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Are you considering adding a new furry friend to your home? As one of the most popular breeds worldwide, you’ve likely heard of the Ragdoll, but are you familiar with the Birman? While these two cats look similar, you may discover one better suits your lifestyle.
Or, maybe you simply want to learn about these two fantastic felines. The Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA)—the premier cat registry—recognizes only 45 pedigreed breeds, and the Birman and Ragdoll are among that elite group. Let’s take a look at the Birman cat vs. the Ragdoll cat.
This guide will help you impress your friends with your ability to differentiate between these two beautiful breeds.
The Birman and Ragdoll have unique histories, with one considered an ancient breed and the other relatively new to the world of pedigreed cats. Both have clouded histories filled with astonishing—and bizarre—tales of their origin.
Birman Cat Breed History
This revered breed is also known as the “Sacred Cat of Burma” and is said to have once been the local companion of temple priests. Legend says that the Birman received their elegant coat and beautiful eyes from a goddess, who rewarded the Birman for their heroic actions.
At the Temple of Lao-Tsun, built to worship the blue-eyed goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse, a priest named Mun-Ha had a white companion cat named Sinh that would accompany him as Mun-Ha prayed in the temple. One night, raiders invaded Lao-Tsun and attacked the priest as he was praying to the goddess. It was a fatal strike, and as Mun-Ha lay dying, his cat Sinh placed his paws on the priest and faced the goddess. Sinh’s body turned from white to gold, and his eyes turned blue to match the goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse. Sinh’s legs turned brown, but where his paws touched his human companion, he remained white, symbolizing purity.
Sinh stayed with his master for seven days; on the seventh day, Sinh died. Legend says that Sinh carried the priest’s soul to paradise, and it is believed that whenever a temple cat dies, a priest’s soul accompanies the cat’s soul to paradise.
Aside from legend, no clear record of the breed’s origin exists. We know that the Birman was found in France in the 1920s. The Cat Club de France first recognized it in 1925, the CFA in 1967, and the International Cat Association (TICA) in 1979.
Ragdoll Cat Breed History
Breeder Ann Baker developed the Ragdoll breed in Riverside, California, in the 1960s. Baker discovered a longhaired white female cat running around her neighborhood and bred this cat, named Josephine, with her house cats and other free-roaming cats in her community. Aside from the fantastical stories from this breed’s founder, little else is known about the Ragdoll breed’s development.
According to Baker, in the 1960s, Baker’s foundation cat Josephine was taken to a laboratory after being struck by a car. Josephine was then genetically altered as part of a secret government experiment. Subsequent offspring were said to possess the same characteristic from genetic alteration: large size, non-matting fur, docile nature, and tendency to go limp when held like a kid’s rag doll—thus, the breed’s name was chosen to match. Curiously, Baker also claimed Josephine and her offspring were impervious to pain but could never confirm since the government supposedly suppressed all evidence of the experiment.
Unsatisfied with traditional breeding associations, Baker trademarked the name Ragdoll and created her own registry, the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA), in 1971. From there, Baker enforced strict standards on anyone wanting to breed or sell cats under the Ragdoll name. The Ragdoll trademark was valid until 2005, and only IRCA breeders could use the Ragdoll name, even if the cat was a direct descendent of Josephine.
To break away from the questionable claims and strict membership of IRCA, breeders Denny and Laura Dayton founded the Ragdoll Society, later changed to Ragdoll Fanceris’ Club International (RFCI). The RFCI was able to break away and achieve recognition for their Ragdolls because they had purchased their cats before the breed name was registered.
The controversy around Ragdoll breeding lasted for many years, during which more breed registries slowly accepted the Ragdoll. TICA accepted the Ragdoll for championship status in 1979, and the CFA belatedly granted championship status in 2000. In February 2022, the CFA named the Ragdoll the most-popular cat breed in the world.
Size & Appearance
The Birman and Ragdoll share many physical characteristics. Both cats have long coats over long, well-muscled bodies. Their faces are rounded triangles with medium-length muzzles. Both breeds have medium-sized ears with round tips.
When comparing the size and appearance of these breeds, first look at the overall size of the cat. The Ragdoll is overall a much larger breed. Ragdolls weigh 12 to 20 pounds, while the Birman averages seven to 15 pounds. The Ragdoll is nine to 13 inches tall, while the medium-sized Birman is eight to 10 inches tall.
Looking further at these two breeds, you’ll notice that the Birman has round, medium-sized eyes, while the Ragdoll has large, oval eyes. The Birman has a roman nose, while the nose of the Ragdoll has a gentle curve. Finally, the tail of the Birman is medium length; the Ragdoll has a long tail. This feature may be hard to recognize by the untrained eye, so the easiest way to distinguish between these two cats is by looking at their coat.
Coat & Colors
At first glance, these two fine felines look identical. Both cats have striking blue eyes and color point coats—meaning the face, ears, legs, and tail are darker than the rest of the body. The Birman and the Ragdoll have similar coloring: seal, blue, chocolate, lilac, red, and cream. Both breeds may also have tabby or tortoiseshell markings. With other breeds, like the Siamese, you can differentiate the Birman by their white paws; however, mitted Ragdolls have white feet similar to the Birman. So how can you tell the difference?
