Technology has hit a new milestone as China welcomes the country’s first cloned cat. According to the Chinese news outlet, The Global Times, Businessman Huang Yu was devastated when his British shorthair kitty named Garlic passed away from a urinary tract infection. Feeling like no pet could replace his favorite feline, he decided to pay 250,000 yuan ($35,400) to have his cat cloned.
Huang told The New York Times,
“In my heart, Garlic is irreplaceable. Garlic didn’t leave anything for future generations, so I could only choose to clone.”
To bring his cat back to life, Huang contacted Chinese tech giant, Sinogene.
The company has offered a pet cloning service since 2015. Up until this point, however, they focused on dogs. They’ve cloned at least 40 dogs, but with cats becoming more popular in China, they were eager to expand their services.
To clone Garlic, Sinogene collected cells from the recently deceased kitty and harvested eggs from other cats. They generated 40 cloned embryos and inserted them into four surrogate cats. They ended up with three pregnancies, but two ended in miscarriage. The fourth cat gave birth to Garlic’s clone, also named Garlic, on July 21.
The new Garlic has the exact DNA as the original, but there are also noticeable differences. One of the biggest is a missing black mark on the kitten’s chin. Huang said,
“If I tell you I wasn’t disappointed, then I would be lying to you. But I’m also willing to accept that there are certain situations in which there are limitations to the technology.”
Besides the kitten’s coat pattern, it’s yet to be seen whether the cloned cat with have a similar personality as the original Garlic.
The kitten will remain at the Sinogene lab for one month before Huang brings it home. As the kitten grows, scientists will learn more about their experiment.
While Huang is looking forward to picking up where he left off with his previous cat, cloning pets brings up numerous ethical questions. Many argue that it’s inhumane and may have unintended consequences for the species as a whole. Jessica Pierce, a bioethicist at the University of Colorado Denver, said in The New York Times,
“The [surrogate] cat has no intrinsic value. It’s used as an object, as a means to somebody’s end.”
The issue of cloning is especially concerning in China where there are no laws against animal cruelty.
There are no legal ramifications to ensure the cats included in the study are treated humanely. And outside of the lab, thousands of cats are being euthanized due to overpopulation. Adding cloned cats into that mix has potential to put even more feline lives at risk.
Cloning isn’t exactly a new technology, but there’s still a lot that scientists don’t know. Sinogene hopes to one day expand their technology to start cloning other animals, including endangered species like pandas and the South China tiger. There is also research going into transferring memories from an original animal to a clone.
We want to know what you think about cloning cats. Let us know in the comments.
Featured image via The New York Times