By Dr. Becker
It’s easy to find a stuffed-animal version of many dog and cat breeds, but have you ever wished you could have a stuffed replica of your own pet? Cuddle Clones is a Louisville, Kentucky-based company that offers just that.
Whether your beloved pet has passed on, you’ve lost him in a divorce, or you simply like the idea of having a stuffed “mini me” of your dog or cat, this is a unique option for you.
All you need to do is send in a photo (or several) of your pet, and they’ll handle the rest, capturing every distinguishing characteristic that makes your pet unique. For those who prefer, there are figurines too, and you can choose from sitting, lying, or standing poses.
And it’s not just for dogs and cats. Cuddle clones will “clone” your guinea pig, rabbit, horse, and virtually any other small or large pet. You can even get a life-size replica, if you want. Prices range from about $100 for a figurine to $250 for a standard-sized dog, which is much more affordable than what it costs to actually clone your pet.
Yes, You Can Clone Your Pet …
Whether or not you should, or have the wherewithal to do so, is another matter entirely. Sooam Biotech, a South Korea-based research company, clones animals using a technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
It involves removing the nucleus of an egg’s cells and replacing it with a body cell from the specimen being cloned. If you remember Dolly the sheep, who was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell back in 1996, she was created using this same method.
In 2005, Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, once a celebrated scientist who fell out of favor after some of his highly publicized research turned out to be fake, created the first cloned dog, named Snuppy.
By 2008, the company had sold its first cloned dog to a Florida couple who paid $155,000 to have their beloved Labrador recreated. As of 2015 and hundreds of dogs later, Bloomberg reported:1
"Sooam has streamlined the process enough so that anyone with $100,000 and the patience to wait in line for up to six months can have a dog cloned.
A team of scientists works under Hwang with the ability to carry out every part of the painstaking process, and the lab has the capacity to produce 150 to 200 commercial clones a year for clients who so far have included celebrities, Middle Eastern royals, and a few proud, non-anonymous buyers…"
At present, Sooam charges only $3,000 to store your pet’s genetic material indefinitely, so you can have him or her cloned “when you get the money.” There are also a number of cryopreservation companies that have popped up, which say they can cryopreserve your pet’s cells for use in cloning later.
For instance, a company called PerPETuate will store your pet’s cell line in their “biokennels” for about $1,300.2 Many of their customers, they say, are banking the cells and waiting for the cloning process to become more mainstream… and affordable.
Are You Grieving a Lost Pet?
Losing a pet is akin to losing a family member, and it’s normal to move in and out through the five stages of grief. Those five stages, a framework originally described by Elisabeth Kűbler-Ross whose pioneering work on the subject of death and dying is required reading in most medical, nursing, psychiatry and theology programs, are:
You may experience some or all of these stages, in any particular order, before you feel you have moved on. While the thought of cloning your pet to bring him back may be tempting, it’s important to realize that, even with their shared genetics, you’ll still need to mourn and process the loss of your original pet.
There is no right or wrong answer on when (and if) you should get a new pet after yours passes away. Some feel compelled to begin a search for a new four-legged member of the family immediately, while others need time to grieve without a new pet in the house.
In my experience, people who share their lives with animals are compelled to do so no matter how many times their hearts break at the passing of a much-loved pet. What’s important is not so much the timing as the consensus of family members and the ability of everyone to view the new pet as an individual.
Especially if the new guy is the same breed or very similar in appearance to the deceased pet, it’s easy to have expectations of a new furry family member that she may or may not be able to live up to. This is the case with cloned pets too. Although their mannerisms will probably be similar, you will most likely still feel a loss for your beloved original pet.
For information on end-of-life pet services like euthanasia, burial, cremation, urns, and other memorials, visit Loving Memorial Pet Care, an organization I recommend to my clients in the Chicago area -- or look for a provider of similar services in your area.
For those of you seriously considering cloning your pet, you may be better served to stick with the stuffed version for now, and visit your local animal shelter to meet all the pets in need of a home, each with its own unique personality and traits.
Although no other pet will be able to “replace” the one you’ve lost, you might be surprised how quickly your heart opens up to love a new pet family member when the time feels right.