What is a Ragdoll Cat? Breeds, Traits, Origins, Care & More

Author: K. Marie Altoby K Marie Alto Updated 9 min read

What is a Ragdoll Cat? Breeds, Traits, Origins, Care & More

Most kitties are mixed breed, and are grouped based on their coat length, for example the domestic shorthair, and are further distinguished by their coloration, tabby, calico, tuxedo, etc.

Purebred cats are often quite distinct, whether you have the hairless Sphynx, the huge and long-haired Maine Coon, or the lean, athletic, and demanding Siamese.

One very popular breed is the Ragdoll. They're fluffy, super soft, gorgeous, and extremely personable, making them very popular pets for families with children and other animals.

Pure bred cats have standards for how they will look, and common personality traits that are not guaranteed, so please keep that in mind as you read this post. Every cat is unique, whether it is a pure bred cat or otherwise.

Ragdoll Cat Vital Stats

Ragdolls are large-sized domestic cats with long coats and a variety of colorations. Here are the vital stats:

  • Weight: Large, often over 12 lbs. and as much as 20.
  • Length: Long, up to 40 inches.
  • Coat: Medium to long-haired.
  • Hypoallergenic: No.
  • Grooming needs: Moderate to high.
  • Lifespan: Up to 17 years.

In general, ragdolls are very personable and friendly cats. They're docile and will accept a lot of different treatment, including the mistreatment of children, which they tolerate well (though it’s best to teach kids how to properly interact with animals from a young age). They aren't usually upset by changes in routine and environment and adapt well to various kinds of minor lifestyle stresses.

Ragdoll Cat Vital Stats Image by Toe Beans

Ragdolls have a variety of colors and coat patterns. They can be seal-pointed or seal-mitted, and they can have colors including chocolate, lilac, and more.

The three primary Ragdoll coat patterns are:

  • Bi-color, where the coloration is limited to around the ears, tail, mask, and saddle, which are darker than the main body color. This can be as stark as black and white or more muted like a seal point.
  • Van, which is even closer to a pure color than bi-color, where the secondary color is limited to the ears, tail, and mask. The differentiation in color tends to be more stark. Everything else is generally required to be pure white, at least for Cat Fancier breed standards.
  • Color-point, which is a traditional cat fur coat pattern where the feet, tail, and face are darker. Often, the nose and toe beans are all tinted instead of pink as well.
  • Mitted, these are a lot like color-points, except with lighter socks and a distinctive white blaze on their face.

You can read a full breakdown of the different colors and patterns of ragdolls here.

Despite the name, Ragdolls don't go limp when you pick them up or generally act like dolls. That said, if you put one in your lap and give them some good scritches, that's when they'll go limp with pleasure and just enjoy the experience. They're tolerant and happy cats, but they still have their personalities and resistances. They tend to do well in smaller spaces, like apartments.

Ragdolls go with the flow, which makes them excellent companions for many families.

When it comes to exercise, Ragdolls need dedicated and interactive activities, both for physical and mental reasons. Since they're so sociable, they need the engagement to be fulfilled; otherwise, they'll come across as very needy in their affectionate way. They also have nutrition and physical activity needs that must be monitored by vets to make sure they stay healthy throughout their lives. It's easy for a large cat like a ragdoll to end up overweight, and the health issues that arise can be dangerous.

The History of the Ragdoll Cat

Ragdolls were bred in the 1960s, making them a relatively new breed of cat. They were made up of cats with a variety of traits, but the breeder, Ann Baker, was seeking to create a cat that was both beautiful and even-tempered. She started with an Angora, so the Ragdoll has many similarities to the Angora breed. Ann wanted a cat that was relatively low maintenance, pleasant and happy, beautiful to behold, and loving for anyone and everyone. Eventually, she succeeded, with what we know as a Ragdoll.

Ragdoll Cats Image by Toe Beans

Ragdolls weren't officially recognized as a breed until the Cat Fanciers Association recognized them in 1998. Since then, they've consistently been one of the most popular purebred cats available. In fact, Ragdolls have been ranked the most popular breed from 2019 to 2022 by the Cat Fanciers’ Association.

Unique Care Needs for Ragdoll Cats

Most purebred animals have special care needs. Some are extreme – we all know the Pug and their issues with breathing – while others have more insidious issues. Fortunately, Ragdolls have a relatively minimal number of breed-related health issues.

Grooming

In terms of grooming, Ragdolls have long coats, but a minimal undercoat making them less mat-prone than double-layer coats in other large, long-haired breeds. They benefit from brushing a couple of times a week, but they don't need daily coat maintenance or special treatments to make sure they stay healthy.

As with all cats, you'll want to regularly trim their claws.

Shedding isn't a huge issue with Ragdolls, again, because of the single rather than double coat. These adorable and friendly felines will certainly shed just like any animal, but less so than something like a Maine Coon.

Caring For a Ragdoll Cat Image by Toe Beans

Note: Ragdolls are not a hypoallergenic breed. Most cat allergies are actually related to a protein in the skin and saliva of the cat called Fel d 1. Even hypoallergenic cats still produce this protein, just in lower amounts. The amount of shedding isn't really related. Modern allergy treatments can make cat allergies a lot more bearable or even go into remission through allergy shots.

Exercise

Ragdolls also need plenty of exercise so they can stay at a healthy weight. They love to be social and interactive, so you need to do more than get a motorized toy for them to play with; they want to play with you, not just play.

Consider a teaser toy and commit to a 15-minute play session each day to wear your fur baby out. Ragdolls are also intelligent cats, and a new study shows cats like to play fetch, so you could give that a try too!

