Birman Cat or Ragdoll?
July 12, 2011 4:59 PM   Subscribe

What are the main differences between a Birman and a Ragdoll cat? We are looking for a nice family cat and we have a seven year old. We are looking for a breed that has blue eyes, and is warm and affectioniate like a dog. I have heard that Ragdoll's tend to get really big, that is one thing I'm not sure we want. Any experiences you guys have would be appreciated.
posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Our boy Kyle, a.k.a. Laser Nuts, is a seal-point Ragdoll with somewhat shorter fur than is normal for the breed (though his fur is still long). At 4 months of age, he's about as big as my previous cat, a Russian Blue. He will get bigger. And it's not just fur (though the fur will make him seem even bigger)—he will eventually weigh 16 pounds or more.

If this doesn't sound awesome to you, then go for the Birman, they are also awesome cats.

I think Kyle is a pretty cool cat. eh hangs out with copmany and doesn't afraid of anything. However, a friend of mine has one who is very skittish. So it comes down to the individual animal in some cases.
posted by kindall at 5:06 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

My Mom's ragdoll is large. The kitty is primarily decorative and deems lapping to be beneath her dignity. This attitude may be particular to this one kitty.

Bonus is that the long fur doesn't knot.

However, the kitty will accept most things without a fight which is a characteristic of the breed. (This means you must take into consideration how roughly kids may play with ragdolls.)
posted by mightshould at 5:23 PM on July 12, 2011

Breed is less important than temperment, IMO. I suggest you go to your local shelter and let your kid pick out the friendliest, awesomest cat they have. Unless you are an aficionado of a particular breed, there's no compelling reason to buy a purebred cat.

(Be aware that many kittens have blue eyes that will change as they age.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:28 PM on July 12, 2011 [16 favorites]

What about a Siamese? They're often described as having very dog-like temperaments. Our Kitty was a part outdoor kitty, and would regularly join us on long walks down our street, venturing off occasionally to sniff this and explore that, but would catch up when he realized he was trailing behind. He wasn't a lap kitty, but was both moderately social and independent. He liked to be around the company of people, but for example, he'd prefer to sleep on a blanket (or sweater) on the floor of bedrooms, rather than on the bed with humans. Friendly and always in the mood for a massage or brushing, but not for very long - there are critters to be watched, and grounds to explore. But ultimately, every cat is going to have its own personality, irrespective of typical breed characteristics.
posted by raztaj at 5:39 PM on July 12, 2011

Devon Rexes are known for being very small, very dog-like, and hypo-allergenic to boot! They are generally the hairless or semi-hairless variety, but some variants are extremely fluffy and curly haired. They come blue-eyed as well. But most importantly, they ARE small and dog-like.

Also, we'd be able to help you better if you provided a link to a picture of your current cat. It's customary here (but not absolutely required) and fosters [+20 endearment] for all who participate in the thread.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:02 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

My experience with Siamese cats (as a friend of folks with Siamese cats and the human of a part-Siamese) has not been that they're great with people in the way you want. I love my part-Siamese girl, but I think she and a seven-year-old would not get on well.

Having looked for "doglike" affectionate kittens in the past, my experience is that you should ask the shelter or breeder for a kitten with the personality characteristics you want. When I got a new kitten after my ex and I split (he got the cats), I told the folks at the shelter that I wanted a lap cat. They immediately got out a kitten who crawled into my lap and spent a lot of time there over the next fifteen years.
posted by immlass at 6:14 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, I should add that Devon Rexes are a breed also known for being very curious, friendly, and playful until late in life. They are also not particularly vocal (unlike Siamese).
posted by iamkimiam at 6:26 PM on July 12, 2011

I think either of those brands would be a good fit. I don't think size is as important in a cat when the cat is friendly and fine with handling as compared to a skittish scratching jerk--which is when you really don't want a 20 lb cat unless that's your thing.

I would say you might want to check out Maine Coons. They have a similar fluffy look and face to the breeds you mentioned, and are super dog like. Very playful and easy to handle. However, another big cat. In general it seems like the big cats are a lot friendlier than the small ones.
posted by shownomercy at 6:30 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

In my experience in rescue, ragdolls do get big and very fluffy. Very fluffy cats need regular grooming. One question to ask yourself is do you have time to groom such a cat regularly, check its behind for dingleberries, and vacuum/sweep all the hair that will inevitably form man-eating tumbleweeds in the corners of your rooms?

Not that those issues should dissuade you, of course, but you should know what you are getting into.

Check for a breed-specific rescue in your area. Those folks would be glad to answer your questions. They want to place their animals with knowledgeable and prepared owners.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:34 PM on July 12, 2011

I don't know much about Ragdolls, but my mom (and hesitantly I) bred and showed Birmans when I was preteen and I adore them both for their general temperament and build. I fancy that my 14-yr old bluepoint Birman has a more attractive face than most people. In general they are very even-tempered and affectionate, although much of this can be variable depending on how the Birman kitten was raised. This cat here is actually quite dog-like, running to the door (well, meandering) when we come home, wants to sit next to you if not on your lap no matter what activity you're performing. They are very good with kids; we'd sold quite a few kittens to couples with young children.

In general it might come down to aesthetic preference. Ragdolls have a more angular bone structure than Birmans, the ideal for the latter being an "apple" shaped head with a Roman nose. Ragdolls get quite big, also. I don't know if you've ever seen a Maine Coon or a Norwegian Forest Cat (a badass name, btw), but they are similarly massive. I'd say Birmans are closer to average build. Birmans, as my boyfriend just described, have Boots of Power.

