Ragdoll cats - a special kind of feline.
What exactly is a Ragdoll?
I had never heard of Ragdolls at all until I accidentally acquired one of my own in 2002. I was fostering cats for a charity named the Cat Protection League for a short time whilst living in Shaftesbury, Dorset. I didn't have a cat at the time and craved their company once again so I thought this was a good way to do that whilst also giving back to a charity. My first foster "kids" were a brother and sister pair of kittens. I just loved spending time with them and they were so playful and cute. When a new home was found for the kittens, however, I found it heartbreaking to say goodbye to them. I didn't know how good I was going to be at this fostering after all.
When Sandy (my lady from the CPL) brought me my next foster cat I had no idea what to do. She opened up the cat carrier in my living room and this proud, six year old boy trotted out. He immediately made himself at home and started playing and rolling around on his back. I asked Sandy straight away if I could keep him and she immediately agreed. That was as far as my fostering career went!
My next question to Sandy was "what is he?". He was a beautiful, semi-longhaired blue bi-colour Ragdoll with the loveliest blue eyes. Sandy told me that if I was to keep him he wasn't to go outside and he should always be the only pet in the household due to his troubled past. So he was a bad boy, was he? He didn't seem bad at all and I instantly fell in love with him.
I had never seen a Ragdoll before so I started to look up as much information I could find about the breed. I discovered that they were "created" in the 1960s and their particular Doctor Frankenstein was called Ann Baker. The story isn't completely clear and is filled with odd rumours and myth (even aliens are mentioned at one point!) It does appear, however, that there was a white long-haired cat called Josephine that was hit by a car and then treated at a veterinary hospital. Josephine was supposedly very docile after her accident and reportedly went limp when she was held. I have also read that there were claims that she no longer felt pain. Josephine (or Mother Eve as I like to call her) produced kittens that shared her docile, floppy temperament and it was from some of these that Ann Baker started the Ragdoll cat breed.
Whatever the real facts may be, Ann Baker did succeed at creating a new cat breed, and a marvellous one at that! Let me tell you about some of the things that make Ragdolls different to other cats.
Isn't a cat just a cat?
I always thought that cats were just cats, each of them individual with their different personalities. I had never met a pedigree cat and had no idea of the cat breeding world whatsoever. When I met my first Ragdoll (who we named Fuzzy) I realised that he wasn't just any cat.
Fuzzy, in fact, is no ordinary cat. I say "is" because, at the time of writing, he is still with me. But this cat is like no other I have ever met and I don't think I'll meet any like him ever again.
So what makes him different? Let me start by explaining that Fuzzy can feel pain. In fact, all Ragdoll cats that I have met can feel pain and I would wager that all Ragdoll cats in the world can feel pain. I don't know how many of them would go limp in your arms when you pick them up but Fuzzy doesn't do that either. "Is he a real Ragdoll?" you may ask. Yes, he definitely is. I think it is more a case of those two statements being part of the myth side of the Ragdoll story.
Back to what makes him different: he is the most gentle male cat I have ever met. This cat has never tried to scratch anyone that I have ever seen with him - and that includes the vet. He doesn't like getting a thermometer stuck where the sun doesn't shine but that still doesn't make him scratch. The only living thing I have ever seen him scratch is our dog, Loki, and he only half scratches him on his long dog hair anyway so it never actually causes any pain. (I think I'd do the same if I had a White Swiss Shepherd's trying to lick my bum.)
This cat is also the friendliest cat I have ever met. He will sidle up to anyone for affection and would probably happily change owners at a whim. He did manage to escape once or twice for a roam around the neighbourhood but his behaviour always helped me to locate him. Firstly, he saunters down the middle of the street miaowing at everyone he sees, proudly announcing his arrival and secondly, when I call out to him he miaows back and waits for me to come and find him. He is definitely like no other cat I have ever met.
So he's a gentle, friendly cat, what else? This cat, I am convinced, thinks he is a dog. I've read that Ragdoll cats are particularly good with dogs, and children and in my experience this is completely true. I kept him indoors as requested but I decided to take him out for walks on a lead, like a dog, and he loved it! But wait, didn't I say that Sandy told me that Fuzzy was a troubled cat with a chequered past? Yes. This is true. I think I need to tell you a bit more about his background.
