History of the Ragdoll Cat

The history of the Ragdoll is shrouded in both mystery and controversy. First, because nobody could really establish what specific breed or breeds of cats were used in the creation of the feline breed that is well-known for its very docile and placid temperament but very affectionate, nonetheless. Second, because there grew a rift between the recognized creator of the feline breed and the growing community of Ragdoll owners.

fluffy cats

No one can be sure what feline gene is in the Ragdoll. What is known is that even before Ann Baker started creating and breeding the Ragdoll in 1963, there was already a domesticated, street-smart longhaired cat that came with a light-grey coat by the name of Josephine. This non-pedigreed kitty is owned by the neighbors of Ann Baker, the Pennels. It is believed to be either a Turkish Angora or a Persian type of feline; no one can be sure. However, the Ragdoll Historical Society claims that Josephine is a white Angora.

Josephine is not like most modern cats that are kept indoors. Josephine is a neighborhood free-roaming kitty that frequently met and ‘interacted’ with all sorts of tom cats and male house cats producing in the process, several litters that had unique characteristics. Baker observed these kittens to be very loving and affectionate, had placid and docile temperaments, and above all, displayed the mind-boggling ability to go limp when picked up. This is unlike most cats that stiffen or tense their bodies when picked up. Josephine’s litters went limp and fully relaxed the moment somebody picked them up.

Ann Baker saw the distinct characteristics of Josephine’s litters and, perhaps knowing this could be something special, also borrowed a male Birman cat from the Pennels. Again, the mystery is that no one can be sure if it is really a Birman or it just looks like a Birman. You have to keep in mind that these are non-pedigreed cats so no one can be certain of their historical origins.

Nevertheless, the first kittens to come out from the mating between Josephine and the Birman-looking male cat were an all-black Burmese-looking male and a white-foot, seal point male. Baker named the seal point as Daddy Warbucks while the all-black as Blackie (an apt name, if you ask us).

Baker then mated both Daddy Warbucks and Blackie to Josephine to produce Fugianna and Buckwheat, respectively. Fugianna took on a bi-color coat while Buckwheat had dark brown coat. Blackie had Burmese-like coat while Fugianna had slightly longer fur. These four cats – Josephine, Daddy Warbucks, Fugianna, and Buckwheat – were instrumental in Ann Baker’s creation of the Ragdoll.

In 1965, Baker mated Buckwheat (daughter of Josephine and Blackie) to its uncle, Daddy Warbucks. The inbreeding produced two pointed and two solid-colored kittens. The former were named Kyoto and Tiki while the latter were given the names Gueber and Mitts. Kyoto was a seal mitted male while Tiki had seal color point.

In December 1966, Ann Baker registered Daddy Warbucks, Fugianna, Kyoto, and Tiki as the very first Ragdolls in the world. She never registered the cats that had solid colors to make sure that the Ragdoll breed will be set.

By 1969, Baker was already selling her Ragdolls as her breeding stock has already increased after careful selective inbreeding practices. Denny and Laura Dayton were two of those who bought a pair from Ann Baker and named these as Buddy and Rosie.

The Daytons wanted to work with Baker in promoting the breed. Unfortunately, and very uncharacteristic of a breeder, Baker spurned traditional organizations of cat breeders. We can only speculate that Baker did not want to lose total control of the breed which was already growing in popularity by this time. Our guess is that if Baker allowed the Ragdoll to be under one organization, she will lose control and that would mean loss of the monopoly. Of course, you’re more than welcome to share your views as to why Ann Baker spurned cat breeding organizations.

To address this growing clamor for an organization of Ragdoll breeders, Baker established in 1971 the International Ragdoll Cat Association or IRCA. In September of the same year, IRCA became a full-fledged business through franchising. The only way potential Ragdoll breeders can get a breeding pair is if they become an IRCA franchise. Obviously, Baker wanted to monopolize the Ragdoll breeding market.

The Daytons who bought a pair prior to the establishment of the IRCA, along with other early Ragdoll owners, strongly opposed the franchising of the breed and decided to have nothing to do with the Baker scheme. In 1975, the Dayton couple together with other Ragdoll owners who severed their ties with Baker, established the Ragdoll Society in an effort to enhance the breed. Denny was elected the President while his wife, Laura, was chosen Vice-President.

Through the years, the Ragdoll Society grew in membership and included not only breeders but Ragdoll owners as well. Ragdoll owners were encouraged to join the growing ‘Family of Ragdoll Owners’. In 1977, the Ragdoll Society thought it was high time that the breed had its club membership. A year later, the Ragdoll Fanciers Club or RFC was established and affiliated with the Cat Fanciers Federation. The CFF was chosen on the account that it was the first in recognizing the breed in all three patterns.

In 1978, the Ragdoll Fanciers Club was created primarily to get the breed accepted and recognized in all cat associations. Unfortunately, some legal challenges grew from this effort, culminating in the split of the RFC from the CFF.

Today, the Ragdoll community has the Ragdoll Fanciers’ Club International as its official breed club. It is recognized by the major feline registries in the world such as the Cat Fanciers’ Association and the Federation Internationale Feline.

