Ragdoll cats are known for their playful personalities, relaxed temperaments, and bright blue eyes. If you’re looking for a loving cat that will easily fit into a busy home, the Ragdoll could be an ideal breed for you.
Characteristics of Ragdoll Cats
Along with their trademark blue eyes, Ragdoll cats have large paws, long fluffy tails, and semi-long, super-soft coats that are often white with darker brown fur on the head and tail.
This combination of pale fur and darker ears, face, tail, and/or paws is known as a “point coat”. But Ragdoll cats are not limited to just one coat color. Ragdoll coats come in a variety of colors that can be grouped into four main patterns:
- Bi-color. A bi-color coat means the cat has white fur on the belly, chest, and all four paws, plus a V-shaped marking on the face and a pink nose.
- Colorpoint. This coat pattern produces pointed markings with matching paws and noses. Although there is a contrast between the darker points and lighter body, no white fur is present in colorpoint coats.
- Mitted. Mitted Ragdolls have a white chin, belly, and paws. They may also have a patch of white on their forehead and nose.
- Van. In a van-patterned coat, darker markings only appear on the face, ears, and tail. The nose and paw pads are pink.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association accepts cats with all of the above patterns for shows in all combinations of the following six colors:
- Blue. Bluish-white coat that fades to white near the chest and tummy. The nose and paw pads are light gray.
- Chocolate. Warm chocolate-colored points and an ivory body that shifts to white around the stomach and chest. The nose and paw pads are pink.
- Cream. Pale cream- or pinkish cream–colored points on a pure white body. Any shading matches the points.
- Lilac. White body with pinkish-grey points and pink- or lavender-hued paw pads.
- Seal. A warm-toned, fawn-colored body that lightens near the tummy and chest. These cats have deep brown points with matching nose and paw pads.
- Red. Deep red or brighter reddish-orange points highlight a pure white body with pink nose and paw pads.
In addition, Ragdoll points can be solid, parti-colored, or lynx. As you can tell, there are many possible color combinations for Ragdoll cats.
Common Ragdoll cat characteristics include their affectionate demeanor, patience with children, and willingness to play gently — often without ever using their claws. One charming aspect of the Ragdoll cat personality is their tendency to go limp when carried. In fact, they were named after the child’s ragdoll toy for that exact reason.
Ragdolls are very interested in their humans and will likely follow you around the house, cuddle in your lap on the couch, and hop into your bed at night. Although they aren’t particularly active, Ragdoll cats will gladly play with children, and they get along well with other animals.
The standard Ragdoll cat size is on the larger side, with male cats weighing between 15 and 20 pounds and female cats averaging 10 to 15 pounds. Ragdolls mature slowly and most won’t reach their adult weight until they’re about 4 years old. Even their coat color won’t fully develop until around their second birthday.
One Swedish study found that the Ragdoll cat lifespan is shorter than that of most popular cat breeds, with only 63% living longer than 10 years. This study cited urinary issues as the reason, but it’s unknown whether this is a problem outside of Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.
Caring for Ragdoll Cats
Despite their longer fur, Ragdoll cats are relatively low maintenance. The Ragdoll cat’s coat benefits from regular brushing with a steel comb to prevent tangles from forming and to minimize shedding. Ragdoll cats do shed, but they don’t shed as much as breeds with thicker, wooly undercoats. In fact, Ragdoll shedding mainly occurs when the seasons change in the spring and fall, and the light fluffy fur is easy to pick up and throw away.
Keeping your Ragdoll’s nails trimmed will save your furniture from any accidental snags. Regularly brushing your Ragdoll’s teeth (ideally every day) can help reduce plaque build-up and lower the risk of dental disease, which reportedly affects up to 90% of cats over the age of 4.
Ragdoll cat exercise requirements are minimal. Although they enjoy playtime, they’re perfectly happy to lounge about the house accepting cuddles. Ragdolls can be trained to play fetch like dogs, but they’re not the most adventurous cats and will rarely attempt to jump off the floor.
