Portrait of the Ragdoll

History of the Ragdoll

Pandapaws Cosmos, Carema and Crunchie
Pandapaws Cosmos, Carema and Crunchie

It began in California in 1963 with Ann Baker, a 'Persian' cat breeder. She had been in the habit of borrowing a male cat called Blackie from a neighbour, Mrs Pennels. Blackie had the look of a Black Persian and was the son of an unregistered female called Josephine who was a White cat of semi-long haired Angora appearance. Josephine had a rather uncertain temperament and had produced a number of litters very much like herself.

It was about this time that Josephine was hit by a car and lay in the street for a couple of days. Eventually she was taken to the local university (presumably the School of Veterinary Science) where she recovered, having lost an eye. Josephine was returned to Mrs Pennels and continued to have kittens, but their character had changed. Now they were relaxed and seemed impervious to pain. Ann Baker became more interested.

Mrs Pennels had another male son of Josephine, but by a different father tan Blackie's. This male was unusually patterned, looking something like the cat we know as a Birman with white socks on all feet. He also had a little white stripe on his nose and a white chin with the white extending down his belly, and a white tip to his tail. Ann managed to borrow this cat too and called him Raggedy Ann Daddy Warbucks. Ann had also acquired a Black daughter of Blackie and Josephine, Buckwheat and was now given another of Josephine's daughters, this time sired by Daddy Warbucks. This Bicoloured cat was called Raggedy Ann Fugianna. With Daddy Warbucks, Buckwheat and Fugianna, the seeds of a new breed were planted and Ann Baker was about to reap the harvest.

The Myth of the Ragdoll

Denny and Laura Dayton with Phil and Loveable
Denny and Laura Dayton with Phil and Loveable

Why call this interesting cat a 'Ragdoll'? Well, everyone is familiar with the floppy fabric doll with its bland, wide-eyed features and knitting wool plaits.

There is not a sharp feature to the doll, it can be tossed aside and seems to bounce; it hangs limply under the arm and fits into the very shape of the body. After her accident Josephine's kittens appeared to do just this.
To begin with, Ann Baker saw this new trait as a kind of 'act of God', a 'phenomenon'; that the trauma of the collision with the cat had altered Josephine's genetic constitution and that this was passed on to her kittens and subsequent generations. However, scientifically this is nonsense.
Latterly, Ann Baker has insisted that Josephine had been the subject of 'gene alteration' when she was being nursed at the University. Although others have been charitable, I would be most suspicious of any claims that this kind of procedure was practiced in the mid 1960's on a stray cat.
In hindsight, it would have been very useful to have assessed Ann Baker's claims by the simple process of a full clinical examination of Josephine herself. Sadly, this was not to be. Mr Pennels, annoyed that Josephine had attacked his dog one day, while protecting her litter, had Josephine and her kittens destroyed.

The Ragdoll Franchise

Genetics and Patterns

An early photo of Ann Baker with Fugianna
An early photo of Ann Baker with Fugianna

While it may be that Ann Baker had no scientific credentials, the same can't be said of her business acumen. The name 'Ragdoll' was trademarked and anyone wishing to breed them could only do so on the basis of a franchise with registration through Ann Baker's own International Ragdoll Cat Association.

A highly complex breeding policy formulated by Ann Baker had to be rigidly adhered to, otherwise registration of the kittens would not be forthcoming and the kittens could not be called Ragdolls. Despite the strictures of the franchise, a number of interested breeders 'joined up', notably Laura and Denny Dayton in 1969.

Breeding from Raggedy Ann Buddy and Raggedy Ann Rosie, the Daytons were amazed when Ann Baker attempted to get more money from them when the time came for the kittens to be sold. Court actions ensued and as other franchisees found Ann Baker's demands too onerous, the Daytons acquired more Ragdoll cats. Finally the franchise was legally broken. However, the battles had taken their toll on Denny and Laura and so by 1980 they were ready to pass the flame to the next runner.