Quick Facts about the Ragdoll Cat Breed

The Daytons and the Ragdoll Society established the standards of the breed, although it was Ann Baker who first created the lovely kitty. These included the following:

  • Male Ragdolls can weigh at least 15 pounds and as much as 20 pounds. Females are usually lighter by around 5 pounds and a few inches shorter than their male brethren.
  • This cat was given the name ‘Ragdoll’ because of its peculiar behavior of going limp when picked up. It would quietly relax on its back, lying in one’s arms, allowing them to be held like babies. Technically, the apt description will be more like ‘holding a child’s rag doll’.
  • Ragdoll kittens are born white. Only by the age of 2 to 3 years will they show their full color. Their points and patterns will usually start to show by around 10 days old, however.
  • Ragdolls come in 3 different color patterns: mitted, bi-color, and color point. Mitted Ragdolls have white paws, belly strip, and chin. Bi-color Ragdolls come with an even distribution of white and a solid color. Colorpoint Ragdolls come with pointed markings that can be tortoiseshell, lynx, solid, or a combination of lynx and tortoiseshell. There is another color pattern that is quite rare. This is called Van and is considered a sub-type of Bi-color pattern. It is characterized by white with specks of darker color located on the Ragdoll’s ears, tail, and the top of its mask.
  • The Ragdoll’s color points are mostly seal, although chocolate, blue, red, cream, and lilac can also be seen, albeit rarely.
  • These large kitties have blue eyes.
  • Ragdolls have fur that comes with rabbit-like texture. It sheds very little and never mats or tangles.
  • Ragdolls can live up to 17 years, although there are reports of a kitty reaching 19.5 years. The minimum number of years that a Ragdoll should live is 12.
  • The Cat Fanciers’ Association ranks the Ragdoll as the number 2 most popular kitty breed in the world, second to the Exotic.
  • The International Cat Association also ranks the Ragdoll as the world’s second most popular breed after the Bengal.

blue eyed kitten

Things You Should Know

Ragdolls are truly lovable kitties. They are huge and have this very unique quality in them that you won’t see in any other cat. However, it would be a gross mistake if you think that anyone can own a Ragdoll. This is a very special breed of cat that deserves only a special person who can understand its needs and very unique temperaments. Let’s find out what it takes to become a good pet parent for one of the world’s most-loved kitties.

Health

The Ragdoll is a sturdy feline breed. However, it doesn’t mean it is completely free from any health condition or disease that may crop up at any point in its life. One of the things you have to understand about Ragdolls is that they will often show a number of ‘signs’ that should tell you they are sick.

Be on the lookout for listlessness as well as any change in its appetite. The eyes may also look droopy instead of the gleeful, rounded eyes the world has come to love. It will still meow, but is usually described as pitiful. It will be lethargic, too. These are often indications that something is amiss with your Ragdoll.

Some of the more common health issues that can affect the Ragdoll can include feline distemper, pneumonitis, feline viral rhinotracheitis, cystitis, constipation, intestinal parasitism, hairballs, and the flea and mite infestation.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy remains an issue for the Ragdoll as it is in all cats. This disease can undermine the ability of the heart to pump blood, leading to failure in vital organs like the brain, kidneys, lungs, and the heart itself.

Feeding

As we already mentioned, the Ragdoll is not your average domesticated cat. It is a special cat that deserves only the best yet most appropriate food for it. To give you an idea of the kind of diet that a Ragdoll deserves, Laura J. Dayton wrote in her book “The Lovable Ragdolls” that this breed of kitty deserves only the best and when it comes to the best food, it should be given a special diet called Feline Zu-Preem. If this is not available, then pet parents should give the C/D Feline Prescription Diet.

If both are not readily available or you are the type of pet parent who prefers making your pet its own meal, then Dayton suggests giving 2 parts of lean sirloin, 1 part each of heart and kidney, and ½ part each of beef melts and liver. These ingredients should be ground and then oven-baked into a meatloaf.

This recipe underscores the true nature of cats. Being obligate carnivores, cats need high quality animal proteins as the main source of both their calories and their macronutrients. The amino acids found in animal products are more complete than those found in plants. However, the usual practice for those who prefer plant-based proteins is that they give additional amino acid supplements just to make up for the missing essential amino acids. Our thinking is that, why do you need to supplement when you can give the right food that already contains all the right amino acids and other nutrients that your Ragdoll needs?

This is not to say that Ragdolls cannot benefit from plant food sources anymore. In addition to the use of premium quality meats, Dayton also recommended giving strained baby meats, hard-boiled whole eggs, rice, cooked vegetables, cottage cheese, and potatoes that have been seasoned with the gravy of plain meat. These are supposed to give variety to the Ragdoll’s diet, but are not intended to replace its primary meat-based, high-animal protein diet.

In choosing commercial cat food for your Ragdoll, it is best to get a wet or canned cat food as this has significantly higher protein content on a dry matter basis compared to kibbles. This is also the recommendation of Dayton in her book.

