Do you ever get that problem where you’re driving home with the family, and you spot a cat sitting in someone’s front window? Instead of all cooing over the little cutie, you then spend the entire journey arguing over what breed it was! The Ragdoll or Birman are common culprits when it comes to kitty confusion as at first glance they are insanely similar, and you really need to have them side by side to see the slight variations in size and color.
- What do they have in common?
- Which one is bigger?
- One sheds more than the other
- Matching personalities?
- The question of health
Weighing up the pros and cons of a pet Birman vs Ragdoll cat is not easy either! After all, both the Birman and Ragdoll are super cute and both can make great pet cats. Often, this makes your choice of a Birman or Ragdoll cat one of simple personal preference. In other words, you just need to know what the major differences and similarities are between these two wonderful cat breeds so you can decide which cat is a better fit for your lifestyle.
Ragdoll vs Birman
The Birman and Ragdoll cats are similar looking cats, but there are quite a lot of differences. Ragdolls are large compared to the Birman’s medium size. The Birman sheds less and requires less grooming. They are both relaxed and loving, though the Ragdoll is often happier to be petted and fussed over for longer.
Similar Looking Cats
These breeds are very similar to look at, especially if you’ve not met one in person before. They have medium length coats, with pointed markings on the face ears and tail. These dark patches for distinctive blocks of color that come in a few different shades.
They also both have broad heads, dark whiskers and that all important loyal personality.
It is also thought that both of these cat breeds first arose in Asia, albeit thousands of kilometers apart, before emigrating to other parts of the world. The Birman cat hails from the country of Burma (now Myanmar) and certainly this cat’s name sounds a lot like its country of origin! The Ragdoll cat, in turn, can trace its lineage back to ancient Persia (now Iran).
Spot The Differences!
The size of these breeds is surprisingly significantly different, so much so that it is even apparent if they aren’t sitting beside one another. The tone also varies with Birmans often having darker points that the standard Ragdoll cat.
You’ll also find the coat texture feels very different when you push your fingers into their fur. And accordingly, it sheds at a rather faster rate in one than the other.
Birman vs Ragdoll Size
The Birman cat is considered to be medium in size. This cat can weigh anywhere from just six pounds to 12 pounds in adulthood. It is not uncommon for adult male Birman cats to slightly outweigh females. This cat breed can take up to three years to fully mature.
In contrast to the Birman, the Ragdoll cat is considered a large cat breed. While most Ragdoll cats will weigh between 10 and 20 pounds as adult cats, it is not unheard of for a Ragdoll cat to weigh 25 pounds or more (this can especially be true for unneutered males).
To keep things exciting, Ragdoll cats also take longer to mature (around 4 years), which can keep you on your toes guessing how large your Ragdoll cat will grow!
Grooming and Shedding
The Birman cat is not a “true” hypo-allergenic cat breed (sadly, there is not really any such thing), but it comes a lot closer than the Ragdoll cat! This is because she does not have an insulating undercoat beneath the medium-long, silky top coat and so it tends to shed less than many other cat breeds.
More importantly for your cat’s health, the lack of an undercoat can also mean your cat’s hair is less likely to create mats and tangles, especially if you commit to frequent brushing and grooming.
But what the Birman cat doesn’t shed out, the Ragdoll cat will more than make up the difference for! These large, long-haired cats may not have a full insulating undercoat, but their top coat is quite thick and can shed profusely, especially during the changing of the seasons.
So, if you bring home a Ragdoll cat, regular brushing, combing and grooming is a must to keep mats and tangles from forming and to keep unexpected shedding to a minimum.
Birman vs Ragdoll Temperaments
While both the Birman and Ragdoll cats are born and bred to be companion cats to humans, the Birman cat has a slightly longer history of serving in this role, at least according to official cat breed registries. The Birman cat was officially recognized as a purebred cat breed as early as 1925.
Birmans have reliably loving, laid-back and even personalities that make them awesome for families with young children as well as individuals and couples. The Ragdoll cat was first recognized as a purebred cat breed in 1966. This cat breed gets its name from its tendency to lazily “flop” when picked up. Suffice it to say these cats love to snuggle!
Ragdoll cats also love people and – oddly – other cats as well. They are quite tolerant of young children, making them a great pick for families with kids. We find their sweet and friendly nature is especially inspiring for finding good Ragdoll names!
As you can see, the Ragdoll vs Birman temperament is quite similar in some ways, although Ragdoll cats are more tolerant of frequent handling than Birman cats, and quicker to forgive a accidental moment’s clumsiness.
Potential Health Problems
Both the Birman and Ragdoll cat breeds live between 12 and 16 years. Some Ragdoll cats can live to be 17 years old. The most concerning health issue for Birman cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Geneticists suspect a gene mutation is the culprit, which means it is very important to choose your breeder with care!
