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I did a search of the web but could not find anything on the origin of the custom.
Most sites discussed a breed of cat - ragamuffen.
Here is what Merriam Webster on-line said:
Main Entry: rag·a·muf·fin
Pronunciation: 'ra-g&-"m&-f&n
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English Ragamuffyn, name for a ragged, oafish person
Date: 1581
: a ragged often disreputable person; especially : a poorly clothed often dirty child


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