The short attention span of the media can make someone a celebrity one day and a forgotten relic the next. And such was the case for CC, the world’s first cloned cat.
Born on Dec. 22, 2001, CC, short for Copy Cat, caught the attention of a country starving for some good news in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
When researchers at Texas A&M University announced their scientific breakthrough, the brown tabby and white kitten’s photos showed up in newspapers and media outlets around the world.
Ten years later, CC is living with her mate, Smokey, and her three kittens, in a specially designed “cat mansion” with amenities that include plumbing, heating and air conditioning, and, of course, lots of cat-friendly furniture and climbing opportunities.
Dr. Duane Kraemer, one of the A&M researchers who helped bring CC into the world, provided this space so she could enjoy retirement after her contributions to science.
The cat cloning operation was a spinoff of the Missyplicity Project to clone a dog named Missy. Funding for that project was provided by a company that wanted to market pet cloning. The dog cloning project was ultimately unsuccessful, so the company turned to cats.
Researchers produced about 80 cat embryos, which were transplanted into surrogate mothers. Only one developed into a full-term pregnancy.
After CC was born, A&M ended their relationship with the pet-clone company. According to “The Copied Cat” chapter of the book Dog, Inc: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend, written by John Woestendiek, the university was uncomfortable with the idea of marketing cloning as a type of pet resurrection.
CC doesn’t look much like her original egg donor, Rainbow, a calico cat. Kraemer jokes that CC, being an Aggie cat, didn’t want to have anything to do with orange — the color used by one of A&M’s long-time sports rivals — so she didn’t use the orange gene.
But the truth about CC’s appearance is based in science: through a process known as epigenetic reprogramming, even a cloned cat’s fur can be of a different color than its mother’s.
The cloned cat spent the first few months of her life in an A&M lab. And when she was finally put up for adoption, Shirley Kraemer, the wife of researcher Duane Kraemer, was determined to bring CC home
“There were some graduate students that wanted the cat, but I insisted,” shesaid.
CC was allowed to breed once — for science, Duane Kraemer said.
Her mate, Smokey, another lab cat, came into CC’s life in 2006. She had a litter of four kittens in September of that year. One of those babies, a perfectly formed female, was stillborn, but the other kittens seem to be free of any health problems resulting from being born of a cloned cat.
All five of the cats have now been spayed and neutered.
Although the Kraemers have provided CC and her family with a luxurious home, the cats don’t get any other special treatment. They eat food from the grocery store and see a local veterinarian for regular checkups.
Because CC and her family seem like perfectly normal cats, some of the people who visit her and her family are disappointed because they’d hoped to see something weirder or more exotic, said Shirley. “I say, ‘But we want it to be just like your house cat. We don’t want an extra foot or something.'”
[Source: San Antonio Express-News]