The Ragdoll Cat – Breed Doing It God’s Way
When social historians enumerate the blessings conferred upon Americans by the automobile, they frequently omit the Ragdoll Cat, a large, longhaired breed of cat whose several attributes are said to include extreme affability and imperviousness to pain.
According to the earliest statements of the breed’s founder, Ann Baker, the automobile contributed to the development of these characteristics by running over a cat named Josephine in Riverside, California, in the early 1960s. Baker, also of Riverside, claimed to have been struck by lightning but never a car. Later she said that the automobile was only a hit-and-run player in the ragdoll’s development. The operative role belonged to government agents who had performed genetic alterations on Josephine in the laboratory to which she had been taken after her accident. Baker’s propensity for this kind of utterance eventually led many people to believe she ought to have been required to wear seat belts at all times.
Ragdoll Cat – Baker’s Dozens
Josephine, the autocatalytic female, was a white, footloose cat, perhaps of Persian-Angora descent. She either belonged to or lived on the estate of one of Baker’s neighbors, depending on which source you credit. (In the Ragdoll Cat chronicles there is generally more than one source to credit or to discredit, as the case may be.) Prior to her brush with destiny and the underside of a car — not to mention those pesky government operatives — Josephine had produced at least one litter of kittens.
According to Baker those kittens were willing to accept food from humans but did not invite a hands-on relationship with our species. The kittens Josephine produced after the wheels of fortune had passed over her displayed a different bent, however. They were bigger and friendlier than other cats, more impervious to pain and less endowed with an instinct for self-preservation. (This last suggests that Nature or the government is not without a sense of irony.) What’s more, Josephine’s posttraumatic kittens had non-matting fur and went limp when they were held. (A cynic might be tempted to ask why, considering Josephine’s accident, her kittens didn’t develop a carapace.)
When Baker noticed the aforementioned differences in Josephine’s kittens, inspiration sounded its horn. She acquired one of Josephine’s offspring, a female named Buckwheat, and registered her with the National Cat Fanciers’ Association (NCFA) in 1963. Then Baker conspired to have Josephine bred to a sacred cat of Burma, a breed whose first representatives had arrived in this country in 1959. That breeding produced a longhaired kitten with seal point markings and white feet. He was named Daddy War Bucks, and he became, said Baker, “the father of the Ragdoll Cat look.”
If Daddy War Bucks was the father of the Ragdoll Cat look, Ann Baker was its godmother. In her autobiography, Let’s Do It God’s Way, which she published in the late 1980s, Baker declared, “I am the owner of the trademark, franchise, and registry of the authentic ragdolls.” She stopped short of declaring she was the way, the truth, and the light, but she ruled her new breed as though she were. She demanded absolute fealty from everyone who bought her cats, reserving for herself the right to approve, if not dictate, the fashion in which those cats were used for breeding. Nor did she hesitate to banish from her garden of edicts those owners who would not serve.
In an instruction sheet mailed to prospective Ragdoll Cat breeders Baker wrote, “You only breed the cats Ann Baker sells you … if one dies then you must get another from her and not use your own male, or sell any pairs… if you have someone who wants a pair notify Ann Baker… and you can sell one half of the pair… but the other or mate must come from Ann Baker.”
Moreover, says the Ragdoll Cat Connection Network, Baker “was paid a royalty fee for every kitten sold” by people who had obtained their breeding stock from her. When those royalties ran dry, The Daily Telegraph of London reported, Baker, who died last year, “was also said to have used cats as a form of currency: when she was hard up, she would pay her builders in kittens.”
Baker’s tendency to color outside the lines was not confined to her business arrangements. In addition to claiming that the government had customized Josephine’s DNA, she claimed to have been kidnapped by rival cat breeders who slaughtered 99 of her kittens, and she circulated a poster with photos of dead kittens in muddled clusters to support her claim. She further insisted that she had crossed ragdolls with skunks in order to improve ragdolls’ tails and that ragdolls represented a link between humans and space aliens. These and other statements caused many people to wonder if Baker’s eyes glowed in the dark.
