Ragdoll cats have a reputation for being very loving pets that enjoy the company of humans. Large cats with even tempers and gentle natures, they take their name from their tendency to relax and go limp when held, like a rag doll. In general, this breed is not known to carry any genetic defects. However, there are some health issues to watch out for if you own or are considering adopting a ragdoll cat.
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Ragdoll cats seem to be susceptible to feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the outer muscle of the heart. This condition eventually causes the muscle's outer wall to thicken so much that it becomes stiff. This, in turn, makes it more difficult for the muscle to pump blood into the heart's chambers. Maine coon cats and other large breeds are also prone to this disease, which is sometimes known as "Big Cat Syndrome." Ragdoll cat owners usually notice this condition when their pets are highly active or very stressed--any period of time during which the heart rate increases significantly. Symptoms include lethargy and a decrease in appetite, as well as panting, difficulty breathing and even fainting. There is no cure, but ragdolls can benefit from a medication regimen.
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Some studies indicate that ragdoll cats run a greater than average risk of carrying the gene for feline mucopolysaccharidosis VI. This disease, caused by a lack of arylsulfatase B in the cat's body, seems to particularly affect those ragdolls whose bloodlines can be traced back to Australia. The deficiency can lead to problems in the cat's eyes and joints, and left untreated, it can hinder mobility and eventually cause paralysis. The disease is relatively uncommon, but if your ragdoll cat is afflicted, enzyme replacement therapy or a bone marrow transplant are two treatment options.
Ragdolls have been known to develop polycystic kidney disease, a condition seen much more often in Persian cats and marked by enlarged, fluid-filled kidneys. Cysts begin to grow in the kidneys, and the organs' ability to function properly is reduced. Kidney failure is the final stage. This inherited ailment usually begins to show itself when a cat is between 3 and 10 years of age. If your ragdoll is exhibiting signs such as excessive thirst and urination, weight loss, or lack of appetite, have your veterinarian check for PKD. He can diagnose the disease with an ultrasound.
This common feline ailment does not seem like a big deal to many cat owners; however, hairballs can create blockages in a cat's intestines, leading to serious health concerns. Ragdoll cats may develop more and larger hairballs than some other breeds because of their long, luxurious fur and an undercoat that tangles easily. While some ragdoll owners note that the breed is low-maintenance with regard to grooming, you still may want to brush your cat regularly to get rid of loose fur and help keep hairballs from forming.
Ragdolls, like most cat breeds, are prone to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums. Often, this condition results from a poor diet or by feeding your ragdoll wet or soft foods exclusively. Dry foods, many veterinarians believe, help to eliminate the build-up of plaque on a cat's teeth. If this plaque remains, gingivitis can set in, followed by periodontitis, or inflammation around the socket of a tooth. Either condition can cause secondary infections and result in damage to the heart, kidneys or other organs. Along with feeding crunchy foods, brushing your ragdoll cat's teeth may help keep gum disease at bay.
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