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Cloning pets is ludicrous

December 30, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

All I could think of was the Stephen King novel "Pet Sematary." A cat gets pancaked on the highway, distressing the little girl who owned it. So the old coot next door discloses to the girl's pop the location of a secret place where, if you bury a dead animal, it will come back to life the next day.

The upside of this comeback is that the creature is alive; the downside is that it's evil. In that respect, it kind of parallels the career of Joan Rivers.

And it also somewhat parallels the situation in Texas, where a woman identified only as "Julie" paid $50,000 to have her dead cat cloned. The cat, named Nicky, had been her companion for 17 years and she wanted another just like it.

So scientists with the San Francisco lab Genetic Savings and Clone took a chunk of hide (Nicky's, not Julie's) and cooked up an identical kitten, which was dutifully named "Little Nicky."

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Little Nicky is not only the spitting image of Dead Nicky, but the interested parties all report that it bears many of the same personality traits. For example, the ex-cat liked food and, remarkably enough, so does the copy cat.

Hey, if Julie is happy, I'm happy. But a couple of things strike me as odd about these Frankenfelines. First of all, this lab that calls itself Genetic Savings and Clone - if you're a company that deals with life and death I'm not sure it's a good idea to give yourself a cutesy name like that.

It's fine for a hair stylist to call itself Shear Terror or The Exscissorcist or something, but a genetic laboratory? That's like owning a funeral home down by the harbor and calling it the Marine Corpse.

Then there's the whole "playing God" debate, and the "where do you draw the line on cloning" debate and the "70 million cats in shelters need good homes" debate, all of which I'll take a pass on.

Although I will say, if I'm Julie's husband I'm nervous. First sign of a gray hair and development of a slight paunch, and she's propped up on her elbow one night in bed, just staring at you.

"Um, what is it dear?"

"Oh nothing. I was just thinking about how much I love you - and could I get a little scraping from the roof of your mouth?"

But the issue I can't overlook is this: $50,000 - is she CRAZY?

I own a cat. I love cats. I am not going to pay 50 grand for an animal that, when it comes right down to it, is going to pretty much resemble and act like every other cat that has been around since they were domesticated by the ancient Egyptians.

First, you can always find a cat that looks like your old cat. And spare me this whole "personality" argument. Look, my cat, Colonel Sanders, has a few personality traits that make him a Little Bit Different from other cats. For example, he doesn't like to hunt mice. But that doesn't make him Tony Kornheiser. He's not going to be doing standup in the Village anytime soon, or commenting on popular vote vis a vis the Electoral College.

He's a cat.

A great cat, a beautiful cat, but a cat. And sorry, but if I have a choice between a BMW M3 and a cat that looks just like him, but isn't - well, you might as well pass me the key fob right now.

It's like that ad with the guy who agonizes whether he should have bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle or a dinette set. "Beachfront property/cat. Beachfront property/cat. Went with the cat."

True, I don't know how you put a price on a beloved animal, but I do know that $50,000 ain't it. Especially when it isn't the beloved animal at all, but a different one. Just pray that Julie's kids don't own any goldfish. She could find herself with "Little Goldie," "Little, Little Goldie," "Little, Little, Little Goldie" and be a quarter of a million dollars lighter in the space of a week.

Meanwhile, Genetic Savings and Clone says that nine more of these cats are "in production," six of which have been ordered and three of which are going to be used as "showroom models." Since the company is into clever names, we can bet the showroom models will have monikers like "Ford Feline," "Catillac" and "Mazda Meowta." When you're creating life, there's no such thing as being too cute.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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