With their silky pelts in appealing colors, bright blue eyes and affectionate natures, Ragdoll cats have had a strong following since their introduction in 1971. The most notable characteristic of the breed is a tendency among some individuals to become limp and doll-like when picked up and held. Ragdolls are some of the most docile and people-friendly cats you can meet.
Along with their intelligence and willingness to learn cute or useful tricks, this has earned them the reputation of being “puppy-dog cats” among fans of the breed. Ragdolls are a longhaired cat with a soft, luxurious single-layered coat. Ragdolls can exhibit a range of colors in their fur.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the possible fur colors allowed within the breed standard for Ragdolls. You’ll learn about the history of the breed and the ancestry that gave rise to the Ragdoll’s unique coat. You’ll learn how different colors and fur patterns manifest in this breed and how you can best take care of your Ragdoll’s handsome coat.
Ragdoll History and Breed Specifications
The Ragdoll is a unique and remarkable breed. Their origins are recent, dating back to the 1960s. A cat breeder in the US bought some kittens from a neighbor, whose white non-pedigree longhair had given birth to three litters with an interesting quirk. The father was unknown but was presumed to be a seal-point cat as many of Josephine’s kittens were seal counterpoints too. When picked up, these kittens would relax completely: their muscles would go limp and they would flop like a ragdoll.
The breeder, Anne Baker, realized there was something very special about these cute seal-point kittens and began breeding from them. Baker selected for this trait, as well as other desirable characteristics. These included the originally pointed coloration, luxurious fur, and a friendly disposition.
Rather than take the usual step of attempting to get her new breed registered with traditional cat-fancying associations. Instead, she struck out on her own. She copyrighted the name “Ragdoll” to prevent it from being adopted by other breeders and founded her own registry, the International Ragdoll Cat Association or IRCA. The Association had strict standards; nobody could sell or breed Ragdoll cats unless they met the stringent requirements imposed by Baker. Cats registered as official Ragdolls could not be registered with any other association. After Baker’s death, the trademark eventually lapsed. Various offshoot groups were created that broke away from the more strict standards of the original IRCA. The largest is currently the Ragdoll Fanciers’ Club International (RFCI). RFCI Ragdoll cats are now accepted to be registered with other cat-breeding associations.
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Breed Standard Patterns for the Ragdoll Cat
There are three patterns recognized by most breed standard organizations: colorpoint, bi-color and mitted. Colorpoint Ragdolls are marked similarly to a Siamese, with a light-colored body and darker fur on the nose, ears, tail and paws. There should be no white anywhere on the cat’s body, although light-colored fur is fine.
A mitted Ragdoll has white fore-paws resembling mittens. The rear paws are white to the hock as if the cat was wearing boots. A whitetail tip and a white blaze on the face are also possible.
Bi-color Ragdolls have much more white on their bodies than mitted Ragdolls. The white markings extend further up their legs and they have a white undercarriage. Sometimes bi-colour Ragdolls have white splashes on their backs and a white delta shape on their faces. Some also have a white tip on their tails. Larger quantities of white on a bi-colored cat are sometimes called Van markings.
Two variations on these color patterns are also permitted. These are Lynx, a variant of the bi-color type with tabby markings, and Tortoiseshell, which is a variant with mottled or particolored fur.
A recent development in the Ragdoll fancy is the Mink type. These are pointed cats but with darker body colors, creating a more subtle contrast between the body and the pointed areas. Not all breeders recognize the Mink coloration as acceptable for a Ragdoll but this pattern has plenty of fans.
It can take some time for a Ragdoll’s coloring to manifest completely. Kittens are often born looking quite different to their adult form. They are typically born with white fur all over, which will start to darken as soon as the kitten is delivered. The cat’s general color will be evident after about 8 to 12 weeks but their patterns may take much longer to become fully evident. A Ragdoll’s colors and patterns will continue to develop over the years, generally growing darker as the cat gets older.
A Ragdoll may have any of six colors recognized by the various breed standard associations. These are a seal, red and chocolate, plus the “dilutes” of these shades — lilac, cream and blue.
