The British Shorthair and the Ragdoll have a lot in common. They’re both larger cats with big, muscular frames, distinctive good looks and affectionate natures. Both easy-going and loving, they make wonderful companions whether you live alone or in a household with children and other pets. If you’ve landed on this page, you’re a catless cat-lover looking for your perfect first cat and trying to decide between these two famously friendly felines. In this article, we’re going to look in-depth at both these lovely breeds and see what makes them so distinct.
By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll know exactly which of the two is right for you and your home.
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What you need to know about the British Shorthair.
The British Shorthair traces her origins back to a hybrid between European wildcats and Egyptian cats brought to Britain by the ancient Romans. In the 1800s, selective breeding by cat fanciers produced the earliest pedigree British Shorthairs. The breed was a huge hit and stole the limelight at the very first cat show, held at the Crystal Palace in London.
This breed has survived many ups and downs; at one point, it became critically endangered, with breeding stocks so low that the survivors were bred with Persian cats to keep the bloodline healthy. The result is a sturdy, well-proportioned cat with an unusual coat. Often described as “crisp”, the British Shorthair’s fur has no undercoat and a pleasantly crackly texture.
They are very healthy cats with a good lifespan (estimates vary but they can easily live for up to 20 years). They are super mousers and need to be kept away from smaller pets as these are apt to trigger a predatory response. Otherwise, they are placid, docile characters who are prone to sleeping a great deal. They are affable, charming and get very attached to their human carers. Although not really lap-cats, they do like to be around people and will often appoint themselves the household supervisor.
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- British Shorthair As Pets - 10 Things You Need To Know
- How Do You Take Care Of A British Shorthair Cat - Full Guide For First Time Owners
- 15 Ways to Keep Your British Shorthair Healthy and Happy
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What you need to know about Ragdoll cats.
The Ragdoll is a fairly recent breed. They trace their origins back to a long-haired non-pedigree domestic cat named Josephine. In the 1960s, Josephine had a litter of very special kittens. Besides having luxurious coats and appealing markings, the kittens were unusually affectionate.
Their most interesting quirk was a tendency to go limp and tranquil when picked up or carried around. Josephine’s owner, Ann Baker, realised she had something interesting on her hands and began a breeding programme focused on these traits: affection and the instinct to relax when held. She termed the new breed “Ragdolls” due to the loose-limbed state the cats entered on being picked up.
Rather than seek recognition with existing pedigree registries, Ann Baker took the unusual step of setting up her own registry and trademarking the name Ragdolls for her cats. It wasn’t until many years later that the breed received recognition by the main pedigree registries. Ragdolls are now one of the most popular pedigree cats worldwide, prized for their luscious coats, beautiful blue eyes and love of physical affection. Lap-cats par excellence, Ragdolls are perfect for singles and families alike.
What about Price?
The price of a British Shorthair depends a lot on where you live. They seem to be least expensive in Australia, where you can expect to pay around $800-$1000 AUD for a properly pedigreed kitten from a high-end breeder. They seem to go for the most in the US, where I’ve seen breeders charge as much as $5000 for a show-quality kitten. $1500 is more usual. In the UK, you can generally expect to spend £1200 or so.
Prices are lower for kittens who will never be “show quality”; they still make perfect pets. You could, of course, find a kitten more cheaply by going to an unregistered backyard breeder — that is, if you don’t mind getting a “British Shorthair” kitten of uncertain pedigree, unknown medical status and possibly with behavioural problems due to inadequate care and socialisation. Adult cats go for less. Retired show or breeding cats go for a few hundred pounds or dollars. If you’re prepared to re-home a rescue cat, you can adopt an adult British Shorthair for a tenth of the price of a pedigree kitten (less, if you’re lucky).
Ragdoll kittens are also quite sought after and their price reflects this. For a show quality neutered Ragdoll kitten, you can expect to pay $1500 USD and up in the US, $1200 AUD in Australia and around £1000 in the UK. “Pet quality” kittens go for somewhat less but are still expensive. As with any pedigree cat you can find them more cheaply through backyard breeders and as with any pedigree cat, you should resist the temptation. Older cats come with a less eye-watering price tag, with a retiree going for a couple of hundred pounds or a few hundred dollars.
Again, rescue Ragdolls can be very inexpensive – you need to be quite lucky to get one, though, as their loving nature means they get adopted very quickly. If this is your first cat, there are many good reasons to choose an older animal — they tend to be more settled and are less effort to care for than a new kitten.
