Guest Post by MeLinda Hughes of Merlin’s Hope Ragdoll Rescue
All Siamese are loud; all Bengals are hyper; all Persians are sweet and gentle; all Ragdolls are floppy. These are stereotypes cat caregivers deal with every day. The problem is what I tell my writing students, “Not ‘all’ is ever anything.” In other words, you cannot determine a cat’s personality solely based on its breed. Yes, certain breeds tend to have certain personalities, but you cannot just say, “I want a Ragdoll because all Ragdolls love other cats, love dogs, love children, love all people, sit in laps, sleep in the bed with you, flop over when you touch them, and do not shed” and expect your Ragdoll to conform. Ragdolls, like all cats, in fact like living beings, are individuals with their own personalities and their own quirks. To condemn them to be one way or another because of their breed is to seriously shortchange this magnificent breed.
Over the years in rescue, I have seen Ragdolls dumped at shelters and surrendered to rescue because they were not what their owners expected. “He’s not friendly enough,” “he doesn’t get along with my children,” “he swats at my dog,” and my personal favorite, “he sheds, and I was told Ragdolls don’t shed.” These cats are being just what they are: cats. In fact, I have found in a number of situations that cats that are surrendered for these reasons actually go into homes with dogs, or other cats, or children and do exceptionally well. They may even become lap-cats, and yes, cats that are not lap cats in certain situations can definitely become lap cats, but it sometimes takes effort on the part of the owner. You can’t expect your cat to immediately become what you want; you have to help her become what you want. Now, that does not mean you can force her to become anything. A cat that has a very independent personality is not necessarily going to become a lap cat, but she might actually become friendlier with incentives; yes, you reward cats to get them to do what you want them to do.
You want your Ragdoll to get along with your other cats; then, you need to be sure you introduce them correctly. You have to expend the effort to make the right environment for your cat to get along with
its other companions. You want your cat to get along with dogs; then, make sure you spend the time you need to make sure your dog makes the right impression. It might include training for your dog. Galaxy Jackson recently did an episode on My Cat from Hell where he encouraged the people to work with their dog as much, if not more, than with the cats to make the situation work, and it did, but only with the effort to make sure the cats were comfortable in their own home. Amy Shojai has written a book called Competability: A Practical Guide to Building a Peaceable Kingdom Between Cats and Dogs. She also has a book called ComPETability: Solving Behavior Problems In Your Multi-Cat Household. There are also a multitude of other books discussing how to integrate cats with other cats and dogs with cats. There are also a number of wonderful articles available at http://www.littlebigcat.com/category/behavior. Please don’t assume that your Ragdoll can’t get along; give her a chance and be sure that you actually give everyone an equal chance.
If you want your cat to sleep with you or sit with you, then you need to give her encouragement. She can only have treats when she is on the bed or she can only have treats when she sits with you. If you want her to spend time with you, then make sure you are spending time with her. Are you playing with her? Jean Hofve talks about the importance of interacting with your cat in her article “Indoor Enrichment for Cats”. Are you actively giving her the attention she needs? Jackson Galaxy in another My Cat From Hell episode talks about what he calls: “Eat, play, love.” You feed your cat, you play with her, and then you spend time loving on her. Your reward for the extra time you spend with your Ragdoll is a true companion whether she sits in your lap or sleeps on your bed with you. Isn’t that what you really want? A truly happy cat?
If your Ragdoll and your children are not getting along, ask yourself if you spent time making sure your children knows to respect your cat and her boundaries. There are a number of wonderful sources discussing how to create a bond between your Ragdoll and your children. There is an awesome article about introducing children to cats. Children, no matter the age, need to respect your cat. Additionally, be sure you include your children in your “eat, play, and love” time. If your cat does not love your child, she isn’t forcing you to choose your child over her; she is asking you to share equal time.
The excuse I find the most offensive for people who are giving up their Ragdolls is the hair. Yes, of course, Ragdolls shed. Cats shed. It is a fact of life. However, you can minimize the problems caused by shedding with diligent cleaning, dedicated grooming, and a good diet. You’ve heard that you are what you eat; well, that literally applies to your Ragdoll. The higher the quality of the food you feed, the better coat your cat will have, the less shedding you should expect. Regular grooming is also essential, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. Make it part of your routine; give your cat a special treat or time with a special toy as a reward each time you groom, and she will learn to love it.
