Let's talk Ragdolls

Often cited as the world’s most popular cat, Ragdolls are the full package. As well as being an exceptionally beautiful breed, with their huge baby-blue eyes, luscious coats and velvety paws, they are also one of the largest, making them quite the head-turner. Very intelligent animals, Ragdolls are also easy-going, docile and sociable – and affectionate too. Even their name stems from them being so floppy and relaxed when picked up

Official name: Ragdoll 

Origins: USA

Black and white image of a Ragdoll cat sat holding one paw up
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Illustration of standing Ragdoll cat
Male
23 cm - 28 cm Height
5 kg - 9 kg Weight
Female
23 cm - 28 cm Height
4 kg - 6 kg Weight

 Baby age  Birth to 4 months
 Growing kitten age  4 to 12 months
 Adult age 12 months to 7 years
 Mature age  7 years to 12 years
 Senior age  From 12 years

Ragdoll cat peering out from behind a tree

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Get to know the Ragdoll

All you need to know about the breed

The Ragdoll is a cat that really does seem to have it all. Not only do they have beauty but also brains, too, and a laid-back, affable approach to pretty much everything. The Ragdoll even has a good lifespan, often living well into their late teens.

And yet, as a breed, they have not been around for very long at all. Only developed in the 1960’s, in the United States, the Ragdoll is a relatively new addition to the feline world. In that short time, however, they have become one of the most popular cats of them all.

One of the largest domesticated cat breeds, the female can reach up to 13 pounds (6kg) and the male up to 20 pounds (9kg). Despite the Ragdoll cat’s statuesque size, however, they are not an especially energetic breed, and even quite quiet, so they usually fit in fine to most home set-ups. They are also known for their tolerant attitude towards children and other animals.

As well as their actual size, their fluffy ‘plush’ coat – and the undercoat beneath – can make them seem even bigger than they are. Very varied in pattern, the Ragdoll cat colours can range from chocolate, lilac and cream to seal, blue and a red. However, as a pointed breed, the common theme is that they usually have darker markings on their extremities.

Ragdoll cat standing a wall looking into the distance

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2 facts about Ragdolls

1. Puss in boots

Among the many variations of colour in the Ragdoll cat breed, one of them results in four white feet. So distinctive is the effect that animals with these markings even have their own name: the Mitted Ragdoll.  

2. Dog in cat's clothing 

Often described as more dog-like in their personality, Ragdoll cats exhibit a number of behavioural traits that are more commonly associated with canines. As well as enjoying a game of fetch, they will often follow you from room to room and will even greet you at the front door on your return home.

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History of the breed

Hailing from California, renowned for its relaxed and laid-back lifestyle, it’s perhaps no wonder that the Ragdoll cat has such a carefree approach to life. It all began back in the 1960’s when a local breeder called Ann Baker decided to cross her white, long-haired domestic, Josephine, with a seal point male (thought to have been a Birman cross), and also a solid black cat. Interestingly, the animals had all been strays previously.

Whatever the reason, the resulting offspring were so docile in their temperament that Ms Baker decided to try and develop a breed. And because of the way they would go limp when they were picked up, due to being so comfortable with human contact, she decided to name this new variety the ‘Ragdoll’ cat.

Later, in the 1970’s, other breeders – notably Denny and Laura Dayton – developed the breed further. Their aim was to formalise things and get the Ragdoll cat recognised officially. However, it wasn’t until the early 1990’s that the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) – the largest registry of pedigreed cats – began accepting the Ragdoll, eventually giving them full recognition in 2000.

The Ragdoll cat has certainly made up for lost time though. According to the CFA, they were the most popular breed in the world for 2020. That was also the second year in a row that they scooped the title of ‘Top Cat’.

Black and white portrait of a Ragdoll cat

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Ragdolls

Ragdoll lounging on a wooden mantelpiece

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Ragdoll

It's important to keep a close eye on their weight

Due to their sizeable stature, and long growth period, Ragdoll cats can sometimes experience problems with their joints and bones. Tell-tale symptoms of this are an abnormal gait, obvious limping or more general signs of discomfort. The good news is that problems can be largely prevented from the outset by feeding them a high-quality diet, which supports healthy growth, and keeping an eye on their weight. As always, stick to the guidelines on their food packaging and ensure they have enough daily activity. Also, no unhealthy snacks in-between meals!

