It took me more than 10 years to figure out what breed of cat Boodie is. Because of her white paws and dark points, the rescue that took her in thought she might be a Birman, or something. Even with her imperfect markings, she was certainly beautiful and quite likely a breed cat. But because of her murky history, nobody knew for sure.
Boodie and her sister were about 5 months old when they were stuffed in a box and abandoned in the parking lot of a vet clinic. One of their clients was the head of a local rescue organization, and the clinic asked if she wanted to take them. She did, even though the pair was, at the time, virtually unadoptable. They were both deathly afraid of people, and cringed and hissed anytime somebody came near them. When I first saw them, with their lush fur, cobby bodies and round faces, I thought that they may have been poorly socialized leftovers from a backyard breeder. Being unfriendly and past the cute kitten stage, they were callously just thrown away.
The only problem with the rescue that took in these two was that all their cats lived together in several open rooms. This was great for most of the kitties, but it was hard to acclimate unsocialized cats to people under these conditions. After four months, the two young cats were no closer to being human-friendly than when they first came to the rescue. I offered to take Boodie home to socialize her. Shortly afterward, her sister was adopted by an older woman who insisted that, yes, she did want this gorgeous but hissy, scared cat. Surprisingly, within a couple of days of living with this woman, she settled down and bonded with her new owner.
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Boodie was a tougher case. Even though I isolated her for a week before I introduced her to my tortie Binga, she remained primarily a cat’s cat. While she eventually became used to my fiancé and I and even slept on the bed with us, along with Binga and later, Sparkle, she would often run away if we attempted to pet her. She was very shy around all people, and to this day tends to disappear when strangers come over to the house.
It took Boodie a long time to realize that even if humans, as a whole, were scary and not to be trusted, there were a small number of them who would never lay a mean hand on her – namely my boyfriend and I, and sometimes our regular pet sitter. It was a big day when I was able to pick her up and hold her upside down – a real test of feline trust.
But her breed remained a mystery until the morning that I was lying in bed and Boodie was nearby. I reached for her and rolled her over next to me, and she just… flopped. Passive, relaxed and happy. That flop was the clue. There was no doubt Boodie was mostly or all Ragdoll. Floppiness is characteristic of the breed. I also recalled seeing her flop on the floor, on her back with one leg high in the air. It’s one of her favorite positions. But this was the first time she actually flopped in a person’s arms.
I was happy to solve this mystery, but it was also a little depressing. Ragdolls are characteristically an affectionate, friendly breed, and it’s so sad when one is so traumatized that its sweetness was initially hidden under hissing and fear. Boodie still cringes or runs away when approached too suddenly, even though she has known nothing but kindness since that day in 2002 that she was found in the parking lot. That flop was a long time coming.