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22nd Mar 2022

Woman paid $25,000 to clone her soulmate cat that died

Steve Hopkins

Kelly Anderson said she was ‘heartbroken’ after Chai passed away

A woman paid almost £19,000 ($25,000) to clone her soulmate cat after it died at the age of five leaving her “heartbroken”.

Professional dog trainer Kelly Anderson decided to clone her beloved pet Chai in 2017 after she died from post-op complications, but it took several years of failed attempts before her new pet, Belle, was born.

After Chai died, the 32-year-old remembered a conversation with her vet-tech roommate about ViaGen, a Texas-based company that offers animal cloning services to pet owners.

So Anderson decided to preserve Chai’s DNA by having her frozen overnight at the vet. Anderson, who lives in Austin, Texas, spent all night researching ViaGen and called them as soon as they opened to begin the process.

ViaGen took Chai’s DNA and placed it into an empty egg, which was then placed into a surrogate cat.

After four years of unsuccessful attempts, Anderson was in utter shock when she got the call to say her new pet, Belle, had been born on 20 August 2021.

“They initially updated me after every attempt but after a while, they stopped. Cells die off quicker when frozen, so they were only able to obtain about 6 million cells from Chai instead of the usual 10 million that they needed,” Anderson explained.

“It was so disheartening after every failed attempt, so I kind of ‘shut off’ to it.

“When I got the call, I was in shock. I had completely turned off my emotions. I had actually called them about something completely different – they rang me back so quickly that I knew something was up! Everyone else was really excited so I think my reaction was a bit anticlimactic.”

The process typically only takes one or two attempts, something Anderson learned after her nearly half-a-decade wait. Anderson flew out to Rochester, New York, to meet Belle for the first time in October 2021.

Anderson said she could hear her new cat “screaming” as they came up the steps of her Airbnb.

“Chai was really sick so she never got a chance to be socialised, but I knew Belle would be, meaning they’d have completely different personalities.”

Anderson has faced huge backlash about her decision, with people claiming she is unfairly replacing her old pet or even that cloning does not exist and that she has been scammed.

She described her reaction to the online hate as a “love-hate relationship”.

“I never wanted to have a replacement,” Anderson said.

“I loved Chai and thought that just replacing her would take away from her memories. I love arguing with people over this. I did my research and know that they are a really humane company.”

Anderson said people often comment that she should have adopted, rather than cloning Chai, but she already has two adopted moggies.

“I fully admit that the decision was a copy mechanism for the intense grief, however, by the time Belle arrived I had fully grieved Chai.”

Anderson had built up a moderately decent following online with Chai and has fully updated her followers on her pet’s life.

She’d been part of that online community for almost five years, so knew she was going to do the same with Belle. This time, however, she is focusing on TikTok rather than Instagram.

“I wanted to become someone who is educating people by sharing memories of Belle as well as talking about the entire process. Cloning exists. It’s been going on since the 1950s and the science behind it is incredibly developed now.

“I am speaking for myself here, but I believe everyone who has cloned their pets also wants to say that we did it because we love our pets. Everything I did was out of a place of love and appreciation for Chai.

“I was so heartbroken when she passed so it was amazing to think that I could have a part of her again. In the end, I think my decision saved my life and I would not change it for the world.”

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