What is a Ragdoll Cat?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

The ragdoll cat is a cat breed that is primarily known for its unique markings, good temperament, and an unusual tendency to relax and even go limp when they are picked up. It is believed this odd tendency has been passed down through generations of ragdoll cats from the original cats that were used to establish the breed. The name "ragdoll cat" comes from the fact that holding one of these cats is a bit like holding a rag doll, which is a doll made of cloth that is quite soft and usually limp, not rigid like dolls made of plastic or porcelain. Although not every ragdoll cat goes completely limp when it is picked up, they are usually very good natured and easy to handle, unlike other kinds of cats that can be moody and resist being handled or held.

Veterinarian with a puppy
Veterinarian with a puppy

The coat of a ragdoll cat is usually very soft and silky and is referred to as being semi-longhair. While every ragdoll cat is born white, there are a number of variations that appear in their coloring by the time they reach full maturity. It is usually possible to see the color of a ragdoll kitten when it is two or three months old. Full color, however, is not usually achieved until the ragdoll cat is three or four years old. Although much of the cat's coat may remain white or nearly white, the color comes in on the ears, nose, paws, and tail. In some cases, most of the cat's face will develop color.

There are six colors that appear in the ragdoll cat breed. The first three are flame, seal, and chocolate. Lighter versions of these colors — lilac, cream, and blue — make up the second three. Tortoiseshell also appears in this color group. Finally, there are three main patterns that appear in the ragdoll cat breed: pointed, mitted, and bicolor.

The original cats used in the development of this breed were probably Persian, Angora, Burmese, Siamese, or Birman cats. This cannot be confirmed because the cat who had the original litter of ragdoll kittens was a non-pedigreed cat and the cats who fathered her litters were unknown. The cats originated in the United States in the 1960s with this one cat, named Josephine, who was owned and bred by a woman named Ann Baker. Instead of working with traditional cat breeding associations, Baker trademarked the breed name "ragdoll" and established the International Ragdoll Cat Association.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


I work in an animal shelter and I'm sorry to report that we see a lot of Ragdoll cats come through our doors. You wouldn't expect such a sweet and pretty looking cat would get abandoned so often but that is unfortunately the case.

I have heard that people get disappointed by the playing dead behavior. They are apparently expecting a more lively cat or one that will nuzzle and lick faces. The passive Ragdoll comes as a disappointment to those who are not expecting it. It is a real shame that these cats own nature works against them and I wish people would educate themselves better before they get a new pet.

The good news is that there is a lively community of people who love Ragdolls and they often get adopted. We have one family who has adopted 5 or 6 cats over the years and they have always been Ragdolls. Some people don't like the Ragdoll but others love them.


I have a ragdoll cat and it almost never plays dead. It did a little bit when we first had it as a kitten but now it is happy to be picked up and held.

I think its a great family cat. It has such a beautiful and unusual coat and it is great with kids. I can't remember it biting a single person and it is always calm when little kids get too rough. Anyone looking for a family cat for a young family should think about a ragdoll.


My grandma and grandpa used to have a ragdoll cat when I was a little kid. It was funny because they treated it completely differently.

My grandmother loved on the cat all the time and practically treated it like a little baby. It seems like she spent most of her day feeding it treats. But she was a big cat lover so it never seemed especially weird.

My grandpa on the other hand never much liked cats and the only time that he would acknowledge that little ragdoll is when he would pick it up and try to scare us kids. He would run into the room and tell us it had died, or pick it up and swear it had a heart attack. The trick only worked a few times but he played it over and over. I have a feeling that cat preferred my grandmother.

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