In 1981 two breeders, Pat Brownsell and the late Lulu Rowley, acquired Blossom Time Lass, Blossom Time Lad, Blossom Time Proper and Blossom Time Prim in Norfolk, England. The Ragdolls had arrived in Great Britain.

Ann Baker with Kyoto
Ann Baker with Kyoto

What makes the Ragdoll such an interesting proposition is its ability to breed true because of a series of genetic factors accidentally coming together in the original female Josephine and the two male cats she mated with to produce Blackie and Raggedy Ann Daddy Warbucks.

Josephine was a White cat with a semi-longhair coat. As one of her parents was a cat with a coloured coat whatever it might have been - the White cat Josephine inherited from her other parent acted as a kind of overcoat masking colour underneath. On most White kittens there will be a flash of colour on the top of the head. This fades by the time they are about nine months old but it gives an indication of what the colour is under the 'overcoat'.

Genetically, Josephine was a Bicolour cat and in her mating with the male which produced Daddy Warbucks, what is now believed to be a newly identified gene for dominant mitting occurred. This makes the Mitted Ragdoll completely separate from the Birman to which it passes a passing resemblance. It could have been that the sire of Daddy Warbucks also showed the Siamese pattern of coat. It is certain that he carried the gene recessively - like Blackie the sire of Buckwheat did - and this gene, together with colour genes for Chocolate and dilute Blue, he passed on to Buckwheat. In this way, Buckwheat mated to Daddy Warbucks produced the Colourpoint Ragdoll Raggedy Ann Tiki.

And so the ingredients of the Ragdoll recipe were in place for, along with the Siamese pattern, Blue eye colour is also inherited. Blue and Chocolate colour genes present in both parents will produce Lilac kittens and, in addition, the semi-longhair coat is inherited as a recessive to short coat so that when two semi-longhairs are mated together, as happens with all recessive genes, true breeding is the result.

Three patterns have now been mentioned; Colourpoint, Mitted and Bicolour. Given appropriate matings the amount of white can be increased on both Mitted and Bicolour cats. This gives the High Mitted, the Mid High White Bicolour and the High White Bicolour. For show purposes the last three are not recognised, but are incredibly useful for breeding.


The one major characteristic identified by Ann Baker as setting the Ragdoll apart from any other breed was its astonishingly equable character and gentility. I think you can dismiss the floppiness which gave them their name as pure hype, and the assertion that they have a low pain threshold is positively dangerous. Clinical tests have proved absolutely conclusively that the Ragdoll is no different in its physical responses and attributes to any other breed of cat.

What is certain, however, is that the way any kitten of any breed is reared contributes enormously to the socialisation of that kitten. Its human family is every bit as important as the mother cat in this respect. Frequent loving handling encourages trust; playing games with the kitten encourages him to regard you as something much more than the provider of food and litter trays.

Gentility, playfulness, an almost canine fidelity and a sort of absent minded sense of humour are some of the fascinating traits of this sweet-natured feline. They also happen to be alarmingly beautiful.

Extract of an article by Alan Edwards, International Judge and Past President of The British Ragdoll Cat Club.

The early history of the Ragdoll in the UK

Spring 1981 heralded great excitement for two Norfolk ladies who would become synonimously linked in a new venture they were about to embark on with the arrival of the first Ragdolls in the UK.

As Flight TWA 009 touched down at Heathrow, Lulu Rowley of the Petil-lu Cattery in Old Costessey, near Norwich was eagerly awaiting sight of her two six month old kittens, Lad and Lass, Seal Colourpointed and Seal Mitted varieties, imported from Denny and Laura Dayton's Blossom-Time Cattery in California . Her friend, Pat Brownsell of the Patriarca Cattery, excitedly looked on for the thrill of seeing her younger pair of Ragdolls, a Seal Colourpointed and a Chocolate Bicolour, appropriately named Prim and Proper.

