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Friday, January 21, 2011

Why Clone a Calico?

Several weeks ago, I heard a snippet on NPR about cloning, the commercial cloning of dogs in particular.  The question was asked why didn't "they" clone cats?  In fact, they'd cloned cats first, before dogs.  They cloned a Calico cat. 
                Whoa, I thought, there's trouble.  Of all the millions of sweet, docile or active, playful cats in the world, why would anyone choose to clone a Calico cat?  Elaine, my almost-16-year-old Calico cat, has many great attributes.  Well, at least one, anyway.  She loves me.  I know this because she likes to be in a room with me, except for her morning nap.  After she eats breakfast, she makes me open the sliding glass door to the porch to check the weather.  Yes, still winter (in the warm weather, she goes out and usurps Steve's porch chair all day; if he tries to sit there, he gets a clawful).  When it's cold, though, she arthritically heads downstairs where she yowls four times -- not three times, and not five times, but precisely four times.  Why?  Who knows.  After the yowl, she sleeps until lunch. 
                After lunch, she'll find me and sleep near-by.  She will, sometimes, even curl up in my lap.  She lets me pet her a few times – not too many, though – and wants me to scratch her cheeks – not too much, though.  Yep, loving me is her good trait.  In exchange for these outbursts of affection, I am permitted to feed her, brush her and clean her litter box.  Calicos are known to be like this (although I was innocent of that fact when we got her), just as they are known for living a loooong time.  So, basically, if you get a Calico cat for a pet, you will be a servant to an aloof animal that will live forever.  I love my Elaine, but she is not the cat I would choose     to replicate.  
                                                                                         [Here's Elaine looking deceptively docile.]
There was Merlin who would follow me around the house and around the block and who was smart enough to try to open doors by reaching for the handles.  There was Smedly whose purr could wake you up at night.  There was the sainted Baby Cat who let Stephanie set him atop a pile of toys in a baby swing and swing him.  He also spent significant time in a turquoise dolly skirt that matched mother/daughter skirts Stephanie and I wore.  There was Tabby who slept in the crook of David's arm and, in turn, had his foreleg around David's stuffed bunny.  Any of these affectionate animals would be on my list for ahead of my Elaine for what one wants in a pet. Way ahead.
                The cloned Calico cat's owner felt differently, it seems.  He or she loved his cat ardently and wanted to replace it with itself.  The Calico, as all Calicos do, had different ideas. 
                The geneticists declared that the new animal was an exact replica of the first.  Grown from the same DNA, the two were identical in every way.  The owner, not being blind, could see that they weren't.  The new cat had a different fur pattern from its progenitor.  Perhaps it was splotches instead of patches or a gray spot where the first had a black one.  I don't know.  I only know that, knowing Elaine as I do, no one should have been surprised.  Any self-respecting Calico (which would be all of them) would have both the desire and the ability tweak is own DNA.  
            But if we weren't speaking of pets, I would totally get it.  If someone were to clone me, or, rather, if I were a cloned being, I wouldn't want to be exactly like me  (Are you following this?).  I would want to have some -- any -- small identifier that made me uniquely me.  Maybe I'd have straight hair or maybe -- hey, can I vote for a faster metabolism?  I wonder if people could do that.  I wonder if we have as deep a sense of individuality -- DNA deep -- as a small, furry pussycat.

1 comment:

  1. I have heard stories about all those cats Ann, and others as well, but you left out my Binky!!! - Scott