When Fuzzy arrived on my doorstep he was a 6 year old boy in his prime. How did he end up with the Cat Protection League in the first place? Well, Fuzzy lived with a family who owned dogs. They had three, in fact: a red setter and two toy poodles. When they purchased Fuzzy as a kitten, he and the female red setter immediately bonded and she adopted him as her little pal. They even slept in the same bed together. Unfortunately the red setter was older and she died when Fuzzy was 5 or 6 - and that's when things took a change for the worse.
Fuzzy was deeply affected by the death of his friend and started to take it out on the poodles. He couldn't be trusted in the same room as them any more and his owners started to lock him away in the conservatory, away from the rest of the family. I also suspect that he may have been spraying urine everywhere but they left this out of the story if it was true. I don't think they wanted to put his new owner off keeping him! In the end, they made the decision to give him to the Cat Protection League charity for re-homing.
So Fuzzy arrived with me, mourning, craving attention and happy to have a new doting owner. He was also on a prescription only dry food as he had had a urinary tract infection in the past. I was told he should remain on this food for the foreseeable future (and that story is a completely new hub) and that he should be kept indoors. I had never kept a cat indoors before but it seemed sensible to me as my last cat had died a horrible death outdoors (another hub entirely once again!). He was to be the only pet in the household and that was it. And I was given his pedigree family tree as well. Fuzzy's real name was Ragamews Blue Thunder.
So you're thinking I didn't listen to the instructions, right? He's not the only pet in our household. You'd be right, but it's not as bad as it sounds. I accidentally discovered that the whole sole pet thing might not be the best way forward for Fuzzy - and Sandy, if you're reading this, I apologise but it worked out fine.
I moved to Bristol, with Fuzzy of course, and did some more charity work for a different cat organisation. As part of that I fostered a nursing mother and her kittens for a short while in my spare room until they were ready to be re-homed. The lady at the charity told me that Fuzzy would probably hiss under the door at them and be very hostile but that it was nothing to worry about. So, I went ahead and fostered the kittens. Fuzzy checked out the door - no hissing. He was interested but he didn't hiss. This went on for a few days so I decided to take a bold step. I put one of the kittens in the cat carrier and placed her on the ground in front of Fuzzy. He investigated, as did the kitten, and then he gave a half-hearted hiss and walked off.
That was when I decided to get Abi.
Abi's story is a lot less dramatic than Fuzzy's with a little less rejection (she was purchased by another family and then taken back to the breeder for some reason). Thankfully I found her through an advert and she has been my 'babycat' ever since.
Abi is much shyer than Fuzzy. In fact she behaves a lot more like a "normal" cat. She doesn't like walking on the lead (she tries to hide under cars) and she tends to shy away from strangers (not like Fuzzy who does the exact opposite). She is a very gentle cat, however, and has never tried to scratch anyone.
She is a little closer to me than anyone else and when she was a kitten she used to follow me around the house and sleep on my pillow beside me at night. She'd wake me up by snuggling into my neck and licking me. She still does that sometimes actually! She is more independent now but she still loves human company and will happily sit on my lap whilst I watch some TV.
Fuzzy and Abi are good pals now (although Fuzzy did sulk for a week when I first got her) and they will groom each other and play around the house.
Abi is now 6 years old and is a blue mitted Ragdoll.
Our third Ragdoll...
Our third Ragdoll is called Zuri and she's another girl. Her story is simply amazing.
I accidentally came across Zuri when I was casually looking around for cat breeders in the area. I wasn't looking for a cat at the time but I was looking for breeders so that if I wanted one in the future, I would know where to go.
Anyway, I came across a very nice breeder who lived quite near and she explained to me that she had a litter of kittens but that there was one girl who had been born a lot smaller than the rest. She thought that this little girl would be a fading kitten and just die but, with lots of special care and some homoeopathy, this little girl pulled through. The breeder had nicknamed her "Little Bird" because she was so small and when I saw her I understood why. She looked so tiny compared to the others and her fur was like a little chick in a nest. She looked much more like a mouse than a cat!