Seal refers to a cool light brown. Many Ragdolls are seal-pointed, with a creamy body and light brown colorpoints. The Lynx variant in this color has delicate tabby stripes in the seal color, sometimes confined to specific parts of the body. Seal bi-colors have large patches of seal brown with white colors.
Red refers to a strong reddish-orange shade. Pointed Ragdolls with this color are sometimes called flame Ragdolls, and when you see them you’ll realize why. The bright red tips to their creamy body-coat make them look like a living flame. Red Lynx Ragdolls have delicate ginger stripes, often in rings along with their tails.
Chocolate refers to a much deeper brown than the seal. On a chocolate point Ragdoll, this color contrasts strongly with their soft ivory body coats. Seal Lynx Ragdolls have quite distinct chocolate tabby stripes. This color looks particularly fetching in the mitted type, as it really brings out the Ragdoll’s white socks.
Lilac is a very soft pinkish shade. It’s the dilute form of the seal coloration. Cats with this color have quite subtle markings, with the lilac contrasting against body fur of the palest grey.
Blue refers to deep blue-grey shade, the dilute of chocolate brown. Blue pointed Ragdolls have a light platinum-grey body-color, providing a strong contrast to the deeper shades of the points. Paw pads and nose leather should be a deeper greyish-blue. Blue Lynx Ragdolls have subtle tabby stripes of deep grey against a light grey ground.
The cream is dilute of red. It’s a very soft slightly pinkish shade, warmer than ivory. Cream markings are among the most subtle.
Eye Colour in Ragdolls
Ragdolls have inherited their eye color from their mysterious seal-pointed male progenitors. To this day, all pure-bred Ragdolls have blue eyes like the eyes of a Siamese. Some are a very pale blue, almost pastel; others are a bright and vivid shade that makes them look like living gems. In the darker-furred Mink types, you may sometimes see a slight greenish tint. Show judges and breeders tend to favor the brightest blue eyes.
Caring For Your Ragdoll’s Coat
Like other longhaired breeds, the Ragdoll’s coat benefits from regular attention. They’re less prone to the mats and snarls that afflict other longhairs but they should still be combed or brushed every day or so. Unlike some cats, I’ve never met a Ragdoll who didn’t enjoy being groomed. These cats are very affectionate and generally relish the attention. If yours is one of the rare individuals who don’t care for combs and brushes, try a brush mitt. A few Ragdolls, especially older cats, can benefit from having the fur around their anus trimmed away if they’re having trouble keeping clean when they use the litter-box.
Unless she’s suffered some mishap that’s got her fur very dirty or you are planning to show her, you will not need to bathe your Ragdoll. In fact, too much washing may be harmful; it can strip away the natural oils of her fur and may cause skin irritations. Keep a bottle of pet-safe shampoo at hand for use in emergencies; in general, though, you can stick to brushing.
While you’re grooming your Ragdoll’s fur, check her over for any hidden health issues or injuries. Her blue eyes should be clear and healthy, without mucus or redness. Peek into her ears to check for ear mites and look under her tail to make sure you can’t see any worm eggs. Keep your eyes open for redness or inflammation of the skin under the fur and make sure she doesn’t have any insect bites. Little black specks in the fur are a sign of flea infestation — you will need to treat her for this. If she’s managed to escape outside, check her for ticks.
Run your hands over her body and limbs to check for any swelling or warm spots that could indicate inflammation or injury. Most cats are all too good at covering up injuries and sore spots, but this breed is especially slow to show pain. Their calmness and docility means that they often don’t react much even when something’s hurting them.
Ragdoll Myths Debunked
The Ragdoll breed has generated quite a few false beliefs in their short history. The most dangerous of these is that Ragdolls are “immune to pain”. They are not. Ragdolls are simply very placid and slow to anger, with a tendency to go quiet when stressed or hurt rather than lashing out. The reputation for pain immunity sometimes means that people don’t treat these cats as gently as they deserve.