Ragdoll cats can also struggle with HCM. Other major health issues to watch for include bladder stones and feline infectious peritonitis, or FIP. This is caused by the coronavirus, a common trigger for feline infections. Here again, your choice of breeder can greatly reduce the risk of your kitten contracting FIP.
Is One A Better Pet Than The Other?
The Ragdoll is a much bigger cat, and a bigger commitment in terms of grooming and clearing up shed fur too. They also have slightly more known health conditions. However, although both cats get on well with people, the ultra-amenable Ragdoll has a better reputation with other pets.
The right cat for you might depend on the size of your living space, the other animals already sharing it with you, or some other factor of particular importance.
Both can make amazing pet cats and both have a large and growing fan base worldwide. Why not share which you one prefer in the comments section below?
I have had three ragdolls in my life. One passed (my first one from a genetic heart issue) now most reputable breeders will have a test done to rule it out. My other two ragdolls from a different breeder were wonderful. I had a seal point and she 12 years when she passed away. She was less tolerant to brushing but very easy going. In fact that was her nickname (Easy) She was my big baby. She was bigger than her sister but younger (but tried to play “baby part”), we were all on to that. She was with us until 2015. I miss her everyday.
Her older sister is a seal mitted (Ming)and is now 16 and she is just as spry and healthy as when she was 6 year old. Secretly I think she always wanted to be an only child…because there is just the two of us now. Jasmine (Ming is her nickname) loved our human son he was about 8 when we got the ragdolls and we had a rottweiler also and the rotary loved the kittens too and shared his bed with them. They are a trusting breed never let them outside or declaw them. Teach them while they are young to use a post. My vet and breeder didn’t like the FIP vaccine and the feline leukemia vaccine should be done in hip instead of shoulders.
Ming still runs around and insists on lovings.Something that wasn’t mentioned is that ragdolls do not like closed doors, so if you want privacy,kiss that goodbye. They just want to be around you because they think of you as their parents. Also they like to nose around a bit. Which is why I keep the closet door closed. Fur fur fur, yes there is shedding but don’t get a long haired cat unless you expect that. Last but not least both my girls laid on their backs and loved gentle belly rubs as well and crazy sleeping positions. As someone that has been chronically ill for 25 years I wanted a cat where I knew the personality I was getting (I am stuck in bed for weeks or months at a time) and on my sick days they love to binge watch HBO- they luv them dragons. Look for reputable breeders. Do your homework. If you don’t want a kitten consider a retired breeder cat. Or a ragdoll rescue. Get two kitties if you can because if you work a lot they get lonely…I get a big greet just coming back from the doctor for 45 mins. Well worth the expense especially if you are looking for a specific temperament. Further reading on the rag doll breed tells the story of Josephine Baker in Riverside, Ca. That started the breed I believe she mixed a Birman. But I can’t be 100% so get some books on ragdolls. There are many good breeders out there, make sure you see the whole area they keep their cats. My breeder was open and honest and I still send her pics from time to time. A reputable breeder will not breed her female more than once a year. Good luck they are well worth it. ♥️
Michele McIntyre says
I own 2 birman, they are so effectionate and just want to be around us all time the follow us around like dogs, love to sit on laps, waits at door when we get home, very obedient understand our language, so if people say ragdolls are more effectionate, wrong.
Fiona Hills says
I have one of each, a 5 year old female Ragdoll and a 1 year old male Birman. They are both so loving and gentle, never scratch or bite like some other cats but similarly ends there. My Ragdoll is a princess, loves to lie around relaxing and being pampered however my Birman is the court jester and is very playful and active, loves his toys and runs around until he drops to sleep from exhaustion. He does annoy her highness with his constant need to play and she will give him a smack now and then but otherwise they live quite happily side by side.
Could not choose between them however do believe that a Ragdoll would be more suitable for anyone who would like a calm sedate companion
Michele McIntyre says
Hugo P. says
We love our Sacred Birmas. Compared to other cats in our household, we noticed that the Birmans are definitely much more playful and need a lot of affection and play time even as adults. Others like British Shorthairs are more laid back, lazy and chilling as adults, but the Birmans remain kitties in their behavior. I would not consider them as particularly intelligent cats, as they have a very short attention span and get distracted very easily. This is not negative, just an observation, and it is part of the fun with them.
I have one of each. However, my experience of their personalities is different than noted. My male Birman loves to be held and massaged for hours. He is extremely affectionate and highly intelligent and can quickly be taught tricks. My female Ragdoll only tolerates being held for a few minutes. The Birman sleeps more than the Ragdoll. I love them both but if I could only have one, I’d choose a male Birman.
Diane lawrence says
I’ve owned 4 Birmans, all with different personalities. They are truly lovely cats to own, being friendly and only needing weekly grooming.
However, they are all now passed as three of them developed kidney problems around 7 years and had to be put into kitty heaven.