First, Birman are always mitted. These kitties always wear white “gloves” on their paws, no matter their color or pattern. On the back legs, the white of the feet will extend up further and finish in an inverted “V.” Overall, the Birman’s coat will feel silky and have no undercoat.
Depending on their color and pattern, you will have an easier time distinguishing the Ragdoll from the Birman:
- Colorpoint Ragdolls look like Birman but don’t have white paws. If the feet aren’t white, it isn’t a Birman.
- Mitted Ragdolls will have gloves like the Birman, but you’ll notice a mitted Ragdoll also have a white chin. A Mitted Ragdoll will display a white band starting at the chin, to the belly, and up the tail.
- Bicolor Ragdolls are easiest to distinguish from Birman, thanks to the inverted “V” on their face. The chest, belly, and legs are white. These Ragdolls are easiest to recognize because Birman don’t have white on their face.
Overall, the Ragdoll’s coat will feel very soft and plush.
Personality & Temperament
Both the Birma and Ragdoll are known for their sweet, affectionate personalities. These breeds are people-oriented and enjoy following you around the house, from room to room. Overall, the Ragdoll is considered a more docile cat. True to their name, this feline tends to go limp like a rag doll whenever picked up.
Intelligence & Training
Both breeds take quickly to training. You can efficiently train the Birman and Ragdoll to use the litterbox and scratching posts. With dedication and patience, you may even be able to teach these breeds to do tricks!
While neither of these breeds is considered super athletic, the Birman has a higher activity level than the Ragdoll. Birmans are very playful and tend to be active throughout the day. On the other hand, Ragdolls are moderately energetic and lean towards a sedentary lifestyle, which may be why these kitties are prone to obesity and diabetes. Overall, both cats require minimal exercise and plenty of snuggle time.
Both the Birman and Ragdoll are considered quiet breeds. Birman tend to chirp rather than meow, and Ragdolls tend to express themselves with a throaty purr.
Both the Birman and Ragdoll have single coats, which are low matting. These cats need minimal grooming but would benefit from weekly brushing to avoid tangles. Like all indoor cats, Birman and Ragdolls need regular nail trimming. Cleaning the teeth and ears of your cat will also contribute to good feline health.
Speak with your vet to develop a diet that matches your cat’s age and activity level. While neither of these cats has specific dietary needs, all cats require a high-quality, meat-based diet to absorb nutrients properly. Consider supplementing extra omega-3 fatty acids for anti-inflammatory support and an extra-glossy coat. You can feed these cats wet or dry food. Wet foods provide more moisture and can help prevent urinary tract problems. Provide fresh, clean water throughout the day.
Health & Lifespan
Birman Health Conditions
The Birman’s lifespan is 12 to 16 years. While this breed is considered healthy, the Birman is susceptible to developing certain health conditions, including:
- Gastrointestinal disorders: vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation
- Hip dysplasia
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Kidney disease
- Mouth and gum disease
- Urinary conditions: Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), infections, and bladder stones
Ragdoll Health Conditions
Healthy Ragdolls have a life expectancy of 12 to 17 years. Raggies are prone to certain health conditions, including:
- Bladder stones
- Feline infectious peritonitis
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Mucopolysaccharidosis VI
- Mouth and gum disease
- Polycystic kidney disease
As Family Pets
Both the Birman cat and Ragdoll cat make fantastic companion animals. These breeds are loving, patient, and affectionate. Their temperaments make them very safe around the whole family, including children. Make sure to give these breeds plenty of attention, as both of these social breeds tend to become stressed or depressed if left alone for too long. The Birman and Ragdoll fit well into bustling homes with plenty of people and other friendly pets.
Price & Costs
Pedigreed Birman kittens can cost $600 to $3,000. Ragdolls cost between $425 to $2,500. Many factors play into the price, including bloodline, location, and breeder. You’re unlikely to find either of these breeds at a shelter.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Tell The Difference Between A Birman Cat And Ragdoll Cat?
You can spot a Birman from a Ragdoll by checking the size and coloring of the cat:
- Ragdolls are a bigger breed than Birman.
- If you can touch the cat, you’ll know a Birman from a Ragdoll based on the texture of their fur. A Birman’s coat feels silky-soft, while the Ragdoll feels plush.
- Check the face. Birmans always have color on their face, while Ragdolls will sometimes have white on their face.
- Birman always have white mittens. While some Ragdolls have mittens, it is not a breed definer like in the case of the Birman.
Which Breed Is More Friendly?
Both the Birman and Ragdoll are social breeds and make fantastic family pets. The Birman is laid back and adaptable. The Ragdoll is incredibly tolerant of young children, making them an excellent choice for families with children.
Which Breed Is Easier To Groom?
Overall, the Birman is more manageable to groom due to their thin coat and more petite frame.
Curious about other marshmallow cats? Read our breed overviews on the White Maine Coon and the Siamese Persian. Or, check out another breed often confused with the Birman in our guide on Birman Cat vs. Siamese Cat.