Lulu Rowley with Blossom-Time Prim
Lulu Rowley with Blossom-Time Prim
Pat Brownsell
Pat Brownsell

Six months in quarantine seemed an eternity and Pat and Lulu visited the cats as often as they could. Imagine how thrilled Lulu was to get a phone call from the owner of the quarantine cattery on 28 July announcing that Lass had given birth to her first litter of kittens - three girls.

The two ladies had the foresight to broaden the base of their foundation stock by importing a further eight Ragdolls and within a year Blossom-Time Romeo, Juliet, Pistil, Camellia, Bananas, Myrtie, Spring and Summer joined the earlier quartet. With a variety of Ragdolls between them, Lulu and Pat had the potential to produce the 3 patterns of Colourpointed, Mitted and Bicolour in the colours of Seal, Blue, Chocolate and Lilac.

Sue Ward-Smith
Sue Ward-Smith

Once their breeding programmes were established, the ladies were inundated with requests from breeders in the UK , Europe and as far afield as Australia, wishing to establish their own foundation lines and one such breeder was Sue Ward-Smith of Ashburnham in Sussex . Her choice of prefix was inspirational, and the name of Pandapaws was to become inextricably linked to Ragdolls.

Sue, along with a dedicated group of Ragdoll enthusiasts, was not only instrumental in founding The British Ragdoll Cat Club in 1987, but she also set about getting Ragdolls accepted and registered by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. In March 1990 recognition was finally achieved and Ragdolls were eligible to be shown in the Assessment classes at Championship Shows around the country.

Blossom-Time Camellia, Pistil, Romeo, Myrtie, Bananas and Juliet
Blossom-Time Camellia, Pistil, Romeo, Myrtie, Bananas and Juliet

Documented evidence about the origin of the Ragdoll remains vague, but it is believed that the breeds originator, Mrs Ann Baker of Riverside, California, acquired 3 foundation cats from a Mrs Pennel; a Seal Mitted male with a white nose blaze named Daddy Warbucks, who was derived from Josephine, a white non pedigree female and an unknown sire. Ann also acquired two further daughters of Josephine's; Buckwheat, a black self from a different sire of unknown origin and Fugianna, a seal bicolour, sired by Daddy Warbucks.

In due course Buckwheat was mated to Daddy Warbucks and in June 1965 she produced the first kittens that were registered as Ragdolls, Raggedy Ann Kyoto and Raggedy Ann Tiki. Ann then devised her own 'unique' breeding programme; whereby kittens descended from Tiki were categorised as 'the dark side' and from Fugianna 'the light side', the theory being to create genetic diversification by mating cats descended from one side to cats descended from the other. This practice continued for almost thirty years until the early 1990's by which time it was felt that adequate diversification had been achieved. 

Blossom-Time Proper (Seal Bicolour) and Blossom-Time Prim (Seal Colourpointed)
Blossom-Time Proper (Seal Bicolour) and Blossom-Time Prim (Seal Colourpointed)

Living with a Ragdoll

Let us take a closer look at what a Ragdoll is really like to live with. They are large, semi-long haired cats, with a strong muscular feel to them. Their coat is said to be non-mating, but rest assured, if you neglect it, knots will appear, especially under the front and hind legs. Make grooming fun for your pet and he will look forward to this special time with you each day. A thorough grooming is recommended at least twice a week. Their coats are soft and silky with beautiful ruffs and knickerbockers, often look their best in the winter months as with many of the other semi-longhair breeds. Coat length varies with the individual, with neuters usually having a longer, more luxurious look to them. This is because, as we all know, neuters haven't the hormones that play havoc with their systems!

They come in the universally accepted colours of Seal, Blue, Chocolate, Lilac, Red, Cream, in Solid Points, Tortie Points, Tabby Points and Tortie Tabby Points, Which may be transposed over each of the three accepted patterns of Colourpointed, Mitted and Bicolour. Chocolate and Lilac are a little more difficult to acquire.

