Why Do Ragdoll Cats Go Limp (And Floppy) When Held?

One of the ragdoll cat’s trademark characteristics is how limp and floppy they become when you pick them up.

Do a quick search online, and it’s easy to find plenty of photos of ragdoll cats sprawled across the arms of their owners as they hold them.

But why is it that ragdoll cats go limp and floppy?

Ragdoll cats go limp and floppy when held as a happy reaction to being shown affection. When a ragdoll is picked up, their body relaxes – due to their laid-back, calm and docile nature – and creates the limp and floppy appearance they are famous for.

When it boils down to it, ragdolls are extremely peaceful, loving cats who display very little stress in their day-to-day lives – and this translates to their floppy, care-free posture when picked up and held by humans.

Ragdolls will also flop around on the floor – often on their backs – when they’re in a playful mood, or are looking for attention or affection.

How did ragdolls learn to go limp and floppy?

Another reason ragdoll cats likely go limp and floppy is a reflex response to being held that they learned as kittens, and retained into adulthood. Mother cats often carry kittens by the scruff of their necks, and their bodies go limp to aid this process. While most cat breeds grow out of this, ragdolls seemingly retain this behaviour as they age.

Ragdolls certainly have many kitten-like characteristics – including being super playful and affectionate – which they maintain into adulthood, so it makes sense then that their floppiness and tendency to go limp when held may be a trait that has been carried over from their early developmental years.

Whatever the reason, ragdolls are certainly floppier than many other breeds – despite their large size – which is why they make great lap cats and are some of the most docile, affectionate creatures you could ask for.

Do all ragdoll cats go floppy when you hold them?

Yes, almost all ragdoll cats will go floppy when you hold them. Ragdolls are known for their trademark ‘floppiness’ and tendency to let their bodies go limp when picked up by humans. This is a characteristic that is displayed by almost all ragdolls, both male and female.

Of course, there may be rare exceptions to the rule, but in general the overwhelming majority of ragdoll cats will go floppy or limp when you hold them.

Ragdoll kittens – due to them being more restless and active than older ragdolls – will tend to be less floppy when you pick them up, and are more likely to squirm and wriggle.

However, as they age, ragdolls become far more relaxed and chilled out, and you’ll certainly notice them becoming limper when you hold them, the older they get.

Do ragdoll cats like being held?

Ragdoll cats don’t generally like being held for long periods of time. Usually, they will quickly become restless and try and escape your grasp after no more than about 10 seconds. Ragdolls like their independence, and holding and carrying them intrudes on their space, which they don’t tend to like.

As I’ve explained in greater detail in another article, ragdolls love spending time alone away from people – it’s one of the reasons why they’ll often climb high onto shelves or cupboards, in order to escape what’s happening below and get some peace and quiet.

Depending on how affectionate they’re feeling, it’s likely you’ll only get a quick cuddle when holding your ragdoll cat before they decide they’ve had enough and try to escape.

Why are ragdolls often called ‘floppy’ cats?

Ragdolls are often called ‘floppy’ cats due to their tendency to let their bodies flop and go limp when you hold them. Unlike many other cats who are far more unsettled and wrigglier when you pick them up, ragdolls – at least initially – will be very relaxed and ‘floppy’ when you hold them.

By floppy, I mean they let their legs hang down and their back sag when you lay their bodies across your arms.

As I mentioned earlier, this behaviour usually lasts no more than 10 seconds before your ragdoll will decide they’ve had enough, and attempt to break free of your grasp.

I can guarantee, at this point, their bodies will be anything but floppy – instead, they’ll likely be rigid and wriggly as they try to make a dash to freedom.

The fact ragdolls are a long-haired breed – with a far bushier, thicker, fluffier coat than other cats – also gives the illusion of them being floppier than other breeds when you hold them.

Their bodies will just sink into your arms when you pick them up, mainly due to their thick covering of fur, which also gives the feeling of them being super light and floppy.

Why do ragdoll cats flop on their backs?

Ragdoll cats flop or lay on their backs for many reasons, including to show off; to encourage a belly rub; for comfort; because they are in a playful mood; to scratch an itch; to cool down; because they have a stomach ache; or even because they’re pregnant.

I’ve written another article that delves deeper into each of these reasons, and why ragdolls are often spotted rolling around on the floor on their backs.

But, in general, the main reason your ragdoll cat will flop onto their back – and strike a cute pose – is because they’re in a playful mood and are looking to show off, in an attempt to get some affection from you.

However, if your ragdoll flops on their back but is withdrawn, and resistant to pats or belly rubs, it could suggest an underlying health issue and warrants further investigation by a veterinarian.

Final message

Ragdoll cats go floppy and limp when held largely due to their laid-back, relaxed demeanour.

While it may be an instinctual behaviour trait that they carry with them from birth into adulthood, the main reason ragdolls go floppy is likely attributed to their docile personalities.

If you’ve never held a ragdoll before, I encourage you to do so – you’ll be surprised just how floppy they go.