Character and temperament.
The British Shorthair is a loving cat with an abundance of charm. Don’t expect a lot of lap-time, though – this breed likes to maintain a polite distance. They prefer to keep all four paws on the ground than to be scooped up and hugged. They do like to be petted, provided you stay at arm’s length. Once they get used to you, I’ve noticed that the British Shorthair is more accepting of a belly-rub than most house-cats.
They will tend to stay close but not too close, joining you in your daily routine to observe and sometimes talk to you in their quiet little voices. They are staunchly loyal but demonstrate it in ways that not every cat owner can immediately interpret. They will often seek you out for some quiet companionship or even call you into another room to hang out with them. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance, low-drama pet, the British Shorthair is the cat for you.
The Ragdoll also has a very loving character. The biggest difference between the Ragdoll and her British Shorthair cousin is that the’s far more eager for physical affection. If you’re looking for an inveterate lap-cat who’ll enjoy extended cuddles and actively wants a lot of petting, a Ragdoll is your ideal breed. While not every individual seems to possess the famous “flop” reflex on being picked up, all Ragdolls are cuddle-bugs who will eagerly accept being lifted into your arms for hugs and snuggles.
Expect to spend long periods with a cat across your knees who really doesn’t want to move. They’re relatively low-drama, however, being calm and non-destructive by nature. Ragdoll cats hugely enjoy human company. They become very attached to their human housemates and will charm their way into all your visitors’ hearts with their friendly natures and playful antics. I have seldom encountered a more affectionate and demonstrative pet than a Ragdoll cat.
Health and known conditions.
Rude health is the British Shorthair’s usual state. They are prone only to the same issues as ordinary mixed-breed domestic cats, with only a couple of very rare heritable conditions. Your British Shorthair is likely to give you few concerns and will probably be with you for at least a decade and change. The official estimate of the British Shorthair’s lifespan is 20 years; anecdotally, however, I have seen them go on for even longer. The British Shorthair breed has been known to produce individuals suffering from a type of haemophilia; testing now makes this very uncommon as breeders can check for the gene and avoid breeding from carriers.
British Shorthairs are also slightly more prone to a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – again, this is very, very rare. This condition can’t be cured but it can be managed such that the cat’s welfare isn’t affected for some time. In the main, you’re looking at a very healthy cat.
Ragdolls are a fairly healthy breed, with a potentially long lifespan (up to 25 years). The Ragdoll’s background does include a significant degree of inbreeding since there weren’t many foundation cats; that said, they don’t seem to have many problems because of it. Any cats can develop health problems, however, and the Ragdoll does have one or two issues that you need to be on the lookout for.
Like British Shorthairs, Ragdoll cats can develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – since this is one of the commonest heart conditions in cats, though, it’s hardly a surprise. They also seem sadly prone to urinary tract conditions: UTIs, crystals and kidney stones seem to turn up quite a lot in this breed. Be especially careful of UTIs because they seem to be especially dangerous in Ragdolls. I’ve seen urinary infections carry off previously healthy young Ragdolls who should have been looking forward to long, comfortable lives.
Size and weight comparison.
British Shorthairs are large cats. They are stocky, bulky and muscular. Weights and sizes vary dramatically between male and female cats, with the difference becoming more pronounced as the cats grow up. Kittens start out at roughly the same size but males gain mass rather more rapidly than their sisters. Healthy weights for female British Shorthair range from a relatively petite 4kg (just under 9lbs) to 6kg (a little over 13lbs). Male cats are much bigger.
An adult male British Shorthair should weigh from 6kg to around 9kg (just over 13lbs to a hefty 19lbs 4oz). The British Shorthair can certainly get a lot heavier than this — they like to eat — but they should not really be allowed to go too far over the upper limits for their breed. They tend to suffer from health problems if allowed to become overweight, something that happens all too easily in the case of British Shorthairs.
Ragdolls are also on the big side as cats go. They’re not as husky as the British Shorthair, being longer and leaner, but they are muscular and well-built animals. Like the British Shorthair, they are markedly sexually dimorphic, with males being significantly larger than females. Male kittens put on more weight per month than females.
Full-grown male Ragdolls weigh from just under 7kg to around 9kg (15-20lbs); females may weigh between 4.5kg and 6.8kg (10-15lbs). As kittens, they are prone to growth spurts, during which they may need extra food. If your Ragdoll kitten is wolfing down her food and begging for more, go ahead and feed her till she’s satisfied — I have literally never seen a fat Ragdoll kitten. Once they’re fully grown you may need to moderate their food intake to prevent obesity. Ragdolls reach full size at around 3 or 4 years of age and may, like the British Shorthair, run to fat as they get older.