Because Ragdolls aren’t the most active cat breed, it’s wise to monitor their diet and ensure that they maintain a normal weight. Most cats prefer to “graze” by taking nibbles of their food 10 or 15 times throughout the day. The free-feeding method is perfectly acceptable for most cats — just make sure it’s accompanied with a healthy helping of playtime to burn off any extra calories.
Like all cats, Ragdolls prefer a clean litter box and will appreciate a thorough scooping every day. The litter should be changed once or twice per week, although this will vary depending on the type of litter.
Make sure your Ragdoll cat is caught up on vaccinations. These can be divided into two categories: core vaccines, such as rabies and distemper, which are recommended for every cat and and non-core vaccines, which are recommended on a cat-by-cat basis depending on their lifestyle and individual needs.
Protect your cat from heartworm with monthly preventive heartworm medicine and yearly testing. Heartworm can cause serious respiratory issues and is not treatable in cats (although some can recover if their immune system is strong enough), so prevention is paramount.
Lastly, give your Ragdoll the appropriate medication to protect them from ticks and fleas — that is, if they spend time with the family dog or any outdoor cats. Ragdolls themselves should stay indoors because they aren’t great at sensing danger — they were bred to be cuddly lap cats, after all.
Health Problems to Watch for With Ragdoll Cats
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common heart disease in cats, and, unfortunately, it’s on the list of Ragdoll cat health problems. This condition thickens the heart muscles, effectively decreasing the heart’s ability to function properly. It’s estimated that 30% of Ragdolls carry the genetic mutation that can cause HCM. Keep an eye out for these symptoms of HCM in Ragdolls:
- Labored breathing
- Open-mouthed breathing
If a Ragdoll is homozygous positive for HCM — meaning they inherited the HCM gene from both their mother and father — the condition can present much earlier in life, at around 6 months of age. It may also prove fatal by the time they reach age 3. If a Ragdoll only has one HCM gene (heterozygous), the condition usually won’t occur until later in life and its consequences won’t be so severe.
Although there’s no way to stop HCM once it's started, most cats with HCM react well to proper treatment and many can survive for years after being diagnosed.
Because this disease is genetic and cats can be tested for the gene, try to find a reputable breeder that tests all of its cats and kittens for HCM.
Special Considerations for Ragdoll Cats
Ragdolls are great family cats that will quickly form friendships with your other pets and play patiently with your children. They’re very tolerant and won’t mind being dressed up and carried around as part of your kid’s games. In fact, Ragdolls are often described as a dog-like cat breed due to their easygoing and sociable personalities.
Ragdoll cats aren’t known for being too talkative, which is ideal if you prefer a quieter home environment. But if you’re looking for full-on cat conversations, you might want to consider another breed.
If you’re searching for a hypoallergenic cat, we’ve got bad news — hypoallergenic cats don’t really exist. When you’re allergic to cats, you’re allergic to proteins in their saliva, urine, and dander. Although some cats will cause fewer and less intense allergic reactions, such as the Sphynx cat, there’s no way to avoid dander entirely.
History of Ragdoll Cats
You can thank the breeder Ann Baker for Ragdoll cats. In the 1960s, Ann found a white, long-haired domestic cat running around her Riverside, CA, neighborhood, named her Josephine, and began breeding her with a collection of other cats under her care.
Here’s where the Ragdoll cat history gets interesting: This docile breed may be the result of a traumatic experience. Allegedly, Josephine had produced ordinary litters up until she was hit by a car. After she recovered from the accident, her temperament was notably tamer and she produced a litter of endearing, mellow kittens that went limp when picked up (in classic Ragdoll style).
Once Ann realized she could pass this unusual trait onto future litters, she created the Ragdoll breed — complete with the sweet disposition, pointed coat color, and signature floppiness.
Ann established the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA) and trademarked the name “Ragdoll” in 1975. However, following Ann's death in 1997 and the trademark's expiration in 2005, most breeders joined other groups. Today, the largest Ragdoll breed organization is the Ragdoll Fanciers' Club.