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8 Friendly Facts About Ragdoll Cats

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The Ragdoll cat can be described in three words: big, beautiful, and friendly. With silky, medium-length fur that's similar to a Persian or Angora and the sizable body—and affable personality—of a small puppy dog, the Ragdoll is a favorite breed among cat fanciers. Here are eight facts about America’s fourth most popular feline

1. RAGDOLLS ARE LAP CATS.

Ragdolls thrive on human companionship, and, unlike some other felines, love being held. In fact, the breed supposedly got its name because early litters of the docile, friendly cat became limp and floppy like rag dolls when they were picked up. 

2. RAGDOLLS ARE A RELATIVELY NEW BREED.

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Ann Baker, a breeder who lived in California during the 1960s, is credited with creating the Ragdoll. Baker took a domestic longhaired white female that was found running wild in her neighborhood, and bred her with another long-haired cat. The resulting kittens were the progenitors of the Ragdoll breed. By selecting for traits like a friendly personality and long, plush fur, Baker eventually produced the big, soft kitty we know and love today.

One of the cats in the original Ragdoll bloodline may have had Siamese-like markings, or Baker mated that first cat with Birman, Burmese, or Persian cats. However, since nobody quite knows which cat breeds Baker used to make the Ragdoll, the origin of the breed’s classic color-pointed coat (a term that’s used to describe a body that’s lighter than its “points,” including the face, legs, tail, and ears) remains a mystery.

3. RAGDOLLS HAVE BEAUTIFUL BLUE EYES (BUT COME IN MANY SHADES AND COLORS).

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Aside from its plush fur and large body, the Ragdoll is known for its bright blue eyes and color-pointed coat. Ragdolls also come in a variety of shades, ranging from seal (brown) and blue to red and cream. Variations like tortoiseshell and tabby markings are also common. Ragdolls come in several patterns, including colorpoint (no white on their coat), bicolor, and mitted (meaning they have white “mittens” on their paws). They're born pale, and their coats gradually darken into their permanent hues as they grow older.

4. RAGDOLLS ARE ONE OF THE LARGEST CAT BREEDS.

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According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), male Ragdolls typically weigh between 15 and 20 pounds, and females between 10 and 15 pounds. That makes them slightly larger than other feline heavyweights like the Maine Coon, which can weigh up to 18 pounds, and the Norwegian Forest Cat, which can weigh up to 16 pounds.

5. RAGDOLLS ARE QUIET KITTIES.

Ragdolls are affable and quiet kitties. Thanks to this trait, Realtor.com named them as one of the best cat breeds for apartment living. However, this trait also has a downside: Your Ragdoll may not meow if it’s distressed or in pain—so make sure to treat it with care. 

6. THE ALGONQUIN HOTEL’S FAMOUS PET CAT IS A RAGDOLL.

One of the Algonquin Hotel’s most famous lodgers is its lobby cat—a pampered feline who lives in a custom-made pet home atop the front desk. According to legend, the famous New York City establishment began caring for rescue cats in the 1930s after a stray named Rusty wandered onto the premises. The hotel’s owner decided to adopt the cat, and re-named him Hamlet.

The kind gesture inspired a new tradition: Over the decades, the Algonquin has owned 10 in-house felines, many of them rescues. The female kitties are always called Matilda, and the males are named Hamlet after the hotel’s original pet. The latest kitty to grace the Algonquin’s halls is a Ragdoll cat named Matilda III. She came to the hotel in 2010 after she was found abandoned outside the North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, New York.

7. RAGDOLLS ARE "DOG-LIKE" CATS.

Ever wanted a pet that will play fetch with you, follow you from room to room, and sleep with you in your bed? If you’re allergic to dogs (or you’re just partial to cats), consider a Ragdoll. "They can be more like dogs than cats sometimes," one Quora user writes. "My cats greet me at the door, follow me from room to room, cuddle up next to me on the couch and in bed, wait outside while I take a shower ... etc, etc. They love stuffed animals and little toys which they will carry from room to room. One of them even plays fetch. If you are looking for a more independent animal, the ragdoll is not for you; they demand and need a LOT of attention and play."

8. A RAGDOLL WAS THE WORLD'S LONGEST-LIVING "JANUS CAT."

A feline born with two faces is called a Janus cat—a name that’s inspired by the Roman god Janus, who is often portrayed as having two faces.

The world’s most famous two-faced cat, Frank and Louie (also known as Frankenlouie) was a Ragdoll. He had two functioning eyes, a blind central eye, two noses, and two mouths.

Frankenlouie’s deformity was caused by a very rare congenital condition known as diprosopia. He wasn’t expected to live very long, but a woman named Marty Stevens rescued him from being put down. Frankenlouie lived for an astounding 15 years before he passed away in 2014. Thanks to his long lifespan, Frankenlouie is listed in the Guinness Book as the longest-lived Janus cat.

Additional Source: The Cat Encyclopedia: The Definite Visual Guide

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Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
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Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
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K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
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“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

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