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The History of the RagaMuffin Cat

This is the unofficial "History of the RagaMuffin" as described by Janet, a founding breeder of RagaMuffins. It was written in response to a question posted around April 2001 which asked about the origins of the RagaMuffin. Janet was a part of this early history of the breed and gives a first-hand account.

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Well, our history is somewhat of an enigma. You are quite right about the Cherubims....that is the name Ann Baker used to describe all of her breeds...the Ragdoll, Miracle Ragdoll, Honeybears, Little Americans, Baby Dolls, Ragdoll Tu's, and a myriad of others. Of the breeds that she "developed" only the Ragdoll and Honeybear remain as such. The RagaMuffin was named after we left Ann's control and is a blend of the Cherubim breeds.

There has ... and, I suppose, always will be ... controversy and conjecture about the actual "beginning." Ann's version is that Josephine, a white long-haired domestic (she said looked like a Persian, but actually looked more like today's Turkish Angora) who lived in her neighbor's (a Mrs. Pennels) garage, was hit by a car and sustained some very serious injuries. The cat was taken to a lab at the University of California and was genetically engineered to produce the floppy, sweet kitties known as Rag-type cats today. When she was returned to Mrs. Pennels, she began to produce kitties that were quite different from any that she had produced before. After several litters, she (Ann) and Mrs. Pennels noticed that the wonderful traits were in all the kittens no matter who was the father. They began to collect the kittens and used them in a breeding program to produce the Cherubims.

Many "cat historians" only listen to the part of Ann's story where she said that Josephine began to produce these kittens after the accident and state that is impossible since an injury to the mother would not have any effect on the kittens. That is quite true, but Ann is attributing the change to Josephine having been "genetically engineered" during her recuperation at the University of California not as a result of the accident itself.

Regardless of the probability that the cat was not genetically engineered, I believe that Ann truly believed that is what happened.

The facts are that Josephine had several litters prior to her accident. She produced kittens that were of a feral nature....shy of humans and not outstanding in any physical way. After the accident, she was taken to the laboratory by the Pennels' sons who were working there at the time. From what we've been able to find out, the laboratory was studying methods of controlling pain and could well have been experimenting with marijuana or some other gene-altering drugs that could have affected the future offspring of Josephine.

After returning to the Pennels' garage, her kittens were large, sweet, friendly, floppy, plush coated sweethearts, no matter who sired the litter. What happened? Obviously, something must have, but I don't think that anyone will ever know for sure exactly what happened. I'm just eternally thankful that the Lord saw fit to bless us with these special creatures!

One group of breeders became disenchanted with Ann in the early '70s and broke away from her. They sought recognition in the traditional cat organizations. They determined that it was in the best interest of their bred, to limit the colors accepted for recognition to seal point, blue point, lilac point, and chocolate point and those colors with varying amounts of white. Those are the cats registered today and those most widely known as Ragdolls. There are still a few IRCA (International Ragdoll Cat Association--Ann's private registry) breeders who are actively breeding.

Of the breeders who remained with Ann, many left of their own accord and registered their cats with the traditional registries as Ragdolls, some were actually "kicked out" by Ann. Anyone who blatantly refuted her "genetically engineered" story, or didn't follow her directives, were simply "ousted."

Or, should I say those that she found out didn't follow her directives. Ann had little faith in veterinarians and was leery of vaccines. She had a whole group of home remedies that she promoted as alternatives to veterinary care. Most of her breeders gave her lip service but actually followed good veterinary guidelines.

In July of 1993, Pat Flynn, Susie DeBow, and I went to California and met with Kathy Wall and Ann Baker. Ann was to have surgery for colon cancer and we were going to take care of the cats for her during her surgery. Well, when we arrived at Ann's home in Riverside, she informed us that she had decided not to have the surgery. She said that she had been given the knowledge that she had another 20 years, with or without the surgery. Of course, this proved to be incorrect; but that was her reasoning for forgoing the surgery.

Since we were there and there was to be no surgery, we had the opportunity to get to know Ann a bit and also to meet the cats that were in residence first hand. It was quite an experience....she decided that our stay would be turned into a "Board Meeting"....heck! We didn't even know we were ON the Board! Ann had a sort of strange way of doing things...she quite often had an "official" board...the one that was published and a "secret board"...the one that she actually talked to as she thought they were the ones who saw things "her way"....of course, that board turned over on a regular basis! lol

Ann was a very bitter lady....she felt that she had been mistreated by everyone .... family, friends, business acquaintances .... truthfully, I think that her demons were her own ... I pray that she has found peace now. She told of many horrible incidents...from people stealing her cats and turning mom cats loose to fight and kill kittens to attempts made on her life. It is hard to believe that these things happened; however, she did have pictures of dead kittens that she sent in her "packages" to people who inquired about the cats. After we left her, she said that we'd made threats to her life and since we know that to be completely false, it makes it hard to believe the other stories.