They can be prone to mouth problems

Like many breeds, Ragdoll cats can also suffer with gum and dental issues. These tend to occur when plaque on the surface of the teeth is allowed to build up. This can induce an inflammatory reaction at gum level (gingivitis) – and, if it develops into tartar, this can result in an inflammation of the tooth’s support structures (periodontal disease). Symptoms can include red gums, pain and bad breath – and, in severe cases, the resulting toxins can cause damage to the organs. As always, prevention is better than cure, so daily brushing and regular check-ups are key. Also, feeding your cat a special dental diet can certainly help. The action of the kibble rubbing against the teeth will remove some of the plaque and calcium chelators will prevent the formation of tartar.

And they can be predisposed to a heart condition

Ragdoll cats are among the breeds genetically prone to something called ‘hypertrophic cardiomyopathy’. This is a heart condition that occurs independently of other cardiac or systemic disorders and causes a thickening in the walls of the ventricles. The impact on the normal cardiac function varies, but affected cats may develop problems ranging from exercise intolerance to a more serious prognosis. As always, forewarned is forearmed, so have a chat with your vet. Diagnosis can be done using various techniques and a DNA test is also available. In addition, if you are thinking of getting a Ragdoll kitten, be sure to ask for the parents’ health certificate.

Your vet may also discuss your Labrador’s weight management as a preventive measure. These simple tools can help you stay on top of potential problems.

Healthy diet, healthier cat

Kitten
Adult
Senior
  • Tailored health nutrition has a fundamental role to play in maintaining the health and beauty of Ragdoll cats. Food provides energy to help with vital functions and a complete nutritional formula for Ragdolls should contain an adapted balance of nutrients. Feeding them in this way will offer a diet that’s neither deficient nor excessive, both of which could have adverse effects on your cat’s health.
  • Clean, fresh water should be available at all times to support good urinary regularity. Cats are also naturally adapted to eating small servings - between 7 and 10 times a day. Giving them the recommended daily ration of kibble once a day will let your Ragdoll cat regulate their own consumption.
  • The following recommendations are for healthy animals. If your cat has health problems, please consult your veterinarian who will prescribe an exclusively veterinary diet.
  • Growth is an essential stage in a kitten’s life. It is a time of big changes, discoveries, and new encounters. When it comes to their energy, protein, minerals, and vitamin requirements, a Ragdoll kitten’s are much greater than those of an adult cat. They need energy and nutrients to maintain their body, but also to grow and build it. A kitten’s growth comes in two phases:
  • Construction - From Birth to 4 Months:
  • Weaning is the transition a kitten makes from liquid - or maternal milk - to solid food. This period naturally corresponds to the time when they cut their milk teeth, at 3 to 6 weeks old. At this stage, kittens are not yet able to crunch, so a soft meal (rehydrated kibble or an adapted wet food) helps facilitate the transition between liquids and solids.
  • Between 4 and 12 weeks after birth, the natural immunity a kitten receives from the mother’s colostrum - or first milk - decreases while the kitten’s immune system gradually develops. This critical time, called the immunity gap, requires a complex of antioxidants, including vitamin E, to help support their natural defences.
  • Kittens go through an intense and particularly delicate period of growth during which they’re prone to digestive upset. Their diet at this time should not only be rich in energy to meet their essential growth needs but should also contain highly digestible protein for their digestive system that’s still maturing. Prebiotics, such as fructo-oligosaccharides, can also support their digestive health by helping to balance intestinal flora. The result? Good stool quality, all around.
  • The kitten’s food should contain omega 3 fatty acids - EPA-DHA - which helps support the proper neuro-cerebral development.
  • Consolidation and Harmonisation - From 4 Months to 12 Months:
  • From the fourth month, a kitten’s growth slows down, so a food lower in fats is recommended. This is particularly important after a cat is sterilised.
  • Between 4 and 7 months, a kitten’s milk teeth fall out and are replaced by permanent ones. When the adult teeth have come through, a kitten needs to eat kibble that’s big enough so they’re encouraged to crunch.
  • Until they’re 12 months old, a Ragdoll kittens’ immune system is still gradually developing. A complex of antioxidants, including vitamin E, can help support their natural defences during this time of big changes, discoveries, and new encounters.
  • The digestive system matures progressively, with digestive aptitudes reaching full maturity toward twelve months of age. A cat is then able to consume adult food.
  • On top of maintaining a healthy urinary function as for all cats, the main nutritional goals for adult Ragdolls are:
  • Helping to preserve the health of their skin and the beauty of their impressively soft and silky coat with the enriched addition of targeted nutrients, such as amino acids, vitamins, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Maintaining healthy bones and joints without excess calories
  • Helping to maintain a healthy cardiac function with nutrients such as taurine, EPA and DHA
  • Supporting good oral hygiene thanks to a kibble shape that’s adapted to their medium-short muzzle with a texture that induces chewing.
  • A senior cat - one over the age of 12 - may sometimes have difficulties with absorption. To maintain the weight of the ageing cat and minimise the risk of deficiency, they should be given an extremely digestible food filled with essential nutrients.
  • As they get older, cats increasingly suffer from teeth problems, and in some senior cats, the sense of taste and smell may decline as well, which can lead to a lowered intake of food. To ensure they continue to eat enough, the shape, size, and hardness - meaning texture - of their kibble needs to be tailored to their now potentially more fragile jaw.
  • Note that the best energy level for any cat still depends on their lifestyle, even those who are ageing. A senior cat that continues to go out regularly will benefit from a diet with a slightly higher fat content. On the other hand, ageing does not reduce an indoor cat’s risk of obesity. Their calorie intake should still be closely monitored. A food with a moderate fat content then may be optimal.
Ragdoll cat strolling past a tree

