Would you shell out US$35,400 to clone your beloved Mr. Whiskers? That’s the asking price for one pet cloning company in China, which has now reportedly become the first in the country to create a genetically identical cat. The cuddly clone kitten was born on July 21.

Garlic, a British Shorthair, was created by Beijing-based company Sinogene Biotechnology. The company has become known in China for its dog cloning projects. Sinogene announced Monday that, thanks to Garlic, it will offer a cat cloning service in addition to the one it already offers for dogs.

I iz a clone. (Picture: Sinogene Biotechnology)

Sinogene customers looking to clone their cats will have to cough up US$35,400. But they can take comfort in the fact that they're not cloning a dog, which the company charges US$53,800 for. The company says it made genetic copies of 20 dogs in 2018 and plans to clone 500 dogs a year within the next five years, Sixth Tone reported.

This year, the company was also involved in creating a puppy clone called Kunxun, which was bred using DNA from an award-winning police sniffer dog called Huahuangma. The Kunming police dog base described Huahuangma as “one in a thousand.” 

Sinoegene argues cloning could be a better way of preserving the genetics of such animals, helping to cut training costs. Not everyone agrees, though.

“The body can be cloned, but the soul can't,” said one comment on Weibo, echoing singer Barbra Streisand, who was one of the first high-profile people to have her pet cloned.

The original Garlic. (Picture: Sinogene Biotechnology)

Pet cloning is a controversial business, but it has the potential to be highly profitable. China has been embracing pet ownership, with 50 million registered dogs in the country, according to the China Pet Products Association. And with the world’s second largest population of millionaires, China has plenty of people who could afford the service. 

However, scientists have voiced concerns over the welfare of dogs used to incubate the genetic clones, which are kept in labs, fed hormones and usually have to undergo surgery for the cloned embryo to be implanted.

Even Barbara Streisand had misgivings. According to the singer, her cloned Coton de Tuléar had a different personality than the original.

Aside from personalities, which depend on the pet’s own experiences and environment, even the looks can vary. The first cloned cat, called CC for Carbon Copy or Copy Cat, was genetically identical to the original but had different coat patterns, which can be determined in the womb.

This is unlikely to discourage scientists, especially in China. In the last year, Chinese scientists have cloned monkeys with genes edited to cause mental illness and bred healthy mice from the genetic material of two females.

China is also where a scientist claimed to have created the first genetically edited human babies last year. The scientist was quickly denounced by authorities and disappeared from public life, so his claims were never verified.