Tech and Science

‘It’s definitely worth it’: Meet the British Columbia woman who paid $50,000 to clone her dead cat

Kris Stewart has her hands full with two rambunctious 10-week-old kittens.

“They are very aggressive, cheeky and brave kittens, and that’s exactly how Bear was,” Stewart said from her home in Kelowna.

Bear was Stewart’s beloved ragdoll cat who was killed two years ago.

“Bear died in a car versus cat situation. Bear was street smart, right up until the moment he wasn’t. That was very sad,” said Stewart, who blamed herself for leaving Bear outside.

“I knew I wanted to clone him because I had tried to clone one of my dogs about three or four years earlier, and I still had the instructions on how to send the cell samples to Viagen in Texas.”

Viagen is an American company that clones cats and dogs. In a video on its YouTube channel, it explains that it takes cells from a pet that its owner wants to clone and inserts them into the nucleus of a female animal’s egg. In a so-called “patented process,” the egg and cell combine and an embryo begins to grow. The embryos are then transferred to a surrogate mother who gives birth to the cloned puppies or kittens.

“It took five embryo transfers to achieve a successful pregnancy,” Stewart said. “So I knew kittens had been born when Viagen called me in late January to let me know that the embryo transfer they had done in November had resulted in kittens being born on January 10th.”

Last week she flew to New York, where Viagen presented her with two identical kittens bred at its breeding facility, both of which are genetic clones of Bear.

“I can’t tell them apart,” Stewart said. “Personality-wise, I have to say both of them are identical to Bear at this point. Because they make some very bold decisions, they feel a bit proud, just like Bear did.”

While the decision to clone Bear was primarily an emotional one, Stewart said she was “a bit of a science geek.”

“I’m also interested in this from a scientific perspective, that this is actually possible,” she said.

The business owner says she’s sharing her story so other Canadians know this opportunity exists.

“If you have a beloved pet, I would recommend to pet owners that you definitely consider preserving your pet’s cells,” said Stewart, who added that the cells can be collected while the pet is still alive or immediately after death , but these cells must be sent immediately for cryogenic freezing.

Pet owners who decide to clone have to dig deep into their pockets. How much did it cost to create the kittens, which Stewart named Bear, Bear and Honey Bear? About 50,000 Canadian dollars.

“Was it worth it? It’s definitely worth it,” she said. “I’m so relieved that the wait is over, so relieved to have two little gaffers who look just like Bear. That’s why I’m with them Pretty happy with end results.”

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