Copy-cat: Owner gets dead kitten cloned

Beijing: Seven months after Huang Yu's pet cat Garlic died, there was nothing he could do, except bury it close to his home. Heartbroken, the 22-year-old businessman recalled an article he had read on dog cloning in China.

What if someday he could bring Garlic back to life? That gave his pet its 10th life. Born on July 21, the new Garlic was cloned by Chinese firm Sinogene which has created more than 40 pet dogs -- a procedure that costs a hefty 380,000 yuan ($53,000); a cat comes in at 250,000 yuan ($35,000).

Mi Jidong, the company's chief executive officer, told AFP that a large proportion of customers are young people. Whatever the origin of pets, the owners see them as part of the family. Pet cloning meets the emotional needs of these young people.

Huang, 23, was overjoyed on first seeing Garlic's second incarnation, saying the "similarity between the two cats is more than 90 per cent".

"When Garlic died, I was very sad," said Huang. "I couldn't face the facts because it was a sudden death. I blame myself for not taking him to the hospital in time, which led to his death."

The happy owner says he hopes the personality of the new Garlic is as similar to his old white-and-grey cat as its appearance.

With a growing pet market in China, and a huge appetite among their owners for spending, Mi thinks the market for pet cloning is also set to rocket.

And the country's scientists have big aspirations for their next cloning challenge, working on the theory that if cats can be cloned, so can pandas. Pet cloning is illegal in many countries but approved in several countries, including South Korea and the US, where singer Barbra Streisand announced last year she had cloned her dog.

The first major success in animal cloning was Dolly the sheep, born in Britain in 1996 as the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. In 2005, researchers in South Korea cloned the first dog.

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