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Taking carbon kitty too seriously?

18 February 2002
By Juliet Tizzard
Director, Progress Educational Trust
Appeared in BioNews 145
As we report in this week's BioNews, scientists in the United States have cloned a cat. Carbon copy (Cc), as the little creature is known, has caused rather a lot of excitement on both sides of the Atlantic, with many column inches being dedicated to the development.

Some commentators have expressed concern about the cat cloning venture, saying it will contribute to pet overpopulation (a serious problem, apparently) and, as bioethicist Art Kaplan reportedly said, will exploit grieving cat owners. 'Are you preying on the grief and desperation that pet owners often have when they lose a pet to promise them something more than cloning deliver?', he asked.

Others have health concerns for the cats themselves. A Daily Telegraph opinion piece warned us of medical problems, seen all too often in other animal clones, which could compromise Cc's wellbeing: 'It's a dog's life being a clone. Poor little Cc had better enjoy her kittenhood while she can.'

However, my favourite take on the cat cloning flurry of excitement was that of Sue Arnold, writing in the Independent. Arnold observes that you'd have to be pretty silly to pay through the nose for a technique that doesn't even produce an identical animal (markings are not entirely genetically determined, it seems). 'If I were handing over £10,000 I would expect in return an identical replica of my pet: same-length whiskers, same taste in field mice, same method of garrotting voles, same plaintiff miaow when she falls in the bath.' Cat cloning is certainly going to disappoint those who expect a replica of their lost feline friend. But we have far more important things to do than to spend too much time worrying about either their or their cat's welfare.

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