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Caring for your Ragdoll

Grooming, training and exercise tips

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When it comes to exercise, it’s important to get the balance right with Ragdoll cats. On the one hand, their large size means they do need to have a moderate amount of daily activity and also to keep their weight in check. On the other, Ragdolls aren’t the most agile animals and can be a bit uncoordinated at times. So, if you decide to invest in a cat tree, for example, it’s important to go for one that has wide steps and is not too high. Providing plenty of opportunities for active play at ground level is generally the best way to keep them in shape. One other thing to bear in mind with the Ragdoll cat is that it can be hard to spot an expanding waistline under their thick coat. So, you may wish to pop them on the scales from time to time. True to their name, they won’t mind.

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It may come as a surprise that Ragdoll cats don’t reach their full size and coat development until they are up to four years old. When they do, the adult Ragdoll cat has fur that is luscious and thick with a silky texture that is sometimes compared to that of a rabbit. As they have little undercoat, this means they are less prone to matting, but they still need brushing or combing at least once or twice a week to get rid of any dead hair. This is especially important during the Ragdoll cat’s shedding season. One question that often comes up is how to get knots out of a Ragdoll cat’s fur. The trick is to work it out gently using a wide tooth comb and, if required, use a tiny bit of coconut oil to loosen things up. But they will need a bath afterwards! Beyond that, ears should be checked regularly, nails clipped as needed and teeth brushed daily if you can manage that.

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Given the breed’s gentle nature, Ragdoll kittens will always respond best to positive reinforcement. Highly intelligent animals, they will soon get the hang of the litter tray and scratching post etc. Also, depending on the personality of your Ragdoll cat, some can even learn how to play games such as fetch. They are also a good choice of cat if you happen to have other animals, as they usually get along fine with other household pets. However, their trusting nature means they should be introduced with extra care to any existing cats or dogs, who might not welcome a stranger on their territory. For that same reason, and also because they can have a slight tendency towards clumsiness, owners sometimes choose to keep Ragdoll cats indoors.

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All about Ragdolls

The Ragdoll cat doesn’t reach full maturity until they are four years of age and the normal life expectancy is 12 to 17 years. This means the average Ragdoll lifespan is around 14 to 15 years. However, with the right diet and good veterinary care, they can sometimes go on to live well beyond that.

Just the one, but the Ragdoll cat colours are very varied – ranging from red, seal and chocolate to blue, lilac and cream. In other fun Ragdoll cat facts, the ‘seal point’ is the most popular colouring. There are also various different patterns too. But just one breed of cat.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Cat Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book