I purchased a ragdoll aged 16 months , June 2019 from a breeder who was down sizing. By August 2019 she gave birth to two beautiful kittens and all pure pedigrees. I couldn’t believe it, and still 7 months on they are a dream come true! Gracie is mum and Lily n’Louis our extended family.
I just adore the Ragdoll breed, and they’ll see me to the end of my days, hopefully. Ragdolls are wonderful cat’s in every way, and I wouldn’t be without my three!
I adopted a Birman from a lady that ended up being highly allergic to her. I have a female Calico and a black shorthair but this cat is something else. My dog recently passed away and I swear this cat is part puppy. She loves to play. If I dont play with her, she will keep herself entertained for hours. She loves to play fetch and is easily taught tricks. She is the most friendly cat I have met. Fearless to a fault. Her name is Jinxy and in just a few months she has managed to become the best companion anyone could ask for. She loves my 3 year old granddaughter and is really gentle with her. Jinxy plays non stop but never aggressive and has never scratched us, even unintentionally. She loves affection, but not being held for more than a minute or two. She seeks out high places and hiding spots the other 2 cats never used. She does need multiple scratching posts or will use furniture but seems happy with the ones I got made of wicker. If you decide on a Birman, buy lots of fur removal tools, you will need them. Her coat is silky soft and never tangles with brushing every few days. She does love to eat. My other cats are free grazers, but Jinxy will gain weight if left to her choice. I cant say enough good things about this cat, wish I could post a pic, but she is very typical, dark pointed with white socks and belly. Most beautiful blue eyes ever. Very quite when she meows. She is about 18 months old now and about 11lbs, thick boned, much larger than my tiny 20 year old 6 lb Calico. Highly recommend looking into this cat if looking
Tom McNerney says
I have one of each too (and a Siamese as well) – my third Birman but first Ragdoll. The Ragdoll is much more docile and much more needy – loves to be picked up, loves to be brushed (and needs to be brushed), is happy to be held for a long time or placed somewhere to sit. He’s also very vocal indeed – not necessarily a welcome trait at 4am – and needs a lot of attention, following me round much of the time and miaowing loudly if ignored. My Birman is a lot more playful (he and the Siamese are forever chasing each other around), a better climber and needs more outdoors time, but he’s much less demanding of attention and the least likely to be on the bed at night, albeit when he is, he snuggles up the closest on the pillow. I wouldn’t choose one over the other – both are beautiful, they are what they are and individuals differ anyway – but perhaps if you are a less active person and you want a less active cat, or you really don’t want your cat going outside, choose the Ragdoll, but if you really want a cat that plays and does acrobatic jumps, your preference should be for the Birman.
I wouldn’t risk having a few cats at the same time, but I am very gratefull for all the comments. My ragdoll died a few years ago, and I loved her! Her name was Pandora (Panda), and she was very playfull and all the family LOOOVEED her. She died from heart issues at age of 13. We loved her SOOO much! I miss her every moment of my life. My kids are asking for a new cat. It was a heartbreak for all of our family. Mia was eight when Panda died, and Naomi was 10. They had Pandora for alll of their life! I just can’t stand crying!
Josie McPherson says
You forgot PKD. Ragdolls are a lot more prone to that condition.
And the easiest way to tell them apart is that a Ragdoll and Birman have very different head profiles – Birmans have a Roman nose (ie the nose shape is convex) the Ragdoll is concave so dips inwards.
Both cats should actually be of a similar size – whilst they are meant to be a longish cat they are not meant to be a huge cat.
We had a rag doll or part rag doll. We got Scout from a dairy, not a breeder. When he died at 15 years and 20 lbs, he left a huge void. He was far more like a dog than a cat. If company came, he was at the door to greet you. If we closed our bedroom door (leaving him the entire rest of the house), he would meow a few times and then… we couldn’t believe it…. He would start head butting the door! Now. He was extremely sweet and affectionate. I don’t want anyone to think he was pushy or aggressive… just ever present. He even raised a couple dogs. Lab mixes, one at a time. Scout was the boss!! If one of them wasn’t on his/her bed, scout would sometimes take it! Hahaha. He’d lay in the middle of the bed. Max would stand at the edge of his bed looking at Scout and Scout would meow, then Max would turn around and lay in the middle of the floor. Scout passed 8 years ago. My husband refuses to have another cat, because after living with Scout for 15 years, he’s certain that we would only disappointed. He brought us so much joy. I’m so grateful to have had him. ♥️
I need a cat that can be obtsinrd ad a kitten and is not too expensive not extreme high maintenance (nor too large) but will be affectionate and bonding as well as litter-trainable and hsppy as an indoor cat. Most important though she/he must get on.well with the dog and they become playmates. All the advice I see online so far seems to suggest BIRMAN. Any opinions hete?
Michele McIntyre says
I think the fluffy purebred birmans are a family car very effectionate and layed back, loves laps, never scratches furniture talks to us a lot, purrs, walks by our sides, etc, will keep owning birmans.