Ragdoll Cat Trouble in Paradise
When we corresponded with Ann Baker 15 years ago, she was advertising a book she had written called You’ve Been Had. Me Too. In it, she claimed that she had “found a cure for things the vet put your animal to sleep for.” She also proudly announced she was “a party to and supporter of” Jimmy Swaggert, Oral Roberts, the 700 Club, and others.
Having read Baker’s “literature” and her autobiography, one would be hard pressed to imagine how or why she was able to enroll a number of dues-paying disciples in the Church of the Large, Nonaggressive Feline. She was, nonetheless; but as often happens among true believers, dissent raised its serpentine head, and the congregation came asunder over the restrictions Baker had placed on the development of her chosen breed.
Thus it came to pass that in 1971 Baker founded her own cat registry, the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA), to “authenticate” Ragdoll Cat kittens produced by breeders who were still on her wavelength. She also trademarked the name Cherubim Cats, a rubric that included ragdolls, honey bears, doll babies, baby dolls, shu schoos, and other feline creations. “Cherubim Cats,” Baker explained, “are cats that did not get their start by breeding two breeds together … one is phenomena and the others are DNA.” The honey bear, said Baker cryptically, “Looks like Persian, but not a cat skeleton.”
Meanwhile, a dissident group of Ragdoll Cat breeders started the Ragdoll Fanciers’ Club International (RFCI), which transferred allegiance and registrations to the more established cat registries. The cats developed by RFCI breeders were accepted for championship competition, first by NCFA in 1972 and eventually by every association in this country except the largest, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA). In CFA ragdolls compete in provisional classes, but they could become eligible for championship competition and full acceptance as a pedigreed breed as early as next year.
For its part, RFCI is silent about the effects of automobile accidents on feline temperament and size. Dennis Dayton, one of the founding members of the group, preferred to explain the evolution of Ragdoll Cat attributes as “simply a fluke of nature.” As for the origin of ragdolls, RFCI quotes Robin Pickering and David Pollard, authors of The Definitive Guide To Ragdolls, published by Ragdoll World UK [United Kingdom].
“At the time [the early 1960s] Ann had been borrowing one of Josephine’s older sons to sire progeny in [Ann’s] Black Persian breeding programme. This son had the appearance of a Black/Brown Persian and she named him Blackie, and it was [on] one of her visits to borrow him that she saw Blackie’s brother. He appeared most impressive and in Ann’s words had the appearance of a Sacred Cat of Burma, (The Birman Breed). Having already established the owner’s trust, she was also permitted to borrow this cat to mate with her own females. She was most taken with this son of Josephine and named him Raggedy Ann Daddy Warbucks. What Ann clearly states is that Blackie and Daddy Warbucks are both sons of Josephine, but with different sires … During detailed questioning, Ann confirmed that no-one had ever seen the father of Daddy Warbucks, and he was the only kitten in that particular litter of Joesphine’s. This being so, makes it difficult to take the origins of the breed further.”
Last year the ragdoll ranked 20th among the 36 breeds registered by CFA. The 472 new ragdolls signed up in 1997 represented a 6 percent decrease from the preceding year. In England, however, the breed is immensely popular. Ragdolls are “the rising stars of the pedigree cat world,” The Daily Telegraph reports. “Unknown in Britain before the early Eighties, there are now 6,000 of them in the country … and ragdolls are already the tenth most frequently exhibited breed at pedigree cat shows.”
The Daily Telegraph also reports that the Ragdoll Cat Club “even sent a couple of cats to be examined by veterinary scientists at Glasgow University. The vets X-rayed them, analyzed the chemical composition of their blood and even stuck needles in the neck to see how they would react to pain. But after three days they were declared to be fairly ordinary cats.”
