Goodbyes are hard, so what would you do if you had little time left to be with a loved one? Diamond Rio told us in “One More Day” how he would spend an extra day, but sometimes the ending is inevitable. So you have to think outside the box like one woman from Iowa who had her deceased pet cat cloned because she could not bear the thought of living without him. It was quite a costly procedure, but we cannot put a price on love. Get to learn more about cat cloning as we also share a similar incident that had a pet owner digging into her pockets to fork out $50,000 to have her dead pet cat cloned.
Mr. Tufts Lives On
The Iowa woman who prefers to remain anonymous found Mr. Tufts on a forest trail. He had a bad respiratory illness, but that did not stop the woman from taking him in and caring for him. The rescue cat had tufts of hair in his ears and between his toes hence the name. Mr. Tufts also had long silky hair, copper eyes, a tiny white “locket” on his throat, and a plumed tail according to QC Times. The feline and his human became close, and although she has had other cats, losing Mr. Tufts had such an impact on her that she decided to clone home.
The process started with Dr. Kevin Christman, who has been a vet for over a decade, conducting his first cloning procedure. Under the instructions given by ViaGen Pets, the vet took tiny pieces of tissue comprising skin, hair, and fat off a sedated Mr. Tufts. The sample was then sent to ViaGen Pets, which prides itself on having been the first clinic to clone the Przewalski’s horse successfully. The cells remained frozen until the Iowa woman was ready to have her cloned cat.
The cloning specialists took one of the living cells and infused it with a female egg to form an embryo. Once the embryo began developing, it was implanted in a surrogate mother who carried it to full term. Upon giving birth, the mother cat and Mr. Tufts Jr. remained under the specialists’ observation as the kitten also nursed. When Mr. Tufts Jr. was two months old, he was taken home to the woman who also adopted the surrogate mother. Now at nine months old, Mr. Tufts Jr. bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Tufts, but his owner has observed a few differences; Mr. Tufts Jr. is more athletic.
The woman showed her appreciation by naming Dr. Kevin, the cat’s godfather, an honor he gladly welcomed. Although the cat owner paid $35,000 for the cloning procedure, she could comfortably afford an amount since she does not have any children and is quite frugal in her expenses, she still felt guilty. Therefore, she has paid her great-niece’s university tuition fees, committed $35,000 to Habitat for Humanity, and has helped cover spay and neuter costs for Cedar Valley Veterinary Center.
The World’s First Cloned Cat
The history of cat cloning began at Texas A&M University when the Missyplicity project worth $3.7 million to clone a mixed dog breed named Missy was set in motion. According to Texas A&M Today, people went into a frenzy as they wanted to have their pets’ tissues saved for future cloning. As a result, Genetic Savings and Clone, Inc. was established. The Missiplicity project was led by Dr. Mark Westhusin, who also got interested in cloning cats. Therefore, he and his team got tissue samples from a domestic shorthair cat named Rainbow. The nuclear transfer of DNA resulted in an embryo being implanted in a surrogate mother; two months later, CC(Copy Cat) was born.
CC became the first successfully cloned pet cat, and the success led to the founding of ViaGen Pets that helped in cloning Mr. Tufts. CC was not, however, an identical twin to Rainbow; they differed in coat color and color distributions. At six months old, CC was adopted by Dr. Duane Kraemer and his wife. The cloned cat later gave birth to three kittens at five years old. Unfortunately, CC succumbed to kidney failure at College Station on March 3, 2020, after living to a ripe old age of 18 years.
Cloning is Not Always a Welcome Option
In 2004, The Guardian published the story of how one pet cat owner, Julie, cloned her dead pet, Nicky. She did not mind paying the hefty sum of $50,000 to see Nicky live on through the clone, Little Nicky. However, the decision caused an uproar from scientists and animal welfare advocates who believed that cloning should not be an option. They said cloning was still in its experimental stages and cloning animals was ridiculous. The scientists opined that just like Dolly, the first cloned mammal had severe health issues, cloned animals are at risk of such similar problems.
The sentiments were echoed by Genetic Savings and Clone CEO Lou Hawthorne, who added that 15-45% of the cloned cats born alive do not survive past 30 days. As a result, animal welfare advocates see no need for creating more animals that will have a significantly reduced lifespan. Besides, since many cats have been abandoned and end up being euthanized, it made no sense to produce more that would have the same fate. The Roslin Institute responsible for cloning Dolly added that they have always politely declined to carry out cloning, and the UK would never license pet cloning.
According to LegalZoom, lawmakers in the US were looking to have pet cloning banned because pet owners would prefer to resurrect their dead animals instead of adopting from shelters. Others argued that paying thousands of dollars was exploiting vulnerable pet owners. Still, no federal laws ban cloning completely; hence, pet owners will continue to have their pets live on through clines.