Another myth is that Ragdolls are hypoallergenic. As a cat-allergic cat-lover myself, I wish this was true — I’d own twelve. Unfortunately, Ragdolls are not the answer to cat allergies. They shed rather less than some other breeds because they lack a thick undercoat, but they can still trigger allergies if you’re susceptible.
Due to their quiet and undramatic personalities, people sometimes claim that Ragdolls are unintelligent. This is most unfair — they’re actually very smart cats. They’re just quiet and restrained, more likely to enjoy puzzles and tricks than getting into mischief.
I’ve also come across the assertion that Ragdolls are likely to be blind. I believe this confusion may have arisen because of their blue eyes, which are similar to those of the myopia-prone Siamese. All cats are susceptible to eye problems such as conjunctivitis, cataracts and glaucoma; I know of no reason why Ragdolls might be especially likely to experience vision loss, however.
Owning a Ragdoll: Things to Know
Ragdolls really do make wonderful pets. It’s impossible not to love their sweet faces, soft fur and amazingly loving dispositions. I would not hesitate to recommend a Ragdoll for anyone — but I might hesitate to recommend anyone for a Ragdoll.
Although they’re not a sickly or high-maintenance breed, Ragdolls have certain vulnerabilities that you should consider before you bring one into your home. First of all, they are very much a lap-cat: physically affectionate, cuddlesome and very attentive. If you’re looking for an independent companion who will keep their distance and not seek too much attention, this is not the breed for you. Ragdolls thrive on affection and can become very disconsolate if they”re left alone too much.
I would recommend a Ragdoll for a household where there are people around most of the day. This is a loving cat who needs companionship. A Ragdoll will usually be fine if left alone for a normal working day but if you work long hours or travel away from home a great deal, she might struggle with separation anxiety. If you’re a busy professional, I’d suggest arranging for a sitter to come and check on your cat if you’re going to be away for more than a day or two at a time.
Ragdolls make great pets for homes with children, provided the youngsters are supervised around the cat. Older children can understand the importance of being gentle with cats but small children may not. Little hands tend to find soft fur and fluffy tails irresistible, and those loving hugs can get rather uncomfortable if the child hasn’t learned not to squeeze too tightly. As a family pet, a Ragdoll’s docility and affection make her ideal — just make sure she’s treated with respect.
For retirees or those who can’t get out too much, a Ragdoll is practically perfect. They’re rather low-energy and quiet, not given to rough-housing or getting into trouble. They really benefit from having someone around to keep them company.
Buying a Ragdoll
If you’ve considered all of the possible issues and feel that you could provide a good home for a Ragdoll cat, the next step is to find a reputable seller. While you may occasionally see older Ragdolls or Ragdolls with non-show-worthy colors and configurations given up for adoption, you should normally expect to buy one from a breeder. Pedigree Ragdoll kittens often cost a few hundred pounds. A breeder offering Ragdolls for much less than this should be regarded with suspicion. Look for a registered breeder who complies with the standards of their organization.
A reputable breeder will not relinquish kittens until they’re at least 12 weeks old, but will usually let you visit the kittens with their mother before you adopt. Look for a kitten who’s alert, happy and ready to play. Try tempting the kitten with a piece of string or ribbon as a teaser toy and see how she responds. Mother and kittens should be clean and well-cared-for, free from parasites and in good health.
Ask which hereditary conditions the cats are screened for. In particular, you should check that Ragdolls are screened for Feline Mucopolysaccharidosis. This is a rare but unpleasant condition that can cause joint issues, problems with mobility and even paralysis. You should also check that your breeder screens for the mutation that causes Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a progressive heart disease that affects many breeds.
Your breeder should already have had the kitten de-sexed before you take her home. She should also have had her first round of vaccinations; your breeder should be happy to give you a copy of her vaccine schedule.
Article by Barbara Read
Barbara Read is the heart and soul behind CatBeep.com. From her early love for cats to her current trio of feline companions, Barbara's experiences shape her site's tales and tips. While not a vet, her work with shelters offers a unique perspective on cat care and adoption.