Why are Ragdolls so docile?

The reason why Ragdolls are so docile is because they have been bred to be docile. This is called selective breeding. It is a little unusual for breeders to focus so intently on the character of the cat that they are breeding. However, in this instance it is vital that they do so because the reputation of the breed is built around the fact that the cat is floppy, docile, friendly, easy-going, laid-back and created for an indoor life. Normally breeders focus more on the appearance but in this instance it seems to me that they focus on both appearance and character.

Laid back Ragdoll!
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Laid back Ragdoll! Picture unattributed.

Selective breeding for character means that the breeders choose cats for their breeding lines who are of the required character and in that way they gradually fix this gentle character into the breed. This is not to say that every Ragdoll cat is laid-back and floppy. Like every other domestic cat each individual has his or her own character but the underlying personality should be docile. I am sure that you’ll hear stories of angry Ragdoll cats somewhere on the internet but they’ll be rare.

The foundation cats – a Persian type and a Birman type – would have been docile. That starting point has been built upon by a succession of breeders to intensify what Dr Desmond Morris calls the “docility factor”. Both Persian and Birman cats are known for their gentleness and by bringing them together, Ann Baker, the founder of the Ragdoll managed to create, perhaps accidentally, an abnormally gentle cat.

Ragdoll by Tetsu

Ragdoll by Tetsu.

The history of the cat is sowewhat shrouded in mystery, however (or it lacks clarity) Therefore what I’m saying is common sense. There is no other answer. Ann Baker referred to the cats as “floppy”. She thought that the British Ragdolls were not floppy enough and that the “flop-factor” had been diluted in the British Ragdolls.

A group of Ragdoll breeders broke away from the Ann Baker franchise and created the RagaMuffin. The RagaMuffin does not have the same reputation as being floppy but they should be floppy in my view as the come from the same stock originally. The diagram below is my understanding of the start of the RagaMuffin.

RagaMuffin start and creation

RagaMuffin start and creation

I have a full page on the breed so I’m not going to repeat myself here. Please click on this link if you want to read about the Ragdoll and the complicated early history of the breed when it was founded by Ann Baker who was an idiosyncratic person with very particular ideas as far as I can tell. I mention the word “franchise” above. She wanted to set up a network of breeders to whom she franchised the right to breed cats under her directions. In other words she wanted to keep control of the breeding process wherever it took place. This is highly unusual, indeed unique as far as I’m aware. But it failed as it was too controlling, hence to split by some franchisees to create the RagaMuffin.

Ben Ragdoll cat

Beautiful Raggie

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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