.

On the other hand, Ragdolls may not be the right breed for you if you need to leave your cat alone for long periods of time. They like attention, but they aren't as "emotive" as many cats.

Ragdolls should stay indoors as much as possible, and they should usually only be taken outside on a leash for short periods of time. They almost never hunt, and they aren't very effective at it when they do. Don't choose a Ragdoll if you need a mouser. All in all, Ragdolls are very dependent cats that need a good deal of love and attention. If you're capable of giving that, this could be the breed for you.

Ragdoll Cat Breed Characteristics and History