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Copied Cat

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When Little Nicky, the 12-week-old kitten cloned to order from a Texas woman’s deceased 17-year-old cat, was introduced to his new owner last month, he did what the first Nicky did when he was young: climbed onto the lady’s head. The woman, a flight-industry employee known only as Julie (she’s afraid of anticloning backlash), “got all choked up,” says Lou Hawthorne, CEO of Genetic Savings & Clone, the Sausalito, Calif., cloning company that on Dec. 22 claimed it had fulfilled its first duplipet commission—for the hairball-inducing price of $50,000. Seven months in the making, Nicky II then proceeded to frolic in a filled tub, says Hawthorne, just as Nicky I did. And, Julie said in one interview, “when Little Nicky yawned, I even saw two spots inside his mouth, just like Nicky had.”

More than a few people were seeing spots too—arguing over the ethics, expense and common sense of bringing cloning to the litter box. (The Humane Society of the United States, for one, issued a statement citing the millions of unwanted animals left to die in shelters and calling the technology one “with no redeeming social purpose.”) But pet owners like Julie, who supplied Genetic Savings & Clone with a tissue sample from an ailing Nicky after his death in September 2003, seem undeterred. The company, which was behind the creation of the first cat clone in 2001, projects sales of 40 more such animals by the end of the coming year. And that is just the beginning. Says Hawthorne: “The market for dogs will be enormous.”