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Ragdoll

Ragdoll

Place of origin

California, United States

History

The Ragdoll originated in California in the early 1960s and courted controversy through the claims made by the breed founder and her marketing of the breed through franchising. The breeding program was founded by Ann Baker, who produced a longhaired, pointed, "designer cat" that she planned to market in a controlled manner. The sale of breeding franchises to breeders and the royalties from each kitten sold was supposed to provide an income to their originator. The provision of breeding cats and the rules governing breeding of them was supposed to keep the Ragdoll under the originator's control.

Although Ragdoll cats became overnight sensations, thanks in part to the implausible stories of their origin and an expertly designed promotional campaign, very few cat breeders successfully make money out of their breed, and the Ragdoll was no exception. The popularity of the breed quickly grew beyond its originator's ability to keep the "franchisees" under control, and dedicated breeders worked hard to gain credibility for this breed. Recognition was held back due to the skepticism of the major cat associations over the tales, misconceptions, and even publicity stunts surrounding the breed.

The breed began with a semi-feral white domestic longhaired cat called Josephine whose kittens were, quite normally, as wild as their mother. Following a car accident and intensive nursing, Josephine became tamer, and her subsequent kittens were also tamer. Josephine's later suitors were most likely Burmese and Birman males. The greater docility of her kittens is attributable both to better socialization and to the genetic influence of their fathers. However, the publicity for the Ragdoll breed claimed it to be due to changes in Josephine herself caused by the car accident. This was elaborated into claims that Josephine was experimentally treated for her injuries and had been infused with genes from skunks, raccoons, or even humans. Ragdolls tend to be very tolerant, relaxed, and quiet-voiced cats, and this resulted in the claim that they were immune to pain and that they went limp when handled.

The foundation cats included a Burmese-type cat and one of Josephine's progeny that resembled a Birman. Unfortunately, breed matriarch Josephine and a subsequent litter of kittens were destroyed by the owner after the protective cat fought with the family dog. Baker produced a book of rules that dictated how the two breed lines were to be bred together to produce Ragdolls. Breeders had to line breed for seven generations, backcrossing each generation to the male sold to them as part of the franchise. After the seventh generation, the breeder had to buy another direct male descendent of Josephine, at which point they could use this male to breed "authentic" Ragdolls.

Baker believed that by the seventh generation, the bicolor and colorpoint Ragdolls would be eliminated, leaving only the desired mitted pattern. Due to the way the white spotting gene works, this did not happen. She had named these patterns mitted, black-legs (now called pointed), and whitelegs (now called bicolor), although these were not terms recognized by mainstream registries. After only a few years, some breeders were becoming frustrated that registries would not recognize Ragdolls due to the breeding policies. They broke away from the franchise agreement and started to get the breed onto a sound genetic footing.

In the late 1960s (accounts conflict as to the exact year), the version of Ragdoll bred by these breakaway breeders was recognized. That meant there were two breeds using the name "Ragdoll" that were bred in very different ways. In 1971, Baker created the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA) for her lines of Ragdolls and derivative breeds. In 1975, Baker trademarked the Ragdoll so that only IRCA breeders could use the name. This restriction came too late to be applied to the non-IRCA cats who were already recognized under the Ragdoll name and were becoming increasingly popular. By 1981, Ragdolls were being exported overseas, although the myth of a limp cat impervious to pain would travel with them and hamper progress in registries outside of North America. Baker died in 1997 and the trademark expired in 2005, by which time the few remaining IRCA breeders appeared ready to join the mainstream cat fancy.

When the IRCA Ragdolls appeared on British TV in the early 1990s, animal welfare groups were concerned that these apparently fear-free, limp cats could be tossed around like cushions. A show judge assessed them and declared them to be perfectly normal and "not in the least limp," while British veterinarians dismissed the claims of immunity to pain. Initially, they were exhibited under the auspices of the now defunct Cat Association. They were recognized by the GCCF in 1990. In Britain, the GCCF allowed the gene pool to be expanded using certain colors of Siamese and Persians as outcross cats up until 2004.

Physical description

The Ragdoll is a large, sturdily built cat, with a moderately long body, strong muscular legs, and a soft, rabbitlike semi-longhaired coat. The blue eyes are large and oval shaped, set at a slight slant to follow the shape of the broad, wedge-shaped head. There is nothing extreme about its conformation. The wide-set ears are slightly tilted forward.

The Ragdoll is one of the largest recognized breeds with some reaching 20 pounds (9 kg) in weight. In common with other large breeds, it is slow to mature. Some take up to four years to reach full maturity.

Colors and varieties

Ragdolls have blue eyes and come in pointed colors including seal, blue, lilac, chocolate, red, cream, and the tortoiseshell and tabby varieties of these colors. Three varieties are recognized for exhibition: pointed (colorpoint with no white markings), mitted (colorpoint with white mittens and boots), and bicolor (colorpoint with extensive white markings on the feet and face).

The variability of the white spotting gene means there are three further patterns that are not recognized for exhibition: "high mitted," where the mitts extend up legs; "mid-high white," which is a Bicolor with additional white in the "saddle" area; and "high white," which is a Bicolor with an even greater degree of white where the darker "saddle" may be absent (equivalent to Van pattern). Ragdolls also produce pet-quality variants that deviate from the show standard by having a few white toes on colorpoint Ragdolls, a few dark toes on mitted Ragdolls, undesirable white markings appearing in dark areas, or undesirable dark markings in light areas. All of these inherit the Ragdoll's temperament and conformation.

Temperament

As their name implies, these cats are known for their loving, placid, and docile dispositions. They are tolerant of children and other pets and adaptable to a variety of home environments. However, they also enjoy their playtime and chasing after toys, especially cherishing interactive games with their owners.

This cat is relaxed, rather than floppy or limp. The easy-going Ragdoll often allows itself to be carried around like a baby, even by children, or even dressed up! Younger Ragdolls tend to be more active and playful, before mellowing into very laid-back adults.

Activity level

Low

Vocal level

Low

Special needs

Although the fine coat does not mat to the same degree as the coat of a Persian, regular combing or brushing with a wire (not a bristle) brush can help free shed hair from the coat and keep it in good condition. Tangles can occur when the cat is shedding.

Variations

Some pet-quality Ragdolls, described as "high white" have a greater amount of white than permitted in the show standard. The RagaMuffin is a nonpointed cousin of the Ragdoll. Following the death of the breed founder, the dwindling number of IRCA breeders also sought recognition from major registries. Their cats formed the foundation of the RagaMuffin (with an all-important capital "M" in the name), a nonpointed cousin of the now widely recognized (non-IRCA) Ragdoll. Cherubims, Honey Bear, and Miracle Ragdoll were names previously used to describe various lines of cats descending from the originator's cattery. Prior to her death, the originator was planning to create two further breeds, Little Americans and Catenoids.

Ragdoll

Sealpoint Mitted Ragdoll

RagaMuffin

From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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