February 16, 2003
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Rainbow the cat is a typical calico with splotches of brown, tan and gold on white. Cc, her clone, has a striped gray coat over white.
Rainbow is reserved. Cc is curious and playful.
Rainbow is chunky. Cc is sleek.
Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society might be inclined to say: I told you so. But then, so would Cc's creators at Texas A&M University.
Sure, you can clone your favorite cat. But the copy will not necessarily act or even look like the original.
Cc (for carbon copy) is just over a year old. Her birth Dec. 22, 2001, was big news when it was announced last February because it was the first time a household pet had been cloned. Previous mammal clones were barnyard animals like cows and goats.
Cc's creation was funded by Genetic Savings & Clone, a company that hopes to make money from people's desires to duplicate their favorite pets. Last February, in the journal Nature, the A&M researchers published details of the project and DNA test results that showed Cc was a clone.
But people who hope cloning will resurrect a pet will be disappointed, said Duane Kraemer, one of A&M's animal cloning experts.
Experts say environment is as important as genes in determining a cat's personality. And having the same DNA as another calico cat doesn't always produce the same coat pattern.
"Cloning does not lead to duplication," said Pacelle, senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States.
"Not only does cloning not produce a physical duplicate, but it can never reproduce the behavior or personality of a cat that you want to keep around. There are millions of cats in shelters and with rescue groups that need homes, and the last thing we need is a new production strategy for cats."
Before the birth of Cc, Genetic Savings & Clone had hundreds of pet DNA samples stored at a cost of $895 for healthy animals and $1,395 for sick or dead animals.
Lou Hawthorne, Genetic Savings & Clone chief executive, has estimated that the cost to create a clone will initially be in the low five figures and later drop to the low four figures.
Though Cc's arrival sparked a deluge of calls from pet owners, more research is needed to figure out how to produce consistently healthy clones before the company can start doing it commercially, said Ben Carlson, the company's spokesman.
There is a demand from dog lovers, but scientists so far have been unable to clone a canine.
In fact, Cc's creation was the result of a dog lover, not a cat lover. University of Phoenix founder John Sperling wanted a duplicate of his collie mix, Missy. With his $3.7-million, Texas A&M launched the "Missyplicity" project more than four years ago.
Now, Missy is dead, euthanized last year because of an inoperable growth on her esophagus. Sperling has redirected his funding to Genetic Savings & Clone of Sausalito, Calif., which he hopes will one day deliver a clone of Missy.
Carlson said the company tells pet owners that cloning won't resurrect their pet and that the company has turned away some customers clearly interested in getting the same animal.
However, he said cloning could reproduce what a pet owner considers to be exceptional genes, particularly from an animal with unknown parentage or one that has been spayed or neutered.