Common Health Concerns for Ragdoll Cats

Ragdolls, like any pure breed, have their slate of health issues. Many of them are related to being a large breed of cat.

First and foremost is weight. Ragdolls are prone to overeating and weight gain, especially if they don't get enough exercise. Obese cats suffer from a variety of health problems, and Ragdolls are no exception on that front. Make sure to measure out an appropriate portion of food for them, limit treats, and make sure to keep them active.

Ragdoll cats are also known to have sensitive stomachs and may require a special diet to prevent vomiting.

Common Health Concerns For Ragdoll Cats Image by Toe Beans

Ragdolls also frequently suffer from bladder stones, a painful crystallization of minerals in their bladder similar to kidney stones in humans. They're painful, and they can cause litter box problems, including urinating where they aren't supposed to, as well as frequent urinary tract infections.

Bladder stones can also cause obstructions, which is a life-threatening condition. Females are better able to pass small stones, while males are more likely to experience a urethral obstruction. If your kitty isn’t peeing, you need to head to the emergency vet.

To help combat bladder stones, make sure your Ragdoll gets plenty of fresh, clean water every day and talk to your vet to see if a special diet would help prevent stones from forming.

Another issue in Ragdolls is called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM. This is a condition where the walls of the heart thicken. It's the most commonly diagnosed cardiac disease in cats, according to Cornell University.

The thicker heart wall means less blood can fit in the heart at a time, reducing the efficiency of the heart and making it harder for blood to get where it needs to go. HCM is potentially a genetic disease, and some genetic screening can identify if your fur baby is at risk, but the illness can develop in any cat, with or without the genetic mutations present. There's no cure for HCM, only management.

The good news is, there is genetic testing available to detect the two variants responsible for the increase of HCM among the Ragdoll breed.

While not a common disease, several studies have shown that purebred cats are more likely to develop Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). Another study went on to show Ragdolls are at significantly higher risk of developing FIP as compared to other purebred cats. If left untreated, this disease is fatal.

Pros and Cons of Ragdoll Cats

Ragdolls are also very playful and cuddly, but they aren't on the extremes of energy. They also aren't high-maintenance like some other large and long-coated breeds, and overall are pretty genetically healthy.

A Ragdoll Cat Image by Toe Beans

If there are any cons to adopting a Ragdoll, it's that they aren't hypoallergenic like Siberians, another large and long-haired breed. As a purebred cat, they can also be very expensive, especially if you're getting one from a popular and certified breeder. Certified breeders can charge as much as $2,500 for a purebred Ragdoll with popular and desirable coat colors.

That said, you can often find rescues in need of a home. Groups like the Ragdoll Rescue USA and the Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue commonly have Ragdolls up for adoption.

While we tend to keep our cats inside in the US, some countries firmly believe a cat should be indoor/outdoor. Because of their docile nature, Ragdolls need to be indoor only. They don’t have the street smarts to defend themselves against aggressive animals they may encounter outside.

Ragdoll Cat Fun Facts

We're all cat lovers here, so let's talk about some of the more fun facts about this special breed!

Did you know that all Ragdolls are born as white as the driven snow? It's true! Their different colorations and patterns don't start to come in until several weeks later when they start to be more distinct. By 12 weeks, you'll generally know what pattern you're getting, but the full depth of color might not be seen until they're half a year old. Mitted Ragdolls don't even have their full, distinct patterns until they're two years old!

Another cool fact about Ragdolls is that their eyes are typically a bright and vibrant blue. They're one of the few cat breeds where eye color is a distinguishing characteristic; though the depth of color can be on a spectrum, every single purebred Ragdoll has blue eyes.

A Pair of Ragdoll Cats Image by Toe Beans

Most Ragdolls have stark, darker colorations to contrast the white. Some, though, are rarer and equally as beautiful: the lilac Ragdolls with their faint, almost purple-gray, and the flame points with their mixture of orange in the color points. Both of these are beautiful, like all ragdolls, but they are rarer and more expensive when you find them.

Many dog lovers actually love Ragdolls because of their personalities. They're not the aloof, holier-than-thou cats some of us know and love; they're actually a lot more like dogs themselves. As I mentioned earlier, many even love to play fetch with their favorite toys!

Ragdolls are very slow to mature as well. In fact, they won’t reach their full color until they are three years old and can take up to four years to reach their full adult size. If you think your Ragdoll is big now, just wait!

Should You Adopt a Ragdoll?

Now we get to the real fun question: should you adopt a Ragdoll kitten?

The answer here depends a lot on you and what your situation is like. Ragdolls are excellent cats for just about anyone, but they're very cuddly and sociable, so if you live alone and spend a lot of time out of the house at work, you might not want to pick the breed.

A Family of Ragdoll Cats Image by Toe Beans

One of the biggest downsides to Ragdolls is the price, so if you're not willing to pay the price for a purebred Ragdoll, consider trying to find one for adoption. You’d be saving a life allowing another kitty to be saved.

If you do opt to purchase a Ragdoll kitten, be sure to seek a reputable breeder and ask about the health history of their bloodline.

As long as you're prepared to give your fur baby the attention and care they need, and you're willing to handle a large, affectionate cat, a Ragdoll is an excellent choice. If you want something smaller, with shorter fur, a lower price point, you might want to look elsewhere.

Remember, not all Ragdolls will have the same temperament, and you won’t know their personality until they are adults. If you’re looking specifically for a snuggly lap cat, consider adopting a young adult that has matured and settled into their final temperament.

What do you think? Have you ever been the proud parent of a cuddly Ragdoll? I'd love to hear your stories, so tell me all about them (and post your pictures) in the comments below!

K Marie Alto
K Marie Alto

K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 50K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-). Read more

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