Do Ragdolls have health problems?

The question is asking whether Ragdoll cats have health problems over and above the normal health issues that a domestic cat encounters throughout their life. In other words, is the Ragdoll cat predisposed through genetic inheritance to any specific illnesses? And the answer to that question is yes. It is quite clear from my research on the Internet that the Ragdoll is predisposed to suffering from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

Ragdoll cat
Beautiful Ragdoll cat. Photo: Jack Andreas Solberg
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The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare tells me that approximately 30 percent of Ragdoll cats have a genetic mutation which makes it likely that they will develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Note: this may only apply to the UK. The prevalence of the disease appears to vary between countries and is lower in Italy and in the US. I would certainly enquire about this.

It is a disease which thickens the heart muscles which leads to heart failure in time. FYI – the Bengal cat has a similar issue.

The website also says that HCM is the most common form of heart disease in cats. With a 30 percent prevalence rate, you have to say that it is high in Ragdoll cats. It can be detected by veterinarians using ultrasonography and other diagnostic tools.

Ragdoll Ophelia
Ragdoll Ophelia. Photo: Dani.

Apparently, Ragdolls are homozygous positive for the disease. “Homozygous” means that the cat has to have two copies of the HCM gene. It can be present in a Ragdoll as young as 6 months of age. Wikipedia says that most Ragdolls who have it die by the age of 3. This begs the question whether Ragdoll breeders certify that their cat is free of the HCM gene.

Certainly, if I was buying a Ragdoll cat I would have to receive assurances from the breeder that the cat that I was buying was free of this gene as they should be able to eliminate it from their breeding lines. A DNA test was developed in 2007 to identify the gene that causes HCM in Ragdolls. I suspect that the vast majority of Ragdoll breeders have eliminated this from their breeding lines. However, it appears that some Ragdolls develop HCM despite being negative for the gene.

Where does the Ragdoll come from? America is the answer.
RW SGCA. WillowTreeRags’ Irish Fancy AKA “Clancy”. Photo: copyright Helmi Flick

General health

I’m rather surprised to read that a study based on data from a Swedish insurance company concluded that the Ragdoll with the Siamese have the lowest survival rates. What I mean is that I’m not surprised at the Siamese has a low survival rate but it is news to me that the Ragdoll’s survival rate is lower. It is said that the Ragdoll has a lifespan of 12 years while they Siamese lifespan is averaged at 15 years. The Siamese has the highest number of inherited diseases of all the purebred cats.

The study indicated that Ragdolls may suffer from a higher than usual prevalence of urinary problems causing death; in particular kidney/ureter issues. It’s not clear whether this study refers to Swedish Ragdolls only.

I have an excellent book on the inherited diseases of purebred cats and they do not list any particular diseases for this breed but that is because it was published in 1992. The evidence of HCM being inherited is a fairly recent development.

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