The Ragdoll cat comes in several colors and patterns. The basic genetics of these colors are all dependant on a few select genes, and this is what gives our Ragdoll their beautiful look. The Ragdoll is a longhair color point cat, with blue eyes. This is the basic pattern of the Ragdoll, and on top of that sometimes appears the different white markings, some have the white mittens, while others have the bicolor or van pattern. Some mitted patterned cats also have the white facial blaze, and some have the white tail tip. We also have the tabby gene that can affect our pattern, which is referred to as the lynx pattern.
While the Ragdoll does come in Seal, Blue, Chocolate, Lilac, Red, Cream, and tortie, I prefer to work with only the blue and seal coloring, in all of the acceptable patterns of point, mitted, bicolor, van and lynx.
The Ragdoll's coloring is affected by the colorpoint gene (an albino gene that is referred to as Himalayan) This colorpoint gene causes the Ragdoll's coat color to be affected by temperature. Cooler parts of the body are darker in color, and warmer parts stay lighter. It is believed that this gene came about in rabbits and other small animals that lived in very cold climates, that they were white in order to be camouflaged in the arctic climate, but darker black/brown developed on their extremities (ears,tail,feet,nose) in order to keep those parts warmer in the sun. It was natures way of trying to keep the parts of their body warm that were farther away from the central heat source in their body, in the very frigid environment, yet leave their body color white, so they blended in with the snow around them. This same gene is responsible for the Siamese breeds coloring, along with the Birman, Himalayan, and other colorpoint breeds.
Because this gene is affected by body temperature, when a Ragdoll kitten is born, he is born pure white, as he's been in his mother at all the same warm temperature. Once born, the extremities (tail,ears,nose,legs) cool slightly, and over the first few weeks of life the fur darkens as it grows. This coloring change is most dramatic in the first few weeks of life, because the kittens start out pure white, and by the end of 2 weeks have definite pattern and color to them. But this color change continues on over the next few years, and sometimes throughout their entire life. As the older they get, and their circulation slows, many times they will get much darker in color all over. But because of this color change, a 8 week old Ragdoll kitten does not look like he will look when he's a year old, or when he's 4 years old. This confuses some people, as they see a very cute light colored kitten, and then wonder why another cat that is referred to as the same color, looks so much different at a different age.
The white mittens, and white markings in our breed is caused by a different gene, referred to as the white spotting gene. This can be thought of as a white "paint" that covers the Ragdolls basic colorpoint coloring. This "white paint" has different levels depending on what level of white has been put together in the parents, and what is inherited in their offspring. When there is no white gene present we have our colorpoint pattern. When one copy of the low level of white is present, we have our white mittens, and our white chin and tummy stripe, and we refer to that as our mitted pattern. In our mitted pattern we have additional trait that sometimes appears on the face of the kittens, which is a blaze of white, preferreably with a diamond shape, or an hourglass shape. The next level of white is when we put two lower level white genes together (one from mom and one from dad) we will have kittens who are bicolors, with the full white legs and tummy, and the inverted v of white on their face. The color on the bicolor pattern is reserved to only a saddle of color on their back, a full color tail, and the color on their ears and eye mask. We also have in our breed a genetic package that is a higher level of white, that is referred to as the 'true' bicolor. It's referred to as 'true', in that it's a high enough level of white that you only need one copy of it to reproduce that same pattern. And when you put two copies of this 'true' together you get the stunning van pattern, which is an almost all white cat, with the only color appearing on the tail, and a small amount near the ears.
I have included the following pictures to show the same "color" and "pattern" at different ages and stages of growth.
Seal Colorpoint with Mittens (Referred to as a Seal Mitted)
Seal Colorpoint with Mittens and a Blaze
Seal Lynx Colorpoint with Mittens
Blue Lynx Colorpoint with Mittens
Blue Colorpoint with Mittens
Seal Lynx Bicolor