Also, Birmans have the best mythology as temple cats.

(and whatever you do, please don't get your cat declawed because of your child. It was severely F its brain.)
posted by makeitso at 6:37 PM on July 12, 2011

If your main consideration is the blue eyes, definitely search the local shelters! Any colorpoint (the "Siamese" coloring) cat will have blue eyes into adulthood, and although it's an uncommon color, it's not exclusive to purebreds. (The radiant Charlene Butterbean is one shelter kitty who strongly resembles a Birman/Ragdoll, and has a great personality to boot.) And depending on where you live, a colorpoint rescue might actually be easier to find than a breeder.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:55 PM on July 12, 2011

If you are looking for a blue-eyed cat (all kittens are born with blue eyes), be aware that there is an established link between white cats, blue eyes and deafness.

Ragdolls are very easy-going, almost passive. They are not "outside" cats. You should probably keep your cat indoors anyway, as indoor cats are healthier, but what I mean is that Ragdolls are docile and they don't really always get that cars and dogs are dangerous. And yes, they can be quite large. Female cats can run up to ~15 lbs and males up to ~20. That's HUGE. I have a Maine Coon who weighs slightly less than 15 lbs and he is a BIG cat (in the pic, for scale, his pillow is my iPad).

If you are going for one or the other, then, I'd go with the Birman. In addition to the size, you can tell them apart because Ragdolls have white chins and Birmans have colored ones. You could also go for a Himalayan, which is smaller than a Ragdoll but quite similar in coloring to both that and the Birman, and more active than the Ragdoll.
posted by misha at 8:18 PM on July 12, 2011

I should mention that Kyle, our ragdoll, is plenty active. He plays with our dogs and cuddles with them and us at night, and he's quite affectionate. However, this may be simply because he's still a kitten. Time will tell.
posted by kindall at 9:02 PM on July 12, 2011

I know you didn't ask about devons, but I have 2 devon rex and want to correct some statements upthread: They *are* small and doglike (and playful and curious, and snuuugly), but they are not hypo-allergenic, hairless, or particularly quiet.
posted by lilnublet at 10:19 PM on July 12, 2011

Chiming in about my Ragdoll. My girl Harley is 12.5lbs fully grown.

Temperment - Harley is very much like a dog, follows me around, does the Ragdoll "flop", waits by the door for me to come home from work, alerts me when it's time for bed, sleeps with me, etc. She's smart - she knows 8 tricks now, which she does on command using hand signals. She has a very low prey drive, so she's not into games involving running around chasing things.

Her hair is very long - she is very very fluffy - you can stick a straight finger toward her ribcage and your whole finger will disappear before you touch her skin. However, she hardly sheds, which is sort of counterintuitive. She sheds SO MUCH LESS than everybody else's short haired cats I've ever met. When you run your hand down her, you get maybe like 5 or 10 hairs. And with ragdolls, the fur doesn't mat, as someone above says. You do have to trim the "fairy pants" to eliminate the chance of digleberries, but that's a once every couple of months thing.

Basically, I've found her to be exactly like what all the internet descriptions of Ragdolls are like.

Good luck on your kitty hunt!
posted by bluesky78987 at 10:34 PM on July 12, 2011

Our Himalayan / Birman cross had a wonderful temperament, though not lappy unless it was winter and he wanted to steal your body warmth. Neither of our two ragdolls were / are lappy (one died), and both had / have a fierce love of the outdoors. We rarely see them unless they want food.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:17 AM on July 13, 2011

Frank, my Ragdoll (RIP), was very much like bluesky78987's description, down to the "finger-depth" of his fur. And he was so soft. (He also shed much less than most cats I've known.) He loved being brushed, though, and even let me trim his nails easily. He let the dog (gently) eat treats off his head and use him as a pillow. He converted my mom -- a life-long cat hater -- into a Ragdoll lover. He'd crawl up to my shoulders, wrap himself around my neck, and would stay there even if I got up and walked around. I'm thinking about getting another cat, and I'm willing to wait until I find another Ragdoll to adopt.

I'm not sure why you're shying away a big cat, but he was as manageable and low-maintenance as an animal could be. Since little kids don't always handle pets with finesse, I think a Ragdoll would be much less likely to scratch or bite. Frank never scratched anyone, bit anyone, or hissed at anyone; YMMV of course.

Also, he smelled like a sweater :)
posted by Room 641-A at 5:12 AM on July 13, 2011

I'll have to agree that it depends more on the individual cat.
Our shelter rescue tomcat is very sweet and affectionate and loves people. He greets us at the door when we come home, loves to play fetch and sits on the couch with us when we watch tv. Please check out your local shelters and rescue groups.
posted by lawhound at 12:44 PM on July 13, 2011

I have both a Norwegian Forest Cat and a Ragdoll. They are both enormous fuzzballs. In terms of being a big, happy, loving cuddler, it's the NFC hands down. The Ragdoll is a bit more standoffish with folks she doesn't know, and is VERY jealous of attention I give to the NFC. It can be difficult to please her prissy self in terms of attention/affection. The NFC just wants to be everybody's friend.

One thing to note is that if you have ANY kind of allergies to cats, a long-haired variety will be torture for you. My partner and I found this out the hard way, but luckily the Fuzz Committee lives with me.
posted by hollisimo at 4:36 PM on July 13, 2011

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