Ragdoll breed full of personality, easygoing


Published: Saturday, January 24, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 23, 2004 at 10:30 p.m.

Among the countless felines at this weekend's Cat Fanciers Association show at the fairgrounds, Joyce Smith's five kittens and her show cat, Lacy, should be easy to spot.

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All five of Joyce Smith's five ragdoll kittens - two of which are pictured here - are in Gainesville this weekend for the 17th annual cat fanciers show at the fairgrounds.

ROB C. WITZEL/The Gainesville Sun

Facts

FYI: Cat show is today and Sunday

  • What: North Central Florida Cat Club's 17th Annual Cat Fanciers Association show, featuring championship cats and household pets.

  • When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., today and Sunday.

  • Where: Alachua County Fairgrounds, 2900 NE 39th Avenue, near the Gainesville Airport.

  • Tickets: $5 adults; $3 for seniors 55-over and students 5-12. Dollar-off coupons at local veterinary offices, at pet supply stores or in Scene magazine.

  • They're much larger than "regular" cats and kittens - in fact, they're known as the largest domestic breed in the world. They have deep blue eyes that will entice you.

    But what makes these cats extraordinary to Smith has nothing to do with appearance. Rather, it's their personality.

    "They're so so laid back and gentle," says Smith.

    Meet the ragdoll, a breed of cat so large it's even in the "Guinness Book of World Records."

    "They're very doglike. They are so trusting," marvels Smith, who worked eight years as supervisor of histology at Shands at UF before retiring a year and a half ago. "They're so human-oriented. They want to be where you are.

    "You can hold them upside down and they don't get frantic. They'll just hang over your shoulder. You can even teach them to play catch and fetch. They're very intelligent."

    Smith, 67, has retired to Ocoee, near Orlando, to be near family, but her Gainesville ties remain strong. She actually lived in Gainesville as a youth, attending Gainesville High, but then left for decades before returning to work at Shands.

    Smith first happened upon the ragdoll breed in the late '80s. "I saw these two cats, the most beautiful large cats with gorgeous blue eyes. So sweet, so gentle. I said, `Some day I'm going to have one of these.' "

    At the time, Smith bred and showed German shepherds. But showing dogs is rigorous work; when she had reached her early 60s, Smith decided to cut back. So in the late '90s, she went from showing large dogs to making good on her vow.

    Via the Internet, she bought her first ragdoll, a seal lynx colorpoint female named Seana.

    Today, her cattery - known as Islandolls - includes five kittens, seven grown females and one grown, neutered male - all ragdolls.

    Her cats include all three varieties of ragdolls: colorpoints that have faces, ears, legs and tails that are darker than their body; mitted ragdolls that have white fur on the tips of their paws and a white chin; and bicolor ragdolls that have an inverted V on their faces.

    Ragdolls come in two color patterns: seals, which are colored in shades of brownish black; and blues, which have a blue cast to their fur that becomes a stronger blue as they mature. Smith has ragdolls of both color patterns.

    Smith is co-owner of the nation's No. 3-ranked ragdoll, according to the Cat Fanciers Association. He's a seal bicolor ragdoll named Grand Champion Bordeaux LTD Just N' Thyme. He's the father of Smith's five kittens but doesn't live with Smith.

    In recent months, Smith has traveled the South, showing her Grand Champion female, Lacy, whose formal name is Grand Champion Soulmates Sweet Solace of Islandolls.

    In July 2003 at the Platinum Coast cat show in Fort Myers, Lacy was awarded "Final Best in Show." Two weeks ago, Smith drove Lacy to a show in Highpoint, N.C.

    This week, Smith came to Gainesville early to help set up for this weekend's cat show. She, Lacy and the kittens will be at the fairgrounds, although rules allow Smith to show only four of the five kittens.

    Smith says ragdolls make excellent - albeit expensive - pets. Show-quality ragdolls range from $1,200 to $2,500, depending on various factors, including whether they have been neutered, Smith says. Less-than-show-quality ragdolls can sell for as little as $650.

    Smith, of course, believes they're worth every cent.

    "They're wonderful with children, they're wonderful with other cats. They even respond well to a dog, as long the dog is OK with a cat."

    Jeff Tudeen can be reached at (352) 374-5023, or tudeenj@gvillesun.com.

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