Grieving pet owners usher in a new era of Instagram and TikTok influencers: Their cloned felines and canines
Kelly Anderson said her first cat, Chai, died suddenly after complications from surgery.
Grieving pet owners who can't stand saying goodbye to their four-legged companions are fueling the next generation of social media influencers: cloned cats and dogs.Kelly Anderson was heartbroken when her 5-year-old cat, Chai, died suddenly in 2017.
I've never truly developed a bond with a person like I did with her, said the 32-year-old dog trainer from Austin. The day she died, I was inconsolably upset. Anderson's Instagram account @adogandacat had 85,000 followers when the white and tan ragdoll died of complications after surgery. After Chai died, I lost roughly 20,000 Instagram followers, she explained.
Soon after Chai died, Anderson said she sent a sample of her DNA to the Texas-based pet cloning company ViaGen Pets. It took four years and $25,000 for Anderson to get a successful clone, and now she’s back in business with Chai’s identical genetic clone named Belle, who was born in 2021. Chai's former Instagram feed is now filled with photographs of Belle and Anderson's husky, Ghost. ViaGen was not involved in the cloned kitty's trip, according to Anderson, who documented it on Instagram. The account had almost 65,000 followers as of the time of this article's publication.
Anderson explained, Some people might buy a car, but I bought a clone.To me, it was well worth it. She was, without a doubt, the most important person in my life. When Anderson contacted ViaGen in 2017, the cost of cloning a cat was $25,000, according to Anderson. For cats, the firm now costs $35,000 and for dogs, $50,000. People have issues with the amount of money, Anderson explained. But, at the end of the day, it's my money, and no one should be instructing other people how they should spend theirs.
Barbara Streisand's dog, Sammie, was famously cloned by the Texas-based ViaGen in 2018, resulting in two precise duplicates of her beloved pet, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlet. A cloned animal is basically an identical twin of the original pet, Melain Rodriguez, ViaGen's customer care manager, noted.Rodriguez explained that the cloning process begins with a little skin sample collected from an animal while it is still alive and saved for later use, or within five days after a pet dies.
That tissue sample returns to our lab, and we produce millions of cells from that skin sample,Rodriguez explained. ViaGen Pets is a company that creates pets. ViaGen then takes an egg from a donor animal and fuses it with the cells it has generated, resulting in the formation of an embryo. Then those embryos are implanted into a surrogate animal, Rodriguez added, who will gestate, give birth, feed, and care for that puppy or kitten until it is weaned.
Surrogates often have one or two litters before being spayed and adopted to a household once their puppies or kittens are weaned, according to the firm. The majority of litters are modest, with only one or two children. However, the technique can sometimes result in numerous clones from a same litter.
That's exactly what happened when Courtney Udvar-Hazy, a 29-year-old photographer and pet enthusiast influencer, cloned her wolf-dog, Willow, who passed away in 2018. In 2019, the cloning procedure unexpectedly gave birth to her new puppy Phoenix, as well as five additional genetically identical duplicates.
Udvar-Hazy turned to cloning when her 2-year-old dog, known as @Wander With Willow on Instagram, escaped from a pet sitter and was fatally hit by a car while she was visiting family for Thanksgiving. Udvar-Hazy remarked, She was like my child, my everything.I was in a position where I would have done anything to ensure that her legacy would live on.
Her father informed her about cloning, and the two decided to submit a sample of Willow's skin to ViaGen. When Udvar-Hazy got the call from ViaGen saying Phoenix and a small group of clones had arrived, she claimed she was blown away.I couldn't believe that was true, she said of the day she picked up her puppies from ViaGen. All of the girls were coming out of the car.
Willow's five DNA copies were given to several of her closest pals. The clone owners are now frequently gathering the girls for play dates and photo sessions, which Udvar-Hazy posts on Instagram and TikTok. ViaGen, according to the firm, offers several clones to its clients or helps them adopt them out if they don't want them.
The corporation claims it only euthanizes clones if they are born with a life-threatening health condition. Images of Willow's clone, Phoenix, have begun to appear on Udvar-"Wander Hazy's with Willow" accounts. Except for Udvar-Hazy, the two appear to be identical.
While Willow never achieved Instagram influencer status, her clone's second life has taken off. What truly blew up on TikTok, she explained. I only launched it a few months ago, and we already have a million followers.
While both Udvar-Hazy and Anderson claim to have paid full price for their clones and neither shares sponsored content on cloning, ViaGen does look for pet influencer partners, and Tinkerbelle the Dog is one of them. Tinkerbelle is a 5-pound papillon-Maltese mix with over 800,000 social media followers. The small star has a check mark next to her name on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook, indicating that she is a verified celebrity.
Tinkerbelle was rescued from a shelter by Sam Carrell, who manages a children's dance school, in 2012, and her acting and modeling career began when she was found by an animal talent agent on the streets of New York City. Tinkerbelle booked her first Ralph Lauren ad a year later, according to Carrell, and she's since been in the theater, booked national commercials, and even walked at Fashion Week. I never dreamed of having a dog, first and foremost, and I could never have anticipated she would become such a star overnight, Carrell added. I'm in charge of her daily schedule, shooting, and other things.
Carrell said she saved her famous pooch's DNA after being approached by ViaGen for a partnership in 2018, and she announced the choice to her more than 500,000 Instagram followers. Tinkerbelle's DNA has been preserved, allowing her to clone the aging pup, who is now 10 years old, or 60 in dog years. ViaGen normally charges $1,600 for preserving a pet's DNA, plus a $150 annual storage fee. Carrell stated that she is unable to reveal any information about the partnership.
I don't know what I'm going to do, Carrell added, but her celebrity position absolutely plays a key in everything — in every decision I make in life. The Humane Society of the United States, according to CEO Kitty Block, does not endorse cloning your pet because there are millions of animals in need of homes.
While losing a pet is painful, she believes it may be viewed as an opportunity to meet a new animal with its own peculiarities and characteristics. Block remarked, I can absolutely understand why someone would want to clone their animal. We have our time with the animals we love, but extending it artificially doesn't benefit the next animal. While clones are genetic duplicates, they do not always look identical. Small differences in fur, such as coloration or patches, can be found in certain cloned animals.
If you're wondering if a dog or cat's personality and disposition is passed down to its clone, the answer isn't so apparent. Willow, Udvar-dog, Hazy's used to throw toys up in the air and try to catch them, something Phoenix does intuitively as well. Phoenix started doing that as a puppy, Udvar-Hazy added. That's the major characteristic that she has that Willow didn't have.
Manika Ward, a 29-year-old singer, musician, and TV host, cloned her 14-year-old childhood dog, a Maltese named Angel, who passed away in July 2017 from natural causes. Gel-E, her genetic copy, was born in November of that year and delivered to Ward's Las Vegas home in January of the following year, Ward said.
Ward explained, There are a lot of things that are quite similar in terms of personality, including small odd idiosyncrasies that she performs.When she jumps up on her rear legs for attention, she alternates her back legs in the opposite direction of how she varies her front legs, which is difficult to convey. Only Angel could have done it.
Ward also feels that one of her cats, who knew Angel before she died, may be able to sense a link to her clone. What's really great is that the first night I acquired Gel-E, one of my cats, Cosmo, who knew Angel and they were buddies, they were sleeping together on the couch, Ward said. "It was amazing how quickly they became friends. Ward claims that holding Gel-E in her arms makes her feel that a part of Angel is still with her, despite their differences in appearance and mannerisms.
I believe that when you love someone, they never truly leave you; they live on, Ward stated. It's extremely strong because a bit of Angel is literally alive and breathing right here.