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|Domestic cat (Felis catus)|
The Ragdoll is a cat breed with blue eyes and varying colours and patterns. It is a large and muscular semi-longhair cat with a soft and silky coat. Developed by American breeder Ann Baker in the 1960s, it is best known for its docile and placid temperament and affectionate nature. The name "Ragdoll" is derived from the tendency of individuals from the original breeding stock to go limp and relaxed when picked up. Particularly popular in both the United Kingdom and the breed's native United States, ragdoll cats often are known as "dog-like cats" or "puppy-like cats" due to behaviors such as their tendency to follow people around, their ease at being physically handled, and their relative lack of aggression toward other pets.
In the 1960s, a regular, non-pedigreed, light-grey, domestic longhaired cat named Josephine produced several litters of typical cats. Josephine was of a Persian/Angora type and had litters sired by several unknown male Birman or Burmese-like cats, one of which had the Siamese point coloration. Josephine later produced kittens with a docile, placid temperament, affectionate nature, and a tendency to go limp and relaxed when picked up. When a subsequent litter produced more of the same, Ann Baker purchased several kittens from the owner who lived behind her and, believing that she had something special, set out to create what is now known as the ragdoll. The breed was selectively bred over many years for desirable traits, such as large size, gentle demeanor, and a tendency to go limp when picked up, as well as the striking pointed coloration.
Out of those early litters came Blackie, an all black Burmese-like male, and Daddy Warbucks, a seal point with white feet. Daddy Warbucks sired the founding bi-color female Fugianna, and Blackie sired Buckwheat, a dark brown/black Burmese-like female. Both Fugianna and Buckwheat were daughters of Josephine. All Ragdolls are descended from Baker's cats through matings of Daddy Warbucks to Fugianna and Buckwheat.
Baker, in an unusual move, spurned traditional cat-breeding associations. She trademarked the name Ragdoll, set up her own registry (the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA)) ca. 1971, and enforced stringent standards on anyone who wanted to breed or sell cats under that name. The Ragdolls were also not allowed to be registered in other breed associations. The IRCA is still in existence today but is quite small, particularly since Baker's death in 1997. IRCA cats are not recognized in any major cat breed organization or cat show.
In 1975, a group led by a husband-and-wife team, Denny and Laura Dayton, broke ranks with the IRCA with the aim of gaining mainstream recognition for the Ragdoll. Beginning with a breeding pair of IRCA cats, this group eventually developed the Ragdoll standard currently accepted by major cat registries such as the CFA and the FIFe.
Since the spread of the Ragdoll breed in America during the early 1960s, a breeding pair of Ragdolls was exported to the UK. This pair was followed by eight more cats to fully establish the breed in the UK, where it is recognised by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy
In 1994, a second group decided to leave the IRCA and form its own group owing to increasingly strict breeding restrictions. This group later established the Ragamuffin breed. Because Baker owned the rights to the name "Ragdoll", no offshoot groups were legally able to call their cats Ragdolls until 2005, when the trademark on "Ragdoll" was not renewed.
The largest international Ragdoll breed club is the Ragdoll Fanciers' Club International (RFCI).
The Ragdoll is marketed by breeders as having a docile, calm and floppy nature with claims that these characteristics have been passed down from the Persian and Birman breeds. Opinions vary as to whether this trait might be the result of genetic mutation. The extreme docility of some individuals has led to the myth that Ragdolls are pain resistant. Some breeders in Britain have tried to breed away from the limpness owing to concerns that extreme docility "might not be in the best interests of the cat".
Breed standard marketing and publicity material describe the Ragdoll as affectionate, intelligent, relaxed in temperament, gentle, and an easy-to-handle lap cat. The animals are often known as "puppy cats", "dog-like cats", "cat-dogs", etc., because of their placid nature and affectionate behavior, with the cats often following owners from room to room as well as seeking physical affection akin to certain dog breeds. Ragdolls can be trained to retrieve toys and enjoy doing so.
The Ragdoll is one of the largest domesticated cat breeds, with a sturdy body, large frame, and proportionate legs. A fully-grown female weighs from 8 to 15 pounds (3.6 to 6.8 kg). Males are substantially larger, ranging from 12 to 20 pounds (5.4 to 9.1 kg) or more. The genes for point coloration are responsible for the distinctive blue eyes of the Ragdoll. More intense shades of blue are favored in cat shows. Although the breed has a plush coat, it consists mainly of long guard hairs, while the lack of a dense undercoat results, according to the Cat Fanciers' Association, in "reduced shedding and matting".
Ragdolls come in six different colors: red, seal, chocolate and the corresponding "dilutes", including blue, lilac, and cream. This also includes the lynx and tortoiseshell variations in all colors and the three patterns. Ragdoll kittens are born white; they have good color at 8–10 weeks and full color and coat at 3–4 years. The three different patterns are:
- Colorpoint – One color darkening at the extremities (nose, ears, tail, and paws).
- Mitted – Same as pointed, but with white paws and abdomen. With or without a blaze (a white line or spot on the face), but must have a "belly stripe" (white stripe that runs from the chin to the genitals) and a white chin. Mitted Ragdolls, which weren't allowed titling in CFA until the 2008-2009 show season, are often confused with Birmans. The easiest way to tell the difference is by size (the Ragdoll being obviously larger) and chin color (Mitted Ragdolls have white chins, while Birmans have colored chins), although breeders recognize the two by head shape and boning.
- Bicolor – White legs, white inverted V on the face, white abdomen and sometimes white patches on the back. (Excessive amounts of white, or "high white", on a bicolor is known as the Van pattern, although this doesn't occur nearly as often as the other patterns.)
- Lynx – A variant of the above type having tabby markings.
- Tortoiseshell or "tortie"- A variant noted for mottled or parti-colored markings in the above patterns.
A seal lynx pointed Ragdoll, about three years old.
One study utilizing Swedish insurance data showed that of the common cat breeds, the Ragdoll and Siamese have the lowest survival rate. They live 15 to 25 years. This study indicates the Ragdoll may have a significantly higher number of cats that die of urinary problems, mainly from kidney/ureter issues, but also partly from lower urinary issues. Whether this is an issue outside Finland, Sweden, or Denmark is unclear. Ragdoll cats require regular grooming to ensure that their fur does not mat, as with most long-haired cat breeds; some breeders recommend bathing once a month.
Background inbreeding is severe, around 40%, owing to the very limited number of foundation cats.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a common heart disease in all cats and is most commonly genetic in cause. The disease causes thickening of the heart wall, which makes the heart pump less efficiently. It can, in some instances, lead to sudden death. In Ragdolls homozygous positive for the disease (having two copies of the HCM gene), the condition can present early (as young as six months) and tends to be severe, with most cats dying by age 3. Heterozygous (one copy of HCM gene) cats tend to have later onset and slower progression of the disease with less severe impact. A DNA test was developed in 2007 to identify the gene that causes HCM in Ragdolls. Breeding only from Ragdolls that are free from this gene (homozygous negative) will ensure that they will not develop the form of HCM associated with it. The allelic frequencies of the Ragdoll HCM mutation R820W were 0.17 in cats from Italy and 0.23 in cats from the USA in 2013. This reference states that the R820W prevalence is 30% in UK. The HCM prevalence was found to be 2.9% (95% CI 2.7 -8.6% ) in this study.
In popular culture
Matilda III, the current mascot of The Algonquin Hotel in New York City, is a ragdoll.
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