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Choosing a Ragdoll

By: J. Anne Helgren

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Surrounded by myth and mystery, the ragdoll is a large, laid-back, loving cat with a long, beautiful coat, lovely pointed pattern and big brilliant blue eyes. A hybrid breed, the ragdoll was developed by years of selective breeding, but exactly which cats were used in its creation remains uncertain. While controversy kept the breed from achieving quick acceptance in cat associations, the breed is popular with cat lovers for his beauty and trusting, playful personality.

History and Origin

The ragdoll's origins cannot be established with certainty. The only detail of the breed's creation that is not subject to debate is that the ragdoll was created in the 1960s by the late Ann Baker of Riverside, Calif. All genuine ragdolls can be traced back to the bloodlines she developed.

The breed was probably created by crosses between unpedigreed longhaired cats that possessed the recessive gene for the pointed pattern, although some believe that the breed was created by crossbreeding Persians, Birmans, and Burmese cats with random-bred domestics. The foundation cat from which the breed originated, Josephine, was a semi-feral longhaired white female cat of unknown parentage.

The colorful stories and rumors that surround the breed's creation lend an air of mystery. As the story goes, Josephine produced unremarkable kittens until she was struck by a car in the early 1960s. Allegedly, after the accident Josephine was taken to a facility where she was genetically altered in an experiment conducted by the government. This genetic alteration caused Josephine to produce kittens with the traits for which the ragdoll is so famous – non-aggressive temperament, beautiful color pointed coat and the tendency to go limp like a rag doll when held.

No evidence exists to support this, however, and it's highly doubtful that any kind of genetic alteration that occurred in the 1960s would have produced such results. Other rumors claim ragdolls are insensitive to pain, have an unusual passivity that prevents them from fighting back and grow to weigh 30 pounds or more. According to most breeders, none of these tales is true.

Although all of today's genuine ragdolls are descendants from Baker's original stock, several factions of fanciers exist. Ann Baker created her own registry for ragdolls in 1971 called the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA). She also franchised and trademarked the ragdoll name, requiring breeders to pay a royalty fee for every kitten sold and to follow a strict breeding program that Baker controlled. Too, IRCA breeders were not allowed to register or show IRCA ragdolls in any other cat association.

Some breeders became unhappy with this arrangement and in 1975 they split from IRCA, taking their cats with them. They formed the Ragdoll Fanciers' Club, a group dedicated to achieve recognition for the ragdoll with the national cat associations. Later, the club's name was changed to the Ragdoll Fanciers' Club International (RFCI). Today, every North American cat association accepts non-IRCA ragdolls for championship. Both groups still exist, but with Ann Baker's death in 1997, IRCA has dwindled to a small number of breeders.

Appearance

The ragdoll is a large, powerful cat. The body is long, broad and solid with heavy boning, the head large and broad, and the eyes large and vivid blue. Wide set, moderately flared ears with rounded tips decorate the head. Slow to develop, ragdolls attain their full size and weight at around three years of age. Males generally weigh 15 to 20 pounds. Females are smaller but are still hefty at 10 to 15 pounds.

This breed has medium-long, silky fur that is naturally non-matting. A ruff decorates the chest and a magnificent plume adorns the tail. The ragdoll comes in the four traditional pointed colors: seal, chocolate, blue and lilac, although the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) accepts the additional colors of red and cream. Three patterns are accepted: colorpoint (also called the pointed or Siamese pattern), mitted (pointed pattern except for four white feet), and bicolor (pointed pattern with areas of white including a white inverted "V" on the face).

Personality

Regardless of where they came from, growing numbers of cat fanciers are discovering that ragdolls make wonderful companions. Mild-mannered and congenial, ragdolls are known for their exceptionally tolerant dispositions and sweet, docile temperaments. They tend to go limp when picked up like a child's rag doll, the trait that earned the breed its name. This trait can be attributed to their gentle, trusting natures rather than any mysterious reason.

Ragdolls make ideal indoor companions. They are playful but are not overactive and enjoy just spending quiet time with their human friends. Affectionate without being overly demanding, ragdolls love nothing more than to be cuddled and pampered. Some enjoy lap-sitting, while others would prefer to sit quietly beside you. They are intelligent and accommodating, and are easily trained to stay away from forbidden areas. Their voices are usually soft and mild, even at dinnertime, and they rarely speak unless spoken to. Known to adapt easily to new environments, ragdolls get along well with children and adults, as well as cats, dogs, and other animals.

Grooming

The ragdoll's soft, beautiful coat may look like it needs a lot of maintenance, but it doesn't. For the most part it lacks the thick, easily matted downy undercoat possessed by breeds like the Persian. The semi-long fur flows with the body and resists matting. A good combing twice a week with a good quality steel comb will remove loose hair, prevent matting and help minimize hairballs.

Cost

The average price of a pet quality kitten is between $400 and $750, depending on the breeder, location, gender, color and pattern. Breeder quality cats are usually $1,000 and up, sometimes as high as $2,000 or more, depending upon the pattern, color, show prospects, and lineage. Show alters – spayed or neutered show quality ragdolls that can be shown in the alter championship classes – range from $600 to $1,000. Some breeders place retired breeder and show cats to good homes for a modest fee or the cost of neutering or spaying and vaccinations.

Association Acceptance

  • American Association of Cat Enthusiasts (AACE)
  • American Cat Association (ACA)
  • American Cat Fancier's Association (ACFA)
  • Canadian Cat Association (CCA)
  • Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA)
  • Cat Fanciers' Federation (CFF)
  • The International Cat Association (TICA)
  • United Feline Organization (UFO)

    Special Concerns

    As is true of most breeds, breeder and fancier groups each have their own philosophies, breeding practices, and guidelines. Other legitimate breeders operate independently of the organized ragdoll groups. Investigate the breeder before committing to buy, and always get a written health guarantee and registration papers. Avoid buying unpapered ragdolls; it's rare, but some unethical people sell bogus ragdolls for hefty prices. This can occur in any breed but is more common in popular breeds for which there is a high demand.

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