One hopes this research wasn’t funded with taxpayers’ money. One further hopes that veterinary scientists won’t be needed to disprove the other myths clinging to the ragdoll’s non-matting coat. “Unfortunately,” the Ragdoll International Cat Club observes, “myths still persist in some circles, and cat owners have been misleading into believing that Ragdolls do not feel pain, do not cause allergies to those allergic to cats, cannot defend themselves and do not possess normal cat instincts such as hunting. All of the above are untrue.”
Ragdolls should be treated with the same care and respect bestowed upon all other breeds.”
In a perfect world that would be the last word on ragdolls, but just when people thought it was safe to go on to the next topic, along came the RagaMuffin, “the ultimate cat to own.” In case you were wondering what became of the Ann Baker faithful while the RFCI was gaining mainstream cat fancy acceptance for ragdolls, here’s the skinny.
“RagaMuffins come from the original [IRCA] lines, which have been bred outside the cat fancy for more than thirty years,” writes breeder Kim Clark. In February 1994, says Clark, a “group of breeders left the originator [Ann Baker] and petitioned for registry as RagaMuffins” in several cat associations. This band, which calls itself the RagaMuffin Associated Group, changed the breed’s name from Ragdoll Cat to ragamuffin because “there is a valid trademark on the name Ragdoll Cat held by the originator of IRCA. No one can legally use the name without the permission of the owner.”
With the passing of Ann Baker and the acceptance of the ragamuffin for championship competition in the UFO (United Feline Organization) and ICE (International Cat Exhibitors), the journey that began in Riverside, California, more than 30 years ago appears to be complete. Josephine has given birth to two breeds of cats and, by extension, a wonderful collection of stories. There is, at last, no more to be said — unless a Ragdoll Cat slips out of the house one day, gets hit by a car and produces nothing but white kittens that look exactly like Josephine.
Ragdoll Cat – The Building Code
The Ragdoll Cat is a large, long-bodied, handsome cat with a semi-long, silken coat and lovely, oval blue eyes. According to the Ragdoll Fanciers Club International, “Altered adult males may reach 15 to 20 pounds, females will weigh about 5 pounds less.” Because their undercoat is not so cottony or profuse as that of some other longhaired breeds, ragdolls do not require as much grooming. The ragdoll is slow to mature. It doesn’t attain its full color until roughly two years of age, while adult weight and size are not achieved until the ragdoll is four years old or more.
Ragdoll Cat – Patterns and Colors
Ragdolls occur in colorpoint, bicolor and mitted patterns. Colorpoint cats have a different color on their points — i.e., ears, facial mask, legs, and tail — than they do on the rest of their bodies. The body color of ragdolls may be platinum gray, milk white, ivory or fawn. The point colors that correspond to those body shades are blue, chocolate, lilac (sometimes called frost) and seal, respectively.
Bi-colors, which also come in blue, chocolate, lilac and seal, are colorpoint cats with a white, inverted V on their faces. In addition, bi-colors have a white ruff, white legs and feet and may have patches of white on their bodies.
Mitted cats, which can be blue, chocolate, lilac or seal, are colorpoint cats with a broken or evenly matched white blaze on the nose and/or between the eyes. Mitted cats have evenly matched and scalloped white mittens on their front legs. Their hind legs should be entirely white up to midthigh. The white adornment must circumnavigate the hocks, and the cat must have a white stripe, varying in width, which extends from the bib and runs down the underside between the forelegs to the under a base of the tail.
Ragdoll Cat – Personality Profile
Though it shouldn’t be expected to live up to some of the fantastic claims made on its behalf, the Ragdoll Cat is an extremely docile cat. It possesses a genial good nature and is, by all accounts, irresistibly huggable. “The Ragdoll Cat has an exceptionally gentle, well-balanced temperament,” says one breeder, “but we should keep in mind that it is a cat, and allow it a few catty moments now and then! It does not display the independence and aloofness for which cats are generally known but wants to be where you are and will follow you everywhere. It is a personality cat – intelligent, playful and affectionate.”