At this Board Meeting, Ann announced that she was going to turn over the IRCA to us....Pat Flynn was to be President. She would act as an advisor if we chose to consult her. She was turning overall records, pedigrees, breeding programs, etc. to us. We were ecstatic. The IRCA offered a very nice framework in which to work...IF handled properly. The IRCA handled all advertising and referred potential buyers to breeders in their area. It kept the pedigrees and registered cats and kittens. Showing was not required nor encouraged, thereby eliminating the constant exposure of the cats to the stresses and diseases that are associated with showing. The main object of breeding was to produce exceptional temperaments while maintaining size and easy-care coats. The breeders were close-knit and friendly.

The IRCA was supported by a yearly license fee for breeding ($150.00) plus a 10% commission from every kitten sold. None of us objected to this financial structure ... in retrospect, I see it as much less expensive than showing and handling our own advertising!

What we had been very unhappy about was that Ann's cats were not exemplary. They often were infested with fleas, ear mites, and fungus. There were cases of Feline Leukemia reported. We felt that our "leader" should have been offering kittens that were healthy and well cared for! The other main complaint was her treatment of what she called "the other Ragdoll" breeders .... She was constantly harassing them, sending out reams of accusations and vicious stories. And, her writing style was such that it was nearly impossible to follow her train of thought! She was an embarrassment!

Anyway, the IRCA was to be turned over on January 1, 1994, and we had great plans to make it into an organization of which we could be proud. It was our plan, that Ann would receive the commissions from kitten sales as retirement income.

As 1993 was drawing to a close, Ann decided that she just couldn't go through with the turnover. She began to find fault with all of us as a reason to back out of the plan. She even went so far as to "oust" Pat Flynn, for reasons only known to Ann. When it was absolutely a "given" that the turnover was not going to happen, a group of breeders banded together and began to investigate our options should we break away from the IRCA and Ann Baker.

After investigating all possibilities, it was decided that the only way to make the break, maintain our integrity (we had contracts with Ann that said we could not use the name "Ragdoll" if we did not renew our contracts) and still be able to breed our cats was to register them as a brand new breed and a name other than Ragdoll. We petitioned ACFA at their Semi-Annual meeting in February and were granted Experimental Status (basically registration only) with ACFA from that time.

Frankly, I was amazed! It was Curt's idea to do this and I just couldn't believe that we could really pull it off. Prior to the meeting, the Castles went to work, and with Winnie Keuller's (ACFA) help, developed a standard. They also took Ann's pedigrees and put them into a computer program, so that we had accurate pedigrees on all of the cats in our breeding program at that time. Until such time as the group as a whole could decide on a name, the Castles used "RagaMuffin" because of the accusations, primarily from Ragdoll breeders of the time, that our cats were "street cats." So, the name used described a lovable street urchin....a RagaMuffin. When the time came for a vote on a new name, the Castles insisted that ACFA would not "respect" us if we were to change the name at that point. Therefore, the name RagaMuffin became official.

The RagaMuffin was born in February 1994, from the body of cats registered by a small brand of ex-IRCA breeders. At that time, an organization, the RagaMuffin Associated Group, was chartered with ACFA as the parent club of the RagaMuffin. Unfortunately, shortly after the group was organized, there were some disagreements over the way the breed was to be developed. As a result of these disagreements, the group split and another club was chartered with ACFA. As a result, a lot of momentum was lost simply because efforts were divided. A house divided is never as strong as one united....but, it happened.

During our first years as an Experimental Breed, we were allowed registration privileges only. We were not allowed to bring our cats into an ACFA show hall, even for exhibition purposes. Later, at a meeting of the ACFA Board, Pat Flynn and Curt Gehm obtained permission for us to enter the show hall as an Exhibition Breed. Later, we advanced to New Breed or Color....a class where the judges actually handle the cats, learning about them, asking questions, making suggestions to us regarding the wording of the Standard, and instructing us on the nuances of a judge's evaluation. It was certainly a learning time for us....and, I think quite beneficial.

As a prerequisite to applying for Championship, it was required that we breed to the F-1 generation. Our first F-1's were produced in 1999 and we applied for Championship at the Annual Meeting of ACFA in August of 2000, in Sioux Falls, S.D. I was honored to make the presentation, supported by Laura Gregory, and was thrilled to be able to report to the group that we will be a Championship Breed in ACFA as of May 1, 2001.

We were accepted as Championship in UFO and ICE when they were formed. We have advanced through New Breed status to Probationary Championship with AACE.

There! I think that is pretty much our "history" as well as anyone knows it! It's been quite a trip....up's and down's, thrills and disappointments .... but, through it, all this fabulous furry creature wins hearts and keeps us all enthused!

Question: Are there many RagaMuffin breeders?

Yes, however, we are still a small group. It's been planned that way....considering that we started with a limited number of breeders, it has been necessary to go slowly and make good choices in order to avoid shrinking the gene pool. We've discouraged all but those breeders who are serious about developing and promoting the breed. Too many breeders would shrink the gene pool quickly, opening the door for health problems that are best avoided by maintaining a heterozygous gene pool. Eventually, we'd like to see the breed grow and become more sought after, but in the meantime, we want to advance the breed cautiously.

 

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