Are Ragdoll Cats Brachycephalic? Respiratory Risks Explained

Brachycephaly is a breathing condition commonly associated with short-nosed dogs and cats, but does it affect Ragdolls too?

It’s a question many would-be Ragdoll owners are asking, and with good reason – given the cost of buying a Ragdoll, it’s important you educate yourself on any potential health conditions that may affect them before committing to buying one.

So, are Ragdoll cats brachycephalic?

Ragdoll cats aren’t usually brachycephalic. Brachycephaly is a term describing the shortened skull shape commonly seen in certain dog and cat breeds, like Pugs, Bulldogs or Exotic Shorthairs. Ragdolls, in contrast, tend to have a broader head and don’t exhibit any significant respiratory or dental issues related to their skull shape.

While there is still debate among some experts, most agree Ragdoll cats don’t typically exhibit the physical characteristics that could put them at risk for health problems associated with brachycephaly.

This article will explore everything you need to know about Ragdoll cats and brachycephaly including what the condition is, the health concerns related to it, what the research says and what this means for you as a potential ragdoll owner.

What is brachycephaly?

Brachycephaly can be broken into two parts – ‘brachy’ meaning shortened and ‘cephalic’ meaning head. For dogs and cats, it describes a shortened skull shape often characterized by a relatively wide and flat head, a short nose, and prominent eyes. In dogs, brachycephalic breeds include Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers. However, the condition is much less common in cats, including Ragdolls.

In some cases, these physical traits can lead to breathing difficulties, dental issues, and other health concerns.

Generally, it’s widely accepted that the following cat breeds are most at risk of the condition:

  • Persian
  • Himalayan
  • Burmese
  • British Shorthair
  • Exotic Shorthair

When you look at an Exotic Shorthair compared to a Ragdoll, for example, you can immediately see the physical differences and why the former is more likely to suffer from brachycephaly than the latter.

Discussion of brachycephaly in cats (including Ragdolls)

Breeds such as Persian, Himalayan, Burmese and British/Exotic cats can exhibit a flattened facial structure that’s similar to brachycephalic dogs. However, others cats, particularly Ragdolls, do not exhibit true brachycephaly in the same way as dogs, as their skull structure is fundamentally different.

When it comes to Ragdoll cats, there is much debate as to whether they can be considered brachycephalic.

Because Ragdoll cats have a slightly wider head shape than some other cat breeds, their facial structure is not as compressed as that of a typical brachycephalic cat or dog leading most animal experts to conclude they are at low risk of brachycephaly.

Personally, I have owned a Ragdoll cat for more than five years and in that time she’s never suffered from breathing problems associated with brachycephaly.

That’s not to say all Ragdolls are immune to the condition, but it’s important I share my own experiences to help you with your decision making (if you are weighing up whether to buy a ragdoll or not).

Research on brachycephaly in ragdoll cats

There has been little targeted research done on how impacted ragdoll cats are by brachycephaly, mainly because the breed isn’t usually affected by the condition.

However, a 2021 study published in the Frontiers in Veterinary Science journal did suggest Ragdolls are able to communicate far better via facial expressions than other more brachycephalic cat breeds, such as Persian, Scottish Fold, Devon Rex and British Shorthair cats.

The research looked at nearly 2000 cat breeds and concluded those with more proportioned features, such as Ragdoll and Norwegian Forest cats, appeared to have calmer facial expressions than those with brachycephalic traits.

These cats, by comparison, appeared to display more “pain-like” expressions, even though they weren’t considered to be in distress.

In terms of how brachycephaly affects Ragdoll cats, there are very few online resources that make a clear conclusion.

Health issues associated with brachycephaly in cats

Brachycephaly can cause several health issues for cats. One of the most common is respiratory distress, which can occur when the flattened skull shape leads to a narrowing of the airways. This can create difficulty breathing, especially during exercise or in warm weather. In severe cases, respiratory distress can lead to hypoxia or even death.

Brachycephaly can also lead to dental problems, as the shortened jaw can result in overcrowding of teeth and misalignment of the bite.

While ragdoll cats may not exhibit true brachycephaly, their wider head shape and shortened muzzle could still put them at risk for some of the health problems associated with brachycephalic cats, including breathing and dental issues (particularly if they are born with facial defects).

It is important for Ragdoll owners to be aware of these potential health concerns and to monitor their pet closely for any signs of concern – this includes regular check-ups with your local veterinarian.

Final message

In summary, Ragdoll cats are not typically considered to be brachycephalic.

Brachycephaly refers to a condition in which a cat has a shortened skull and flattened face, which can lead to respiratory and other health problems, as you’ve read throughout this article.

While Ragdolls do have a slightly shorter face compared to some other breeds, they’re not extreme in this regard and generally do not suffer from brachycephaly as a result.

Of course, if your ragdoll is ever having difficulty breathing, or suffering dental problems (signs of which can include loss of appetite), always consult your veterinarian.