Written by Jill Hopper, Dixie Willow Ragdolls
Have you ever seen an ad in your local paper that says “RAGDOLLS: Beautiful kittens, 10 wks, great personality, only $250” or something similar? Sounds like a bargain, doesn’t it? Didn’t you wonder what the difference is between those kittens and the ones from legitimate breeders that may cost several hundred dollars more?
First of all, these kittens are almost certainly not registered with any association (TICA, CFA, ACFA, etc.). Ultimately, you have nothing more than the person’s word that the kitten is a true Ragdoll and will therefore, carry the well-known and cherished Ragdoll traits. A story you’ll often hear from the kittens’ owner is “Well, the person from whom I bought the parents never sent me the registration papers. Since the parent(s) aren’t registered, the kittens cannot be registered. But they’re real Ragdolls”
So why aren’t the kittens registered (or able to be registered)? At worst, the owner has simply found two domestic cats that look similar to Ragdolls and begun breeding them. In this case, the kitten you pay $250 for may have absolutely no Ragdoll blood in her at all. You could have gotten the very same kitten at your local shelter or from a “Free Kittens” ad in the same newspaper you found these “bargain” Ragdolls.
Probably the most common explanation is that the person who placed this ad bought pet quality Ragdolls from a reputable breeder and began breeding them (they are the parents of the kittens you’ve called about). Pet quality cats may not have the markings, size, conformation or personality necessary to become breeding cats. That’s why they were sold as pets in the first place and why those pet Ragdolls almost certainly came with a spay/neuter contract. The person trying to sell you these bargain kittens signed that contract promising to have the parents altered and never to breed them. She lied to the original breeder and is now producing kittens for profit and cashing in on your lack of knowledge. Is this someone you want to buy a kitten from?
Think about it… why would anyone who paid the high price for breeding quality Ragdolls (often $1200-1800 per cat) not insist on having the cats’ registration papers? The major cat associations can always be contacted to intervene and pressure breeders to supply any promised registration paperwork for a Ragdoll that has been sold. So, why would this person with the $250 kittens not have contacted an association for help in obtaining registration papers on the kittens’ parents? Because she knows she did not buy breeding quality Ragdolls and she has violated the original sales contract by not having them spayed or neutered. If you ask questions about the bloodlines of her adult cats, she will suddenly suffer a very selective case of amnesia and claim that she just doesn’t remember the cattery name (or where they were located or who the owner was, etc., etc.). Again, that’s because she knows the kittens’ parents were not sold to her as breeding quality cats and she doesn’t want you to know enough to be able to contact the breeder where she bought them.
So should this really matter to you? The answer is definitely “YES!” These “backyard breeders” (BYBs) do not have the best interest of their own cats in mind, much less the interests of the Ragdoll breed as a whole. They often breed a female every time she comes in heat, never allowing her body to recover from the last litter before becoming pregnant again. The adult cats are often unhealthy and do not receive regular veterinary care (remember, that would cost money, not generate it). The kittens are usually sold having had no vaccinations or vet care and many times will be sick with upper respiratory infections or parasites (or worse). This means you will likely spend considerable dollars at your own vet to restore the kitten’s health. You will almost certainly NOT get any sort of health guarantee with this kitten and have no one to rely on when its health fails – you are on your own.
The initial price that you pay for a Ragdoll kitten is immaterial when compared to the cost of caring for your new friend throughout her life. Over the life of a cat (which from kittenhood through old age may be 15 years or more) you will spend thousands of dollars on food, litter, toys and veterinarian visits – regardless of the type of kitten you have, these costs are the major investment in your baby. If you have decided to get a Ragdoll, make sure you are starting out with a real Ragdoll. Yes, it will cost you an extra couple of hundred dollars to be sure you are buying from a reputable breeder and not a byb, but in the end that is money very well spent.