The Ragdoll should have a good length to his body, with a long tail to balance and with good strong bone and large round tufted paws to support his frame. With their broad head and width between their medium size well furnished ears, medium length nose with its retrousse tip, and of course their most outstanding feature, their eyes. From the deepest Sapphire to the most delicate China Blue, they have an expression like no other cat. The Ragdoll is a perfectly balanced cat, with no extreme abnormalities and it remains the policy of The British Ragdoll Cat Club to maintain this original type, so that the Ragdoll of today still appears similar to those Ragdolls that founded the breed.

When all is said and done, the vast majority of Ragdoll kittens, as in any other breed, are sold as pets. Those who buy them don't really mind if the ear is set a little high, the nose is a little straight, the eyes aren't the deepest blue or the markings a little off centre. They want the TEMPERAMENT. For this is what the Ragdoll is most famous.

Ragdolls have a wonderfully gentle, laid back temperament and their popularity as the ideal house pet who are totally devoted to their owners has become legendary. As kittens they are full of life and inquisitive and as they mature they become very loving, trusting cats who follow their owners everywhere. They love human company and are super with children, but since the boys grow to be such large cats, often tipping the scales at around 15lbs, children do need to be shown how to hold them correctly by supporting them with both hands. Ragdolls have many puppy-like characteristics that are most endearing. They get to know their names and will come when called. They also love to play and any amount of love and affection given to a Ragdoll will be repaid over and over again.

When introduced to the Ragdoll for the first time, you will be overwhelmed at just how beautiful they are. But the big difference with this breed is that, although the kittens are pretty, soft and fluffy, the adults are STUNNING. They are one of the few breeds that actually get better with age. How a kitten looks when first seen, bears no resemblance to how it will look when taken home at 13 weeks. He will look different again at 1 year old and that same kitten will look even more beautiful at 2 years old, developing into a magnificent 4 year old adult.

So, what DO you get when you buy a Ragdoll? Certainly NOT a dim witted creature who sits around all day doing nothing. Certainly NOT the cushion cat which it was once portrayed to be, but a stunningly beautiful individual, with almost a sense of humour all of its own. A cat who will meet you at the door when you return home, who will chatter to you when the mood takes them, who will rely on you to give them all the love so that they will be able to return it to you tenfold. Certainly NOT a cat that can be ignored. Just one small word of warning..., ONE is usually not enough!...... . It has been said before. It has to be said once more......, RAGDOLLS ARE ADDICTIVE............

Extract of an article in 'Our Cats' magazine written by Chris Powell

The Definitive Guide to Ragdolls

When the idea to write this book was conceived, it was the aim of the authors to provide not only a comprehensive guide to the breed, but also to honour the Ragdoll with a book that would be worthy to carry its name. The Definitive Guide to Ragdolls is the result of twenty years combined practical experience. It has been painstakingly researched to bring to the reader a book of superior quality and detail. It has been written by three authors, all friends, who together can bring to the reader a balanced view, not only of the breed in general, but also its husbandry.

Join the authors on their journey backwards in time for over three decades to discover the true genesis of this adorable breed, an account as never before told following an exclusive interview with the breed's originator, Ann Baker in California. The book addresses all areas of management and provides a detailed guide to appeal from the potential pet owner, to the most professional breeder. It covers in detail the complex, yet fascinating area of the genetics of the breed, giving data previously unpublished that will enable the breeder to plan and predict both the colours and patterns desired.

Many of the photographs in the book have been specially commissioned from the photographer, Alan Robinson, LMPA and the results are breathtaking. It took almost a year of concentrated effort and also involved the full cooperation from each animal's owner, we are indebted to them all. We are appreciative for the contributions made to the book by Denny & Laura Dayton of Blossom-Time Ragdolls, Roy Robinson FIBiol, Pat Brownsell, Sue Ward-Smith and Brian & June Rigler, their advice and help was priceless.

In essence, this is an essential book for every Ragdoll owner and yet it will not be consigned to the bookshelf as the reader will want to refer to it repeatedly.

Please note that copies of The Definitive Guide to Ragdollsare no longer available as it is now out of print.