- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2002

Is it the franken-cat or the cat's meow? The news that scientists at Texas A&M; have successfully cloned a house cat seems to have left everyone scratching their heads, twitching their ears and, at least in a few cases, swishing their tails.

CC, the copycat, has created quite a catty conundrum. It seems like scientists and their corporate backers at (no kidding) Genetic Savings and Clone have pounced on the commercial potential of cat cloning to leap into a technology before looking at all the potential consequences. But that hairy situation is nothing compared to the furballs of frustration that scientists spat in attempting to produce CC. It took them a total of 87 tries, which is roughly similar to the success rate of other cloned species, including sheep, pigs and goats.

It's also quite a cat-astrophic detriment to kitty life. After all, there are plenty of Garfield wanna-be's anxiously awaiting adoption at animal shelters, an unfortunate consequence of both neglectful pet ownership and feline promiscuity. However, that will remain so even if Colin Powell starts making appropriate public service announcements on the Animal Planet.

Pet owners who persist in procuring clones of their cat should be well aware of an important caveat. CC's coloring scheme is quite different from that of her parent Rainbow, a consequence of the fact that cat hair color is determined by a combination of genetic and developmental factors that are not completely understood. As Dr. Duane Kraemer, a member of the cat cloning team and a professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University, noted, "Cloning is reproduction, not resurrection."

While it is fun to speculate on how many lives a cloned cat could have (most likely a multiple of nine, but don't ask if those are supposed to be measured in cat years or human years), it is fair game to wonder, and to watch, for the developmental problems that CC may well develop. After all, the uncertainties involved with animal cloning could certainly keep generations of cats curious.

That alone is reason for monitors not to be lulled into ethical cat-naps. While CC's cloners seem to have landed on their feet, the ethical solutions to this conundrum seem far from purrrrfect.

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