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'Absolutely worth it': Meet the B.C. woman who paid $50,000 to clone her dead cat

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

“They’re very aggressive, sassy, bold kittens, and that’s exactly what Bear was like,” said Stewart 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-wise until the moment he wasn’t street-wise. So that was very sad,” said Stewart, who blamed herself for letting Bear outside.

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

Viagen is a U.S. company that clones cats and dogs. A video on its YouTube channel explains it takes cells from a pet that an owner wants cloned, and inserts them into the nucleus of a female animal’s egg. In what it calls a “patented process,” the egg and cell join together and an embryo starts to grow. The embryos are then transferred to a surrogate mother, who will give birth to the cloned puppies or kittens.

“It took five embryo transfers before a successful pregnancy was achieved,” said Stewart. “So I knew kittens were born when Viagen called me in late January to tell me the embryo transfer they did in November resulted in kittens being born January the 10th.”

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

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

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

"This interests me from a science perspective too, the fact that this can actually be done," she said.

The business owner says she is is telling her story so other Canadians know this option exists.

“I would suggest to pet owners if you have a cherished pet that you strongly consider getting your pet’s cells preserved,” said Stewart, who added the cells can be taken while the pet is still alive or right after death, but those cells need to be sent away to be cryogenically frozen immediately.

Pet owners who decide to proceed with the cloning need deep pockets. The cost to create the kittens Stewart has named Bear Bear and Honey Bear? Around C$50,000.

“Was it worth it? Absolutely worth it,” she said. “I am so relieved the waiting is over with, so relieved to have two little gaffers that look just like Bear. So I am pretty happy with the end results.” 

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