It is also important to feed the Ragdoll with cat food that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids as these can help retain the health of its silky-smooth coat, minimize skin problems, and help improve its immune system.

Being an unusually large cat that is almost the weight of a male Welsh Terrier or even a West Highland Terrier, the Ragdoll may need supplements for its joints. Clean and fresh water should also be made available at all times.

Ragdolls should be fed plain but wholesome and proven feline foods. This is regardless of the cat owner’s food preferences and tastes which should never be imposed on the Ragdoll or any other cat for that matter. As such, you should never give your Ragdoll anything that can be considered harmful even though it is a gourmet treat for you.

This kitty has the tendency to eat like a dog, gobbling its food as if it’s the last meal. They have the tendency to overstuff themselves which can lead to obesity. As such, it is important to supervise its feeding. Sometimes, you may institute some portion control measures or perhaps use a slow feeding pet bowl.

It is also important to adhere to a more regular feeding schedule. Ideally, the Ragdoll should be fed at the same time, more or less, every single day. If its food came direct from the refrigerator, make sure to warm it to room temperature first by placing its food dish in warm water. Alternatively, you can leave it on the table and allow it to naturally warm up.

Care

Unlike other cats, the Ragdoll has a certain temperament that makes it quite easy to train. As part of your care for the Ragdoll, it should be housebroken, taught to come to you when called, and even trained to walk on a leash. Yes, this might seem counter-intuitive and very much against the nature of cats but Ragdolls are no ordinary kitties. With the right motivation, you can train your Ragdoll to walk with confidence while on a leash.

This is important since the Ragdoll is strictly an indoor cat. You don’t want it to roam outdoors and meet other cats or animals that might carry disease-causing germs. It may also run into a not-so-friendly dog and chase your Ragdoll or, worse, hurt it. It may be hit by a car when it crosses the street or eat something that is toxic.

However, since the Ragdoll is such a large kitty, you will also need to exercise it a bit. Walking on a leash is one good way to do it. Besides, with that beautiful coat and a really stunning look, the Ragdoll is a magnet for cat-nappers.

The Ragdoll needs a large cat litter box that should be cleaned regularly. Regular visits to the veterinarian are also a must if you want your Ragdoll to be in tiptop shape. Its eyes and ears should be regularly inspected for any unusual discharge, foul smell, or signs of irritation. The paws and pads should also be inspected from time to time. Take note of any cuts or scratches and have these addressed at once. Remember, the earlier potential problems can be identified, the more efficient is its management.

Grooming

Ragdolls are like kiddie rag dolls. They love their coat to be combed on a twice weekly basis. Their fur has the texture of a rabbit hair so it doesn’t tangle and mat. As such, a hair brush is not generally recommended as this can turn its coat into frizzy fur. You should use an ordinary stainless-steel comb, preferably one with medium-length teeth. This will help retain the natural smoothness of its coat while also helping remove loose hair.

Aside from combing its hair, the Ragdoll can also benefit from a twice weekly brushing of its teeth using cat toothpaste that is especially formulated for kitties. They also need their nails trimmed every 2 weeks and their ears inspected and cleaned every week or two.

white ragdoll kitten

Temperament

Fondly called ‘puppycats’, Ragdolls have this remarkable behavior that endears them to their human family. It is a very docile, very calm kitty that loves nothing more than being close to humans. They are very affectionate; there’s not a room in the house that it will not follow its human master. It has a very gentle, very friendly nature that makes it highly lovable even by other pets in the household.

It is the kind of cat that will never climb a tree or any other vertical structure. Instead, it loves staying on the ground, on the couch, or on your lap. It will sleep and cuddle with you all night, play fetch during the day, and happily greet you at the door when you arrive home from work. These are traits that are often associated with dogs, making the Ragdoll an honorary member of the social kingdom of dogs.

Ragdolls have a more laidback approach to feline life. Pick it up and it will instantly showcase its belly like a dog wanting you to scratch its tummy. It goes limp when picked up, not because it feints helplessness but rather it feels very happy for being drawn closer to your body like a baby.

These are kitties that make for perfect photo shoots. They won’t mind getting dressed in baby costumes. They even won’t mind getting a ride in a kiddie buggy being pushed by kids. They will meow, but their voice is soft, almost musical to the ears. They have this very endearing way of communicating to their human masters what they want – and what they truly want is for their pet parents to pick them up and cuddle with them all day long.

It has a kitten-like playfulness that it takes with it until it grows old. It loves a game of fetch and is happy and proud being walked on a leash. It knows that its pet parent is never going to leave it behind.

There are many reasons why the Ragdoll is such a well-loved kitty. Even without its looks, its highly-sociable, amiable, and very friendly disposition make the Ragdoll truly a worthy cat to have in one’s life.

Olivia Williams
Olivia is our head of content for MyPetNeedsThat.com, mum of one and a true animal lover. With 12 different types of animal in her family, it's never a dull moment. When she isn't walking the dogs, feeding the cats or playing with her pet Parrot Charlie, you will find her product researching and keeping the site freshly updated with the latest products for your pets!

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