When it comes to pets, everyone is a member of one of three groups: Pet lovers, pet neutrals, and pet haters. Naturally, there are a few difficulties with this classification system because some people love one species, such as dogs, while hating others, such as cats, or vice versa. A further complication is that there are varying degrees within each group. Some extreme pet lovers could get arrested if they exhibited their love in a public place and some extreme pet haters should and sometimes do get arrested for the unprovoked violence that they commit against animals whether in public or private. However, despite the deficiencies, the taxonomy paints a reasonable picture of the range of people's feelings about pets, at least in broad brush strokes. Count me in the middle group, pet neutral.
Before I continue, let me just say that I'm going to get into a lot of trouble with pet lovers for using the impersonal pronoun "it" rather than the personal pronouns "he" or "she" when I refer to a pet in the rest of this article, but politically correct, gender-neutral writing about humans is cumbersome enough. I can't be bothered with it when writing about animals. I don't want to have to have to say "he or she" every time I refer to a single hypothetical pet. "It" is a whole lot easier, so all of you pet lovers can feel free to hate me now.
I have nothing against pets or their owners, provided that the owners clean up after their animals when said animals leave shoe-soiling little presents in a public place. In fact, I rather like affectionate, playful animals, as long as their idea of affection is not to slobber all over me and their idea of play is not to expect me to pick up and throw a disgustingly drool-covered ball. But until evolution, genetic engineering, or exceptionally advanced training creates a non-human animal capable of and willing to use the toilet whenever nature calls, including remembering to flush afterward, I'm not the least bit interested in owning a pet. I don't think it's worth the trouble. Oh, by the way, I would be willing to feed a pet when I don't have anything better, like lancing a boil, to do, but the only way I'd be willing to own a cat, dog, or any other pet is if it can and will fix its own meals whenever I'm not around or when I'm just too lazy to serve it. And Lazy is my middle name. (Actually it's Michael, but you get the picture.)
I know what you're going to say: "You'd have no problem changing your baby's diapers or feeding him or her, now would you?" That would be true if I had any children, which I regrettably don't. But children eventually grow up and figure out how to go to the toilet without assistance. With any luck, that will happen well before they head off to college. Eventually, children also figure out how to fend for themselves when it comes to food, although that might involve an allowance and some golden arches. And, if you're particularly fortunate, your children will help to take care of you in your old age. (If they have any spare time, would you please ask them to look in on me too? Being childless, I'm a little worried about that.) Because pets can't do any of these things, I see them as requiring never-ending effort, without the chance of an eventual tangible payback.
This being a technology tirade, you're probably wondering how I'm going to segue from pets to technology. Get ready. Here it comes. I wanted to talk about something that most of us do not yet have any direct experience with: cloning technologies or, more specifically, pet cloning. OK, it's a stretch for a technology column since cloning is a science rather than a technology, but there are technologies involved, and I couldn't pass this one up. I recently read that, for the low, low price of just $32,000 (reduced from the original launch price of $50,000), Genetic Savings and Clone, a Sausalito, California-based company, will clone your cat.
The $32,000 is not all-inclusive. That's just for the cloning procedure itself. Extracting and preparing the necessary cells costs about $900. Then you must have the cells frozen and stored at a cost of about $100 per year after the first year. There is also a cheaper alternative. You can just have a biopsy taken for $295 and store that sample until you're ready to have dear, departed Duchess cloned.
Don't get me wrong. I love California. It contains many of my favorite American places and is home to some relatives, friends, and clients, not to mention a terrific editor (stop blushing, Victoria), all of whom I really like, so don't take this as a criticism, but you had to know that a company called "Genetic Savings and Clone" that does what it does had to come out of la-la land. What were they thinking? Or a better question might be, what were they smoking or snorting?
From my perspective, this planet is already overrun with animals. Many of them are pitiable, homeless strays. Others walk on two legs and live charmed lives in spectacular homes in Beverly Hills. More than enough additional animals are created every day by natural means. I really don't think that we need to devote so many resources to creating new ones artificially.
Not being a pet lover, I admit that don't fully understand the exceptionally deep attachments that some pet owners form with their pets, but I find it completely incomprehensible that anyone would spend that much money to create a clone of a specific animal. All right, get ready to aim your venomous missives at me, but, to me, one cat is pretty much the same as the next. If Felix, Fluffy, Tigger, Toffee, or whatever you've named your cute little fuzz ball passes on to the great litter box in the sky, rather than having it cloned, it would be a whole lot cheaper and infinitely more compassionate to go to the Humane Society and pick up a replacement that will likely otherwise face the death penalty.
Here's another thing to think about. History has shown that if something is possible, it will almost certainly be done regardless of its morality or legality. Cats are mammals. The more routine the cloning of one type of mammal becomes, the more confident scientists will be that they can clone another type of mammal like, say, humans. I think that's abominable. The thought that certain people might be cloned petrifies me. Some politicians and a few Hollywood celebrities quickly come to mind. Depriving the rest of us of the use of cat-cloning technologies would be a small price to pay to forestall the day when these individuals will be cloned.
Lest you think that I'm a dog person rather than a cat person, let me just say that I feel pretty much the same way about dogs. It's just that Genetic Savings and Clone does not yet clone dogs, although it already accepts dog owners as gene banking clients, and it plans to do its first dog cloning in the near future. When that happens, maybe I'll write a tirade against Dick and Jane for wasting their money to clone Spot.
Finally, this might just be my envy talking, but I think the existence of designer pet cloning irrefutably proves one thing: Some people have way too much money. That's a problem that I'd be happy to help them with. I'm sure that I can find them a warm and cuddly replacement pet for no more than, say, $25,000, which is a huge bargain compared to the cloning alternative.