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SCAM ALERT: Beware of anyone who offers Ragdoll kittens without papers. There's no reason for any reputable breeder to intentionally raise kittens who cannot be registered with one of the two major associations (CFA and/or TICA). The only explanation is that one or both of the parents are not registered Ragdolls and therefore, cannot be proven to be purebred Ragdolls regardless of the story offered by that breeder. The bottom line is simple....No papers means that it isn't a verifiable Ragdoll. It may be a perfectly sweet, lovable kitten, but if you're wanting (and paying for) a Ragdoll kitten then the breeder should be able to PROVE that you are truly getting a purebred Ragdoll. Advertising both papered and unpapered kittens is a red flag - offering unpapered kittens as purebred Ragdolls is not considered acceptable by any Ragdoll club or cat association.
In addition to the information below, please be aware of "rare" or "unique" Ragdolls often sold for considerably higher prices. You may come across sepia, mink or solid-colored Ragdolls that are claimed to be rare and of special value. These colors are rare only because few established breeders choose to work with them. Dating back to Ann Baker's creation of the breed, the Ragdoll is (and has always been) a blue-eyed, pointed breed. These sepias/minks/solids are not considered true Ragdolls by the vast majority of breeders and cannot be traced to the original cats labeled as Ragdolls. Any solids/minks that are registered are identified as a Ragdoll "Variant" meaning it does not conform to the accepted Ragdoll standard. Additionally, these cats are not allowed to be shown competitively in any association (CFA, TICA or ACFA) so to label one as "Show Quality" is misleading at best.
Have you ever seen an ad in your local paper that says "RAGDOLLS: Beautiful kittens, 7 weeks old, great personality, available now, only $300" 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 (CFA, TICA, 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 $300 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 someone 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 $1500-2500 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 $300 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 the city/state where they were located or the owner's name, 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, kept in unsanitary conditions, and do not receive regular veterinary care (remember, that would cost money, not generate it).
Kittens at 6-7 weeks of age are cute, but they're definitely not ready to leave Mom. Most Ragdoll kittens aren't even fully weaned at 7 weeks, and they certainly haven't had time to master the litter box and scratching post. So why does a BYB let them go at this age? Simple...MONEY! Kittens consume a lot of time, energy and food (a LOT of food!) between 2 and 4 months of age. Kittens from a BYB are frequently sold without having any vaccinations or vet care and many times will be sick with upper respiratory infections or parasites or worse. This means you could spend considerable money at your own vet to restore the kitten's health. You will almost certainly not get any sort of health or genetic guarantee with this kitten and you'll have no one to rely on for help. If its health fails, you are on your own.
Even if the kitten's health doesn't fail, you'll have several hundred dollars in vet bills. Kittens from BYBs generally haven't had any vaccinations - so figure 3 trips to the vet at about $60-80 each. What about de-worming, preventative treatment for fleas, and an FIV/FeL test (because you surely won't get a written guarantee that the kitten is negative)? More costs you'll encounter - conservatively, $100-150. Want a microchip? Another $50-75. And then there's the spay/neuter surgery which is your responsibility when you get a kitten from a BYB. Depending on your location and the sex of your kitten, that can cost $100-250.
So your $300 kitten really isn't less expensive afterall. You're quickly back up to the price you would have paid to get a registered, well-socialized, vaccinated, already-altered kitten from a reputable breeder. Oh, don't forget that your BYB kitten has no health or genetic guarantee. Or that scheduling the spay/neuter surgery for the BYB kitten will take time from your schedule and that if you delay the surgery, your kitten could start "marking" your home (hormonal behavior can start as early as 6-8 months of age). Lastly, the responsiblity related to spay/neuter is yours alone. Spay/neuter is overwhelmingly safe, but it's still a surgical procedure and has risk. Your BYB breeder isn't going to take any responsibility if something goes wrong or if a problem is discovered during the surgery.
Ultimately, 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 may be 15 years or more) you'll spend thousands of dollars on food, litter, toys and veterinarian visits. Regardless of the kitten you choose, these ongoing costs are the major expense for your baby.
So if you have decided to get a Ragdoll, make sure you are starting out with a real Ragdoll. Yes, it will cost you a few hundred dollars extra initially to be sure you are buying from a reputable breeder and not a BYB. In the end though, that is money very well spent.