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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 12:08 GMT
First pet clone is a cat
Cc:, Nature
This is CopyCat: the first cat clone
Researchers in Texas have cloned a domestic cat, producing a two-month-old kitten called CopyCat.

The work is described in the scientific journal Nature and is the first time anyone has cloned a pet.

The cloning of cats interferes with nature and raises serious questions concerning whether a pet can ever be truly replaced

Derek Conway, Cats Protection
CopyCat, or Cc for short, is a copy of her genetic mother, not of the tabby surrogate cat that actually gave birth to her.

The cloned cat "appears healthy and energetic", say researchers at Texas A & M University.

The Texas laboratory has already cloned a pig, bull and goat. Work is underway to clone a dog.

Mark Westhusin, a member of the cloning team, said there were serious scientific reasons for cloning a cat.

Dr Westhusin said: "Cats have a feline AIDS that is a good model for studying human AIDS."

Ethical alarm

Animal welfare groups have voiced concern over the experiments.

Cats Protection, a UK feline welfare charity, said cloning was not the answer to replacing a lost pet.

Chief Executive Derek Conway said: "The cloning of cats interferes with nature and raises serious questions concerning whether a pet can ever be truly replaced."

Previous animal cloning experiments have concentrated on livestock and laboratory animals with a view to duplicating expensively created transgenic animals.

Such animals have been genetically modified to make them produce valuable drugs in their milk or to make them potentially suitable for organ transplants.

Rescue dogs

CopyCat is the only surviving animal of 87 kitten embryos created by cloning.

The success rate will have to improve if pet cloning is to become a reality.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the cloning experiments were funded by an 81-year-old financier called John Sperling, who wants to charge wealthy pet owners to clone their animals.

He was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying that he would also like to see cloning used for socially useful animals such as rescue dogs.

The BBC's Paul Welsh
"America is alive with talk of reproducing furry friends"
The BBC's Robert Nisbet
"The ability to clone their pet could prove irresistible"
The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"It took them 188 tries to get this one kitten"
See also:

04 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Dolly's arthritis sparks cloning row
04 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Animal cloning: What is the future?
26 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Controversy over human embryo clone
22 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Cows make cloning seem easy
01 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Endangered sheep cloned
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