Living with kids and dogs.
British Shorthairs are a very good choice if you have or want children. They are patient almost to a fault, tolerating a lot of roughness from youngsters. This breed is notable for its calm response to provocation – if a British Shorthair gets fed up with some activity, she won’t swat, bite or scratch but will simply get out of range. They’re usually entirely cordial towards and even affectionate with dogs, so long as the dog is not aggressive or overly friendly.
Toddlers and little children need to be watched if they’re playing with your cat, regardless of the breed; even the most docile animal may become aggressive if small hands persist in gripping her ears or tail. With slightly older children who can be taught to interact respectfully, the British Shorthair is a dream cat. Children may be allowed more physical affection than adults; your British Shorthair may also want to supervise your kids and watch whatever they’re doing with rapt attention.
Ragdolls are a wonderful cat for both kids and dogs. Like the British Shorthair, the Ragdoll is patient and affectionate. Unlike the British Shorthair, though, she doesn’t mind being gathered up by small arms and positively enjoys persistent cuddling. Some children really pine for lap-time and may get frustrated with the more standoffish British Shorthair; they will get on much better with a Ragdoll, who dotes on physical contact. (Do supervise young children when they try to carry the cat, however, as they may pick her up awkwardly.
There’s a risk that they could hurt her or themselves.) Ragdolls are great company for non-aggressive dogs. They enjoy many of the same games – especially fetch – and will eagerly play with your pup. They don’t seem quite as dog-like as the Maine Coon, for instance, but they are definitely “puppy cats”. They socialise very well with properly trained dogs and even snuggle up to sleep with them.
Care and maintenance of your cat.
Over and above the usual vaccinations and regular vet check-ups, the British Shorthair needs little extra care. You should brush her thick coat at least once a week to prevent shed hair from building up; if she likes being brushed, you can do this more frequently. British Shorthairs sometimes get gum disease or tooth decay. You can help prevent this by brushing their teeth. Aim for a daily brushing, though if your cat absolutely hates it you might keep tooth-care for one day a week. Provide British Shorthair-sized litter-boxes and other equipment.
The litter tray should be half-again as long as the cat; the same goes for her scratching post. Toys and games that encourage your British Shorthair to run around will become very important later in life, as this breed can get slack and inactive with the advance of years. Get her something to chase and male a point of daily play.
Ragdolls need the same shots and regular vet visits as any cat. Aside from this, you should brush her fur at least once a week. Ragdolls tend to enjoy this process so it’s fine to brush her more often. You should provide lots of affection and attention; your Ragdoll cat actively needs cuddles and lap-time or she’ll become stressed and anxious. You can safely leave her at home for an ordinary workday — just compensate with lots of cuddles and petting when you get home. The usual equipment (litter-box, scratching post etc.) should be upsized appropriately for these large cats.
It’s important that any cat gets sufficient water but this is really indispensable for Ragdolls as they can so easily develop urinary issues. You should ensure that her bowl has clean, fresh water at all times, providing additional water-dishes in other rooms to ensure that she drinks. I’m a big fan of kitty drinking fountains, which encourage cats to drink more. I would advise that you not feed a Ragdoll dry food. Ragdoll cats need to be kept indoors, as they’re not very good at self-defence.
The final analysis
In all honesty, I would be happy to recommend either of these lovely breeds for your first cat. They’re both fairly low-maintenance, both non-destructive and both very friendly to humans. Either would be a wonderful companion for a child and they both get on well with dogs.
I suppose I would gently nudge families with kids towards the Ragdoll because children tend to want to hug and pet cats, which doesn’t always impress British Shorthairs. Older children who can be made to understand the cat’s needs should be fine with either. It really comes down to your inclination: do you want a loving but slightly distant companion or do you crave a lap-cat? On a purely personal level, I would lean slightly towards the British Shorthair simply because I find Ragdolls a little clingy and prefer a more reserved companion.
If you’re looking for a cat that wants lap-time and cuddles, though, Ragdolls are perfect. For those who are looking to add a second cat, I’d advise choosing one with a personality that complements your existing cat. If you have a cat who’s independent and reserved, get a Ragdoll for those extended snuggles. If you already have a lap-cat, you’ll probably appreciate the British Shorthair’s more hands-off approach.