Cloning Continuous Cats and Ceaseless Curs

From: Olga Bourlin (
Date: Wed Aug 15 2001 - 22:42:24 MDT

Talk about parasitism!

Clone your pet, double your pleasure
Thursday, August 16, 2001


WASHINGTON -- Animals rule.

Americans love their pets. Six out of 10 households have a dog, cat or both. Collectively, we own 73 million cats (I have two, whom I adore) and 68 million dogs.

We pamper them as though they were our children. A new survey by a pet food company foundation ranks U.S. cities on the quality of life they offer household pets. In a recent ABC News poll, 43 percent of those surveyed who believe in heaven said pets go there when they die just as their owners do.

My sister-in-law insists she receives spiritual messages from Daisy, her deceased dog.

Many people live with cats or dogs, not children. Dogs attend preschool and therapy sessions and have hip replacements and major surgery. They get their teeth brushed and their toenails clipped. Cats get special diets, operations when they need them and insulin shots when they are diabetic.

Americans spent $11.1 billion on pet health care in 1998. It is a mystery that no one has started a Kitty Blue Cross.

The whole country cheered when the man who threw Leo, the cute bichon frise, to his death in traffic was sentenced to three years in prison.

Earlier this year, the West Hollywood City Council voted to change references in city ordinances from "pet owner" to "pet guardian," to encourage the idea that pets are companions rather than property. A survey taken two years ago by the American Animal Hospital Association reported that 84 percent of pet owners considered themselves the animal's "mom" or "dad," 63 percent celebrated their pet's birthday, and 43 percent displayed its photograph at work.

Books, poems and songs are dedicated to cats and dogs. A delightful comedy, "Cats and Dogs," about the struggle for world domination between a beagle puppy and a plump white Persian cat, got rave reviews, took in $87 million and was among the 10 most popular movies for five weeks this summer. (The beagle won, but the cat was a formidable foe). Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, "Cats," ran on Broadway for nearly 18 years and grossed more than $400 million before it finally closed last year.

So it is probably inevitable that we are heading into a brave new world of cloning pets. Most people are appalled at the notion of cloning human beings, and Congress is moving to outlaw it. But how about pets? We know that our four-legged pals cannot live as long as we normally do and the loss of a beloved dog or cat can be an awful emotional trauma.

The concept of replacing dear departed Fido or Fluffy with a genetic twin is tempting. Moral objections to cloning humans become fuzzy when we are dealing with animals. We cherish our pets. But we do not believe they have human characteristics like souls and minds that think rather than operate by instinct.

Nobody has yet duplicated a dog or cat although Dolly the sheep, other farm animals and frogs have been successfully cloned.

At Texas A&M scientists are trying to clone a dog named Missy, although they have not yet succeeded. The experiment is dubbed the Missyplicity Project.

For a hefty fee three new companies offer DNA storage for pet genes in liquid nitrogen freezers to await the magic moment when cloning is possible. They are reportedly doing a booming business.

Meanwhile, researchers are tinkering with a variety of medical advances affecting pets. A New York company is trying to produce a genetically engineered cat with fur that will not cause allergies although the technology required is still in its infancy. The news of a potentially allergy-free cat, however, provoked mixed emotions. A reader wrote The New York Times that she already had a genetically altered cat in her household. "We call it a turtle," she quipped.

A British company claims to have produced a superfood for dogs and cats that will protect animal DNA and prevent certain diseases including canine cognition dysfunction syndrome, or "doggy Alzheimer's." A Tokyo firm has created a computerized device that supposedly registers a dog's mood by interpreting the noises the animal makes. The "I'm hungry" bark apparently sounds different from the "It's time for a walk" bark.

A small mechanical robot dog was a retail sales hit last year although real pet lovers had trouble forming a sentimental bond with a movable hunk of iron indifferent to lap-sitting or being scratched behind the ear. There are limits to what most of us will do to get a companion.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., expressed the feelings of most pet owners recently when he paid tribute to his own dog, a Maltese named Billy Byrd. The senator, alas, is not a cat person." Dogs fill an emotional need in man," he declared. "They are said to be man's best friend, and indeed who can dispute it?"


Marianne Means is a Washington, D.C., columnist with Hearst Newspapers. Copyright 2001 Hearst Newspapers. She can be reached at 202-298-6920 or


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