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You’ve undoubtedly heard of the Ragdoll. These fluffy marshmallow cats gained the affection of feline fanciers due to their sweet personalities and relaxed temperaments. What makes the Ragdoll so unique? These kitties are playful yet gentle, making them appropriate for families with young children. They crave social interaction and happily follow their human companions from room to room. Plus, they tend to go completely limp when picked up. Combined with the breed’s trademark silky colorpoint coat and striking blue eyes, these traits have elevated the Ragdoll breed to cat royalty.
As with any pet, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with how to care for the Ragdoll before bringing one of these fluffballs into your home. Like all cats, your furry friend needs proper nutrition, frequent grooming, regular playtime, and yearly checkups with the veterinarian. But even before these things, you must ensure you purchase your Ragdoll from a reputable breeder. Like most pedigree breeds, the Ragdoll is prone to specific health problems that can be circumvented with responsible breeding.
The Ragdoll’s health issues range from genetic diseases to lifestyle-related health obstacles. We review the top six genetic health problems for the breed, as well as other concerns. We also cover tools for pet parents, including DNA testing, pet insurance, and tips for healthy living.
6 Genetic Ragdoll Cat Health Issues
Overall, the Ragdoll breed is considered a healthy one. Like most pedigree cats, there are some genetic issues your Ragdoll is at an increased risk of developing.
Factor XII Deficiency
Also called Hageman trait, this genetic blood disorder causes abnormal blood clotting in felines. It is characterized by a deficiency in the coagulation factor XII. According to pet DNA testing service Wisdom Panel, their testing has found that one in 10 cats has factor XII deficiency. While Hageman trait does not cause abnormal bleeding, it can be detected on screening tests designed to catch clotting disorders.
A cat must inherit the gene defect from both parents to be affected. This condition is an asymptomatic disorder that doesn’t have or require treatment. Unless inherited in conjunction with other hemostatic abnormalities, no further steps are necessary for care.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a deadly condition initiated by the feline coronavirus. All felines may carry this virus in its dormant state, but if the virus undergoes genetic mutation, it can affect your cat’s immune system and lead to the development of FIP. Research suggests that Ragdolls are at a greater risk for developing FIP than other breeds.
This disease causes damage to the blood vessels and fluid build-up in the chest. Symptoms and progression vary depending on the form of the condition. While prevention techniques—such as immune system support and decreasing stress—can be used, there is no cure for FIP.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a type of heart disease in which the muscles of the heart become thick and stiff, decreasing the heart’s efficiency and eventually causing heart failure, paralysis, pulmonary edema, and death. Of all genetic Ragdoll cat health issues, HCM is the most prevalent. North Carolina State Veterinary Hospital says about 30 percent of Ragdoll felines carry the genetic mutation predisposing them to HCM.
Having the genetic mutation does not mean that your Ragdoll will develop the disease. If the mutation only appears on one of the two gene copies (heterozygous), the Ragdoll kitty will not develop HCM. However, most cats with this mutation are homozygous—having two copies of the gene— and will develop HCM and become sick typically within the first two years of life.
The following symptoms indicate that your cat may have HCM:
- Open-mouthed, difficult, or rapid breathing
Those felines diagnosed with HCM may experience any of the following health concerns:
- Blood clots
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Limb pain
- Weak pulse
There is no cure for HCM; however, there are drugs and supplements to support cardiovascular health. Talk to your veterinarian about heart-supporting supplements like CoQ10 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS) refers to a class of inherited metabolic diseases characterized by deficiency of certain enzymes needed to break down glycosaminoglycans or long chains of sugar (carbohydrates). This condition leads to the accumulation of glycosaminoglycans in the body.
Clinical signs of MPS include:
- Bone degeneration
- Cloudy corneas
- Facial deformities
- Enlarged liver
- Mental disorders
- Reduced growth rate
- Skeletal abnormalities
- Stunted growth
Kittens with MPS may show symptoms as early as six to eight weeks of age. This condition affects a kitten’s growth rate. You may notice that your cat has an abnormal gait, flattened face, shortened nose, widely spaced eyes, and little ears. Felines with MPS may experience mobility issues or paralysis.
MPS is a hereditary condition that can be seen in DNA testing. Your veterinarian can test for MPS via urinalysis and blood tests. Currently, there is no proven treatment for MPS.
Polycystic Kidney Disease
Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is a genetic disease that causes the development of cysts in the kidneys, eventually reducing kidney function and leading to kidney failure. While the highest incidences occur in the Persian breed, the Ragdoll is also considered a group at risk.
PKD is an inherited disorder that passes from parents to children through genes. All cats with the PKD gene will pass the genetic defect on to their kittens, which is one of the many reasons why genetic testing is so crucial in breeding cats.
Clinical signs of PKD include:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Loss of appetite
- Weight Loss
DNA testing can confirm the presence of the gene responsible for PKD, and diagnosing the disease can be done through blood and urine tests and imaging tests, such as an ultrasound.
While there is no specific treatment for PKD, diet modification, pain medication, fluid therapy, and medications to reduce nausea and vomiting are often utilized.
