We frequently receive messages from our Instagram friends wondering why their Ragdoll doesn't "act like a Ragdoll" so I wanted to address that in this week's post. This is also somewhat related to what we were talking about last week in our "Improving The Breed" article. Much of the Ragdoll breed description does pertain to their personality, which should be laid back, relaxed, get along well with children and other pets, and tolerant of being handled. So when someone brings home a Ragdoll, that is how they expect it to act. Frequently though, the cat doesn't seem to have much interest in being cuddled, and may display typical "cat" behavior (independence, only wants attention on its own terms, etc) instead of the lovable Ragdoll personality their hopeful new owner had expected. Often the owner will wonder, did I do something wrong? Is there something wrong with my cat, or is it just a 'lemon'? Some will even think to ask, "is my cat even really a Ragdoll?"
While it's true that the relaxed personality of a Ragdoll should be part of the 'whole package', the plain and simple truth is, just like any other trait in a certain breed of cat, said trait only exists due to concentrated, dedicated effort on the part of committed breeders. These breeders do not take anything for granted as a given part of the breed. They would not expect that every single cat called a Maine Coon will automatically have the desired large size, or for a British Shorthair to have the proper heavy boning and rounded features just because it is a British Shorthair. Only through responsible and consistent breeding are any breed-specific traits preserved, and this is abundantly clear with the Ragdoll. Personality, to a large extent, is preserved through genetics, along with physical traits. It's just as easy to lose the correct coat texture in a Ragdoll through a weak choice in breeding as it is to lose that sweet personality.
Some have asked if breeders are only concerned about raising the perfect cat for showing or breeding. I'll hear things like "I just want a pet, I'm not picky" but what few understand is that responsible breeding is what makes a breed unique. The Ragdoll is not a naturally occurring breed. Any *true* Ragdoll that exists is the result of many, many years of breeders who have refined and adjusted a particular gene pool, occasionally adding in other genetics as needed, to preserve alive what we now know as the Ragdoll Breed. They don't come by a silky, medium-length coat, deep blue eye color, or lovely point color contrast naturally! Everything you see is completely due to human intervention. (Another time we'll have a post going into detail about why registration papers and pedigrees are actually important, even for pets.)
So, yes. Sometimes the answer may truly be that the cat in question had a bad experience or wasn't socialized well as a kitten or maybe they just have a really thick coat so being held gets hot and uncomfortable for them. However, to a large extent the answer may be, the choices the breeders made in combining the genetics of this cat may have favored other physical traits over preserving that sweet, loving disposition that the Ragdoll ought to have. Does that mean they were bad or irresponsible breeders? No. Sometimes in the course of a breeding program, to reach a certain goal, matches have to be made to enhance certain traits in the next generation, while others are lost or temporarily suppressed. The hope is that in subsequent generations, those traits that were lost or became a bit weak, can be brought back in to the now-stronger genetic line.
Say Ragdoll A has a wonderfully loving personality, lovely dark eye color, very straight legs, and a nice head type - but her coat is a bit long or thick, and she could do with a bit more bone. Maybe Ragdoll B has an okay-not-great personality, decent eye color, excellent head type, a perfect coat texture and length, and he has nice strong boning. The breeder's hope by combining the two of them may be to have kittens with the best of both cat's good qualities - and maybe she comes pretty close, the kittens are great but a few of their personalities are kinda in the middle, not as sweet as their mother, but physically they are top-notch. The breeder may keep the best kitten, place all the rest as pets, and eventually breed the kitten to a male with a really great personality who's pretty solid physically all the way around. If all goes well, the breeder may be really pleased with the outcome - lovely kittens who reflect the breed standard very well, and also have fabulous personalities. This would please pet buyers just as much as a person who's wanting to show, since this means the kitten they buy would be what they were expecting - as sweet and loving as the breed description promises - as well as being a really nice example of the breed physically.
This is a really general example but hopefully it explains to some extent why not all Ragdolls have the same personalities. After all, they are still individuals with their own unique likes and dislikes, and even kittens from the exact same litter can be very different from each other when they're grown up.
My best suggestion if you really want a Ragdoll with that distinctive personality? Make sure the breeder knows you're more interested in personality than color. Some kittens are clearly more snuggly than others, and they do tend to stay that way as they age. Don't take disposition for granted - make it clear which of the Ragdoll traits are most important to you! If you don't want a lot of grooming, and really don't want a cat that mats, then make sure you say that. Not all Ragdolls have the correct coat texture, and while that little ball of fluff may be adorable as a kitten, just think how cute he's going to be while you're combing mats out of his fur all winter! As with any breed, do your research, know what you should be expecting, and make it clear to the breeders you contact exactly what traits are most important to you. Don't be afraid to ask questions! If you can meet the breeder, breeding pair, and kittens in person, even better.
What do you think:
Is your Ragdoll a cuddler?
What's more important to you, color or personality?
Do you think breeders should keep disposition in mind when breeding?