We decided to add her to our family and she has turned out to be a complete darling. Zuri is extremely gentle and docile, almost to the point of injury! I remember having to move her away from my baby son on several occasions because he would lean on her and try to pat her (too hard) and she would just lie there and let him! She will move out of the way now though but she is still extremely tolerant. She also relaxes completely when I lift her up and is the most docile of the three.
Zuri used to follow me around the house too but now that she is over a year old she is a little more independent. She still likes to be near us, however, and she sleeps at my feet every night. She is particularly close with Abi (who also happens to be her aunt) and they often curl up together to sleep.
Characteristics of Ragdolls - are they right for you?
After we got Zuri, we got a puppy and, with careful introductions and training, I was able to trust the puppy with the cats and they with him. He does still try to play with them occasionally but they tend to let him know when they want him to leave them alone.
This leads me to the characteristics of Ragdoll cats. I always read that Ragdolls are particularly good around other pets and children and I find this to be true. They are very tolerant of the dog and of my son (who is a very boisterous toddler). When they need their space there are plenty of places for them to escape to and they appreciate being able to retreat from the dog when they fancy some peace (especially Abi). If you do have children or dogs I think it is a good idea to provide your cats with a tranquil hideaway just in case they want some quiet time.
There are other things to bear in mind when considering opening your home to a Ragdoll cat. Firstly, it is very important that they remain indoors. This is simply because they don't have the same nature as indoor/outdoor cats and they don't have the same ability to defend themselves because they are so docile. I would also wager that, in some neighbourhoods, a Ragdoll cat roaming around outdoors could easily be adopted by a stranger and you would never see him again. They are very beautiful cats and many of them are particularly friendly with anyone they meet (like Fuzzy) and would happily leave you for another. The best thing to do is to cat-proof your garden so that they can get some time outside in a safe, enclosed environment. Another idea is to train them to walk on a lead, although this can be tricky when you meet dog walkers who don't have good control of their pooches! My cats just like to get outside to eat some grass and enjoy the fresh air so I let them out when I'm in the garden.
The next thing to consider is the hair. Ragdolls don't tend to knot and matt too much (although all of mine have developed knots at some stage) but they will need some brushing and grooming. They do shed a lot so the more you brush them, the better for your carpets! Ragdoll fur is beautifully soft and silky but that also means that it is a nightmare to get off your clothes and out of your carpets. The best thing to do is to invest in a good brush like the Furminator. It removes the undercoat and loose fur and really helps reduce pet fur in your home if used regularly. It also helps your cats if they suffer from hairballs so everyone is happy. I didn't buy one of these straight away because of the price but, after trying other cheaper options, I wish I had because the Furminator is the only shedding tool that does the job properly for my cats (and my dog). If you don't like dealing with pet hair a Ragdoll is most definitely not for you.
Ragdolls are also quite playful cats, even in adulthood. All three of mine will run around the house playing with each other for sections of the day, even Fuzzy! This is to be expected with indoor cats as they need to let off steam but if you want a cat that sits quietly in the corner all day then look elsewhere. Ragdolls will run, jump, get up to mischief and get involved in whatever it is you're trying to do. They will even accompany you to the toilet and "talk" to you whilst you are there. It really is an adorable little trait but if you don't like that sort of thing they're not for you.
As far as their vocal tendencies are concerned I have a mixed bag here. Abi miaows occasionally when she wants something, Zuri chirrups occasionally and when Fuzzy wants something he will miaow loudly and incessantly whilst pawing you in the face until he gets it. This includes miaowing at your head at whatever time in the morning he sees fit to wake you up. I read that they aren't particularly vocal cats like Siamese but Fuzzy is more vocal than any cat I have ever met so exceptions do happen. There is a sketch on youtube called Simon's cat - Cat Man Do that reminds me very much of Fuzzy in the mornings...
Are they lap cats? Two of mine are, one isn't but he will happily sit next to you and lean on your side. Do they get hairballs? No, not when they are brushed but Fuzzy used to get them from time to time.
If you want a gentle, loving cat who loves spending time with you and you don't mind the fur then a Ragdoll might be for you. I have encountered a lot of cats so far in my lifetime and, although every one of them had an individual personality that I loved, my Ragdolls have been the most interesting cats by far. They are real characters with playful souls and very affectionate natures and I've become a massive fan of the breed.
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