When Huang Yu was grieving the death of his 2.5-year-old British shorthair cat named Garlic, he felt there was only one thing that could make him feel better: make another one exactly the same i.e. a clone.
Cue Sinogene is a Bejing-based pet cloning company that has previously cloned more than 40 pet dogs, including the world’s first police pup. The somatic cell cloning techniques in animal species is a comparatively new technology and some challenges continue when it comes to making clones of felines. But after Yu’s request, the company was up to the challenge.
Veterinarian Shi Zhensheng in a statement, “The reproductive and physiological characteristics of cats are different from those of most animals. Because cats are not spontaneous ovulation animals, they are one of the few ovulation-inducing animals. Their reproductive cycle is special and cloning techniques are difficult. The operation is cumbersome. This successful cultivation of cloned cats is one of the few successful cases in the world, marking China’s major step in the field of cloning.”
After almost a year of trials, scientists were successful in transferring an embryo to a surrogate cat who carried the evolving kitten for 66 days. Garlic 2.0 was born on July 21, 2019, by means of natural birth and its genetics are completely derived from the somatic cells of the now-deceased Garlic. Scientists claim that after observing the new Garlic for almost a month, they are certain that it is in good physical condition and does not act differently from naturally bred kittens. Agence France-Presse reports that the cloning procedure came at a hefty price tag of at 250,000 yuan i.e. almost 35,000 but Yu feels the money was worth having his beloved feline friend or a version of it back.
He said in an interview with the cloning company, “Its name will continue to be called Garlic because in my heart I have always felt that the cloned kitten is the continuation of its life”.
He admits he will miss his original cat who died of an unnamed illness but a new cat with the same genes brings him comfort.
“I think that the original intention of each owner to clone their pets will be different. Each cat is an independent individual and has his own personality,” commented Yu.
According to the pet-cloning outfit, last year saw over 22 million Chinese residents raising some 40 million pet cats. If even a small portion of them are willing to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to have their fur babies cloned, then the pet cloning industry could emerge as an especially lucrative one.
Chinese biologists successfully cloned two macaque monkeys to create the first true clones of a primate species last year. A lab in South Korea is ready to clone your dog for a substantial $100,000. Researchers are even attempting to clone a wooly mammoth while Siberia-based scientists are endeavoring to clone a 40,000-year-old preserved foal.
According to Sinogene, cloning domestic animals could have other applications as well like cloning endangered animals to increase and efficiently manage populations and curb diseases. The company has plans to attempt cloning equine animals and homing pigeons in the coming future.