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Ragdoll Cats: What to Expect During the First Year

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Ivy is the proud owner of two healthy cats and enjoys writing about pet care.

What to expect in the first year of your Ragdoll kitten's life

What to expect in the first year of your Ragdoll kitten's life

Characteristics of Ragdoll Cats

The Ragdoll is a distinctive domestic cat breed known for its striking appearance and laid-back disposition. The Ragdoll's temperament is said to be docile, calm and affectionate, making them ideal pets for households with young children. Ragdoll cats are often attention-seekers, preferring to stay close to their owners at all times, so if you have a busy schedule that requires you to leave the house for long periods of time, a Ragdoll may not be the best cat for you.

The Ragdoll is a physically imposing breed, with females usually weighing 8–15 pounds and males tipping the scale at 12–20 pounds or more. Their breed standard describes them as a large, muscular breed with a dense, medium-length coat that comes in a variety of accepted colours and patterns.

Newborn Ragdolls: Changes in the First 4 Weeks

The first three months of a Ragdoll kitten's life will most likely be spent under the care of its mother with a breeder, as kittens taken from their mother before 10 weeks may develop health and behavioural issues from not being properly weaned. Newborn Ragdoll kittens will only weigh a little bit more than 3 oz (90g–100g), with the size of each litter being anywhere from 1 to 8 kittens.

Feeding

Newborn babies will instinctively start feeding, as their first meal is of critical importance for healthy growth. Female cats will produce a special type of milk, called colostral milk, for only around a day after birth. This milk contains a higher than usual percentage of proteins, vitamins and most importantly, antibodies that newborn kittens lack.

It is very important to provide the mother with a warm, quiet environment so she can nurse comfortably. Kittens will nurse as frequently as every 1 to 2 hours. If, for some reason, the mother is unable to nurse, they will need to be bottle-fed at the same frequency with a special kitten formula.

If they are nursed by the mother, kittens will first fight over the nipple that produces the most milk, but by the end of the week, each kitten will know their individual nipple and will not nurse from any others. The newborn babies should grow rapidly, quite often doubling their weight within the first week.

Appearance

Ragdoll kittens are born with a solid white coat, with eyes and ears closed. During the first week, their ears should begin to open up, and they will start to make small sounds. The colour and pattern of the kittens will also begin to develop during this time, starting with the nose and paw leathers.

The nose and paw pads of Colourpoint and mitted Ragdolls will turn dark, whereas bi-colour Ragdoll kittens will retain their pink nose and paw colouring. Ears and tails also begin to show colour by as early as the third day. For lighter-coloured Ragdolls, such as cream, flame and lilac, tail and ear colours will only be distinguishable around the fourth week.

The kittens' eyes will open by week two, but as their nervous systems are still undeveloped, they will not be able to see clearly until week three. All purebred Ragdoll cats should have blue eyes. Kittens will start to crawl and play with each other as they learn to control their bodies.

Activity

The curious kittens will start to take notice of their surrounding sounds and sights. By week four, kittens will begin to self-clean, and their milk teeth will start to grow. During this time, kittens can be gradually introduced to the litter box and wet food, though they may not start to use them yet.

Rapid Growth: Weeks 5–12

Five-week-old kittens are super adorable to watch. They can now walk easily and will practice pouncing and wrestling with their littermates. With the increased level of activity, they will also need more food.

Feeding

The mother may not be able to keep up with nutrition for the kitten by this time, so slowly introducing wet and dry food to the kittens will be a welcomed break for her. With any change in diet for cats, kittens may show signs of diarrhoea for a few days, but unless it is severe, it is not cause for alarm.

Kittens will need to be fed specialised kitten food until they are one year old, as the dietary requirement for a growing cat is very different from that of an adult. The antibodies kittens get from their mother will start to wear off once they are weaned, and they will need to develop their own immune system at this point. Despite their small size, the amount of food they eat will be impressive, and their weight will change by the day.

Appearance

The Ragdoll kitten's eye colour will begin to gradually lighten to a lighter shade of blue from week six on. Very rarely will the kitten's eyes remain a deep blue shade into adulthood. The kitten will continue to grow steadily, with their ears, legs and tail growing longer and bigger, and their faces lose their round shape.

They can clean themselves much better now and won't make much of a mess when eating and using the litterbox. By the time they are two months old, healthy Ragdoll kittens should weigh around 1.7 lb or 800 g. Kittens of this age will be very energetic, as they learn to socialise through playing with their littermates. It is crucial that they are allowed to do so. The colour and pattern of the kittens' coats will also be clearly marked by this time.

