Cat Cloning

cat cloning the natural way, cat twins
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Twin Cats – Natural duplication – photo by © Giorgio (Flickr)

Cat cloning is doomed to everlasting failure because it is trying to alter nature, which is immutable. This is a discussion on this difficult subject.

Let me say right away that I believe that the majority of people disagree with cloning cats. It isn’t just the dubious ethics or its impossibility; when it cost something in the order of $32,000 (USD) to clone your cat, you ask whether it is more sensible and sane to put that money towards saving cats that are alive and earmarked to be killed rather than trying to bring back to life a cat that has died.

Life and death is as constant as time itself. Death is the great certainty. It is a completely natural and predictable event. We are prepared for it and accept it. One or two people with more money than sense want the next best thing to external life by requesting cat cloning. This is pandering to human insecurity. It is a distorted dream because even if you can overcome the scientific and health obstacles, the cloned cat will never be the same cat as the original because a cat’s personality is based on nature and nuture. Nuture is the development of the individual through life experience. Two lives are never the same even if it is the same cat!

Above all else, the cat that you remember and loved was the cat that interacted with you as a companion, a friend. You can’t clone the mutual experiences that built that companionship.

The latest edition of the Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook says that cat cloning is carried out by taking cells from the adult donor cat, which are put into the egg of another donor, from which the nucleus has been removed. An embryo is formed which is then implanted into a surrogate mother cat.

The first cloned cat was called “CC” (Carbon Copy), born on December 22, 2001. This first example of cat cloning was born out of a realisation that cloning dogs, the first goal, was more difficult that cloning cats. The company that did the cloning was a commercial enterprise; Genetic Savings & Clone, Inc.. They worked with Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine.

CC was not a carbon copy incidentally. The name is a misdecription. CC was meant to be a calico cat but it didn’t work out..”the calico coloring requires multiple genetic interactions..”1. These did not take place. You can have the same DNA but not a copy of your cat it seems to me. CC didn’t look or act like the original version of the cat. “…cloning does not lead to duplication”2.

The first commercial cloning was a cat called Little Nicky. The Texan customer paid $50,000.

Genetic Savings & Clone, Inc. used a cloning process called chromatin transfer on cat clonings subsequent to the creation of CC which was carried out using, nuclear transfer.

Genetic Savings and Clone Inc, was launched in 2000 by the founder of the University of Phoenix, John Sperling, who wanted to clone his dog. The initial price as mentioned was $50,000, which was reduced to $32,000 to attract customers but none were forthcoming. Cloning could not be done commercially. Frankly I don’t thing there would have been enough customers even if the price was a lot lower. The business closed in 2006 or thereabouts.

The business model is a failure on so many levels. In addition to the points made above, there are the animal welfare issues. How healthy are cloned cats? Incidentally five cats in all were cloned, two commercially. I have no information on the health of these cats. Apparently some cloned animals have aged rapidly and some have “overdeveloped”1. We are still learning about genetics; one of the most complex sciences. We can’t mess with genetics without some unforeseen outcomes at the expense of the cat, I believe.

My personal conclusion is that once again business should butt out of the cat world! Commerce tends to work against the interest of the cat because the cat is vulnerable in a human world. People should learn to live in harmony with nature and not fight with it or try to improve it or refine it. We can’t.


1. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook updated edition page 451.
2. Humane Society of the United States

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