Kitties with kidney disease greatly benefit from high-quality wet food and plenty of water. Look for commercial foods that contain less protein, phosphorus, and sodium to help maintain kidney function. You can also increase your cat’s intake of omega-3 fatty acids by supplementing with fish oil. If you need help, talk to your vet about an appropriate formulation for your pet.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) refers to the progressive degeneration of photoreceptors in the retina, causing blindness. As with other breeds of Persian ancestry, the Ragdoll is susceptible to inheriting this condition. Vision loss typically occurs within the first three to five years of age.
There is no known cure or treatment for PRA, and it eventually causes blindness. Of course, blind felines can still live a happy, fulfilling life, but they may require extra help around the house.
More Health Problems With Ragdoll Cats
The inflammation and swelling of the joints associated with arthritis can be excruciating for your cat. To prevent osteoarthritis, ensure your feline stays active and at a healthy weight.
Oral care is essential for your pet’s well-being. Not only is oral health necessary to keep your kitty pain-free, but research shows that dental health is linked to other health conditions, including heart disease. Protect your cat’s health by practicing good oral hygiene daily. Brush your feline’s teeth as often as you can. For kitties that refuse to have their teeth brushed, consider dental treats or supplements that promote oral care.
While we adore the Ragdoll’s luscious coat, it also increases your cat’s risk of developing hairballs. Ragdolls ingest hair while grooming. This fur accumulates in the stomach and forms clumps that your feline usually coughs out. Comb or brush your feline’s hair daily to minimize hairballs. Adding extra fiber to your kitty’s diet can also lower the risk of hairballs. View our picks for high-fiber cat foods.
Like other large breeds, Ragdolls tend to gain excess weight. While we all love a chonky cat, these extra pounds can lead to arthritis and mobility problems. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, obese cats also have a 2.8 times increase in mortality compared to lean cats. To ensure your cat has a long, healthy life, feed your pet a diet that suits their health and lifestyle needs. Avoid excess feeding and too many treats. To reduce the likelihood of weight gain, engage your feline in plenty of playtime throughout the day, which helps burn calories and keeps your pet in good physical condition.
Urinary Tract Disease
Urinary tract issues, like bladder stones, are common among Ragdolls. Most urinary tract diseases have similar symptoms, including increased urination, pain when urinating, and blood in urine. You may also notice your cat peeing outside the litter box or in unwelcome locations. Veterinarians treat urinary tract issues with antibiotics, fluids, and nutritional therapy.
To prevent urinary tract issues, ensure your cat eats high-quality, well-balanced food and drinks plenty of water. Hydration is critical for urinary tract support. Some supplements are available to support urinary tract health, including probiotics and cranberry extract.
Health Testing For Ragdolls
When purchasing a pedigree cat from a breeder, always confirm health testing has been completed. Responsible breeders use genetic testing to track their cats’ health from generation to generation to minimize the likelihood of inherited health conditions.
If you already have a Ragdoll kitty (or believe you do, anyway), consider purchasing a DNA health test. These tests help you better understand your cat’s health risks to create a health plan that caters to your cat’s needs. DNA tests can also confirm your pet’s breed and blood type. Some even offer a vet consultation once you receive your results so that you can receive answers to follow-up questions.
View our picks for the best cat DNA tests.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions we get asked about keeping Ragdoll cats healthy. Don’t see yours? Ask us in the comments.
How Do I Keep My Ragdoll Cat Healthy?
There are steps you can take to keep your pet in good health. Focus on the following:
- Diet: A healthy diet may delay the onset or alleviate symptoms of health conditions. View our picks for the best food for Ragdoll cats.
- Grooming: Brush your feline’s coat and clip their nails regularly. Brush their teeth daily if possible and clean their ears as needed.
- Mental health: Mental health is just as important as physical health. To reduce your cat’s stress and prevent boredom, provide opportunities for scratching, climbing, and playing.
- Preventative care: Schedule regular health check-ups with your vet. Vaccinations, dental cleaning, parasite prevention, and quick illness diagnosis are all part of preventative care.
What Is The Life Expectancy Of A Ragdoll?
Despite the numerous Ragdoll cat health issues, these felines have a life expectancy of 12 to 17 years.
Are Ragdoll Cats Hypoallergenic?
We’ve covered Ragdoll cat health issues, but what about your health? If you’re allergic to cats, you’re likely curious if your future pet is allergy-safe. Unfortunately, the Ragdoll breed is not hypoallergenic.
Should I Get Pet Insurance For My Ragdoll?
Yes, we encourage you to get health insurance for your furry friend. Like most pedigree breeds, the Ragdoll breed has many potential inherited health issues. Pet insurance often covers hereditary conditions if you sign your kitty up before symptoms arise. Cat insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions, so consider this when purchasing a plan. Cat health insurance can also cover accidents, illnesses, dental issues, and more. View our favorite pet insurance for Ragdoll cats.
Why Trust Love Your Cat?
Tara is a lifelong cat parent dedicated to bringing you the most up-to-date information for caring for your furry friend. She works with the team at Love Your Cat to provide in-depth detail on our topics. Tara is also the companion human of two domestic felines, Luna and Lucy. Any questions we didn’t answer? Ask us in the comments.