Ragdoll kittens of this age will have disproportionately large ears and paws, which they will gradually grow into. By the time they are 12 weeks old, a healthy Ragdoll kitten should weigh around 3.7 lb or 1.7 kg. Kittens usually go to their new owners at 12 weeks old and should be neutered before then.

Activity

Nine-week-old kittens will not be as interested in humans as before unless there is a toy being waved around. They will continue to learn what is allowed and what is not from their mother and are ready for independence. Kittens will start to wean around week eight and should be completely weaned by week ten.

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Kittenhood: 3–6 Months

By now, the kittens should have settled into their new forever home. Kittens undergo the most rapid period of growth before six months. At this age, the kittens should look like small-sized adults.

Feeding

At five months, the Ragdoll kittens will start to experience spurts of growth. Their need for food increases, and it is important to feed high-quality kitten food to keep up with dietary needs. Kittens of this age should gain around 1 lb (500g) each month until they are twelve months old, after which their growth should slow down. By the end of the fifth month, a healthy Ragdoll kitten should weigh at least 4.4 lbs or 2 kg.

Appearance

Ragdolls have longer hind legs and bigger bone structures, which gives them a very distinct profile. These features will be more obvious in young kittens, but they will rapidly grow into them. At four months, their heads should be more proportionate to their body. Ragdoll cats naturally have a fat pad on their belly even when they are underweight, so care should be taken with the amount of food being fed.

Activity

The kittens will begin to lose their milk teeth sometimes during the fourth or fifth month, so the kittens may become more interested in chewing furniture and wires. Unwanted chewing may be resolved by providing suitable chew toys, and this will be much safer for the kitten as well. Their shed milk teeth are usually swallowed with food; this does not harm the kitten. However, in rare cases, the milk teeth shells may be found on the floor.

Growing Into Adults: 6–12 Months

In cat years, this will be the teenage to young adult stage for the cat. Kittens are very active at this stage, and you may wonder if they will ever calm down, but rest assured they eventually will the placid giants commonly known to their breed.

Feeding

The kitten's growth will start to slow after the sixth month, but it is common for Ragdoll kittens to experience intermediate growth sprouts followed by periods of slow growth. Because the growth is so unpredictable, care should be taken to limit the kitten's food. To avoid malnutrition and stunted growth, small amounts of dry food should be made available for when they are hungry.

It is also important to monitor the kitten's weight as metabolism can change suddenly, and it is highly recommended to set aside 15 minutes each day to play with and exercise the kitten to decrease the risk of it becoming overweight. An overweight Ragdoll will have excessive fat pads, and it would not be easy to feel their spine by touch.

Appearance

As they slowly mature, their coat will continue to darken, with details and markings becoming more prominent. Some Ragdoll kittens will begin to develop a full coat and mane at six months old; for others, it will take much longer. It is important to remember that Ragdoll cats are slow maturing so they will experience continuous changes in size and colour until they are three years of age.

Grooming

Firm love and stimulation is highly encouraged for a kitten of this age, and you should start enforcing house rules during this time. It is also recommended to regularly groom and wash the kitten so they are more comfortable with being handled when they are adults. Being medium-haired cats, Ragdolls should be brushed regularly to prevent mats.

Sexual Maturity

Kittens will start to sexually mature from months seven to nine. Unfixed females will start to go into heat, whereas unfixed males will start to spray. By the tenth month, the kitten should have calmed down and will start to be interested in cuddling again. Their adult personality will slowly show through, and they will be less interested in running and jumping around.

More About Ragdoll Cats

  • A Beginner's Guide to Ragdoll Cats
    Ragdoll cats are wonderful creatures and make the perfect pet. They're loyal and affectionate and will love anyone who treats them well. Named for their flopping tendencies, they will melt your heart!
  • Ragdoll Cat Breed Facts, Photos, and Care Tips
    Ragdolls are large, gentle, and affectionate cats. They can be trained to come when called, retrieve balls, sit, and walk on a leash. My Ragdolls get on well with my dogs.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Comments

Kalpana Iyer from India on October 04, 2020:

Informative! Ragdoll cats are beautiful.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on December 14, 2018:

This is a very informative article; much more realistic than the gushy articles written for advertising hype. I've wanted a ragdoll for a long time now, but with the two monsters we have, (one is very aggressively playful and the other is big loner) getting one isn't likely. I do wish you had discussed how ragdolls act when around aggressive cats.

Once we adopted a wonderful stray the vet said looked like a ragdoll, but she suffered from intermittent deafness. We eventually lost her to diabetes, and it broke our hearts.

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