The fact is that Ragdolls are awesome cats and they can be good companions for dogs, other cats, children, and you, but you must be willing to invest equal time into this relationship. The more time you spend, the more you will receive, and the better the chance you have at finding the perfect cat for your home.
Absolutely true, Con. In fact, I type this with my Ragdoll Shaman, not technically a lap cat, draped across my neck in stole position. He had been locked in a garage for most of his young life. He didn’t even know what a tv or a bathtub was. He was sweet when he came in, but the first time he jumped on me and proceeded to knead me and suck on my shirt, I knew that he was going to be special. We can’t make our cats what we want them; we have to let them be as they are and do OUR best to make them happy. It is not only our job but it is our privilege for having the good fortune to live with them.
Diana, I agree. I wish we didn’t have to think about things like cats in shelters or even in rescues. Unfortunately, we do. I face it almost every day. All we can do is try to make sure that they end in homes where they will be loved as they deserve.
From my experience (I was brought up by a Siamese red-point, the only ‘person’ who could shut me up as a baby, or so I am told!) All cats, regardless of breed, have there own personalities and idiosyncrasies. It has been said ‘Cats are people too’ and you had better believe it!. If you are lucky enough to be owned by a cat, think of it like a feline person: they let you live in their house, sleep in their bed (what? you thought it was yours? Really?) and share their food. Accept that you are a servant and you will be fine ! As for wanting a lap-cat? Easy: Wait for a cold day, turn off all the fires and heating, then when you are the warmest thing in the house, trust me you will get a lap-cat. Also a fur stole when you least want one. And always be sure to wear thick clothing when standing, for when ‘their’ warm neck goes up in the air they will follow it, usually up your back when you are not expecting it. If you can live with that you will be ok! (My Abyssinian owner has permitted me to type this as long as I say that after 50 years of being trained, I am still found wanting!).
Wonderful post–yet at the same time, it makes me unspeakably sad, that there’s a *need* for such a post. How absolutely appalling, that someone would surrender (or worse!) the furbaby they ADOPTED, because he/she is not quite exactly what they thought/hoped/expected! (Imagine if people got away with doing that with their *human* children!!) To me–and hopefully, to all of us reading this post–there’s no difference between adopting/having a human baby and one with fur. You accept and love your baby, however he/she turns out, period; adoption should be a promise of that, not something that can be undone for convenience sake or because someone wants a “do-over”. (And yes, thank goodness they ARE all different! The magic of loving a furbaby is in getting to know his/her personality… and appreciating how wonderfully unique that personality is. 🙂 )
Cats are uniquely themselves and that’s why true cat lovers love them so much. Great article!
Thank you Jennifer and MeLinda for everything you wrote 🙂
People who expect perfection from a pet – whether the pet was free or a $2500 purchase – have no business with pets. They should buy a battery-operated toy animal that has no personality or feelings!
Of course cats shed unless they are the hairless variety. Cats are intelligent; they won’t cuddle up to someone they don’t trust and they instinctively know when people are bad.
I am so disgusted when I read or hear of people surrendering pets that don’t suit them to a “T”… worse than disgusted about people wanting a pet euthanized becuse it doesn’t conform to their specifications!
Bless you for your wonderful kind hearts and your rescue work 🙂
I think you, of all people, know what I am talking about. I know how hard you have worked with Beanie, and it is tragic that people don’t do their research well and then refuse to take responsibility for the cats when they are not what they expect. Thank you so much for your comment.
My second Ragdoll, Writer, was given up by her owner because of her hair. Now, she had severe allergies so her shedding was worse than most. She was not a lap cat, was a biter, did not like to be picked up and could be quite loud. She was a silly monkey–an out and out clown…and I miss her every day.
We have Beanie now because his owner didn’t like the fact that his $2,500 Sepia “Designer Ragdoll” had allergies. So, the previous owner took him to the vet to be put to sleep. That’s just fine. Allergy shots cost $65/month and he is the most awesome cat (of any breed).
I do have one stereotypical Ragdoll. He is a flamepoint, is not a big shedder, gets along with everyone and is the most floppy, delicious creature. That’s one…of six. Cosmo, my show cat, is the most non-stereotypical of the bunch.
So, the moral of the story is even the show cat–the “standard of the breed” is not a stereotype. And if you don’t want your Ragdoll because you are insane or cruel, we will find a wonderful home for him her (or just don’t get one in the first place). Most of us think they are like potato chips–can’t have just one 🙂