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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 December 2004, 10:46 GMT
Pet kitten cloned for Christmas
Little Nicky is held by his owner, Julie
Little Nicky has the same traits as the original, his owner says
Nine-week-old Little Nicky is said to be the first made-to-order, commercially cloned pet kitten.

Produced for a Texas woman for the princely sum of $50,000 (26,000), Little Nicky might look like an ordinary kitten.

But he has been cloned using the DNA of Nicky, a dearly loved pet of 17 years.

The original cat, owned by a woman known only as Julie, died last year. But Little Nicky is identical, in both looks and personality, she says.

Julie, who does not wish to be fully identified as she fears a backlash from groups opposed to cloning, says the kitten shares many traits with the original Nicky including an unusual liking for water.

'Little reprehensible'

The California company that produced the cat, Genetic Savings and Clone, says it hopes to produce the world's first genetically cloned dog by next May.

Other companies have already produced cloned cattle, mice, rabbits, goats, pigs and horses.

But the BBC's Steve Futterman in Los Angeles says those opposed to cloning are already making their voices heard.

David Magnus of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University said: "Its morally problematic and a little reprehensible," says

"For $50,000 (26,000) she could have provided homes for a lot of strays."

Animal rights activists say there is no need to produce cloned cats when there are thousands of stray cats put to death ever year.

And scientists warn that cloned animals suffer more health problems than traditionally bred animals.

Genetic Saving and Clone, which says it is using a new technique, has orders for five more cats and hopes to produce a total of 50 by the end of next year.

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