- Kelly Anderson said she spent $25,000 on a service to clone her dead pet cat, Chai.
- She received criticism on TikTok from people who said she wasted her money on the process.
- Anderson told Insider she has no regrets, despite facing backlash from commenters and from PETA.
A woman who said she spent $25,000 on a genetic preservation service to clone her dead cat has responded to criticism from TikTok commenters who argue the practice is unethical, saying she receives “daily hate” on the app about her decision.
Kelly Anderson is a professional dog trainer based in Austin, Texas. On January 29, she posted a video of a white cat lying down with an on-screen caption that read, “When people try to tell me all of the ways I could have spent 25k instead of cloning my cat.”
The video went viral with 2.3 million views and is Anderson’s most viewed video to date.
Anderson said she used to post updates and pictures of her old cat, Chai, on an Instagram account that had around 80,000 followers at the time. When Chai died in 2017 at 5 years old, Anderson said she paid for a cloning service that produced her new cat, Belle, over a period of four years. She then changed her account username to @clonekitty and started posting updates about Belle for her followers.
In a statement to Insider, genetics company Via Gen confirmed Anderson paid $25,000 to “clone” her cat. The company’s website states that the result of “cloning” is “a genetic twin of your current cat, born at a later date in time,” and that its process uses tissue samples taken from a cat to create a new one by producing “new cells that share the same genetic identity as the tissue sample.”
Animal cloning has been a controversial process since it was first used in 1996 to clone a sheep named Dolly. According to Smithsonian Magazine, experts are concerned about the moral implications of commercially cloning pets, because they believe the process of extracting DNA from an animal is invasive.
Various animal rights associations have also expressed concerns about how safe cloning processes are. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the process is linked to “welfare concerns” around reports of anatomical and physiological problems with the cloned animals. Anderson told Insider that her cat, Belle, is healthy.
Many commenters on the TikTok criticized Anderson. “The ethics of doing something like this are… questionable,” one comment with over 900 likes read. Another comment with over 800 likes read, “Could have spent that money adopting a cat in need just saying.”
In a statement provided to Insider, a spokesperson for Via Gen said, “We are always investing in our science and our animal care to make certain that we are bringing our best to our clients.”
Animal rights organization PETA also expressed concern, writing in an email shared by Anderson that she should consider adopting “a needy cat from a local shelter,” as her promotion of cloning “directly and adversely affects the lives of other cats.” In a statement provided to Insider, PETA’s senior vice president Lisa Lange said, “There’s no excuse for breeding, buying, or cloning a cat when animal shelters are full of serving ones who are dying for a home.”
Anderson told Insider she is “not against adopting animals at all,” and owns two adopted cats. However, she said she stands by her decision because she had a sentimental relationship with Chai and did not want to replace her with an adopted animal.
“Chai was a special pet and I’ve never had a relationship like that with any other living thing. The closest word I can use to describe her is ‘soulmate.’ She died prematurely, and if she had lived a full life, I wouldn’t have cloned her,” she said.
Anderson, who said her family members loaned her the $25,000 before she paid them back in installments, told Insider, “I get daily hate from TikTok, but the comments don’t really bother me because it’s my money to spend as I wish at the end of the day, so I made a decision that made the most sense to me, and I don’t regret it at all.”
She said that while she currently does not make any money from her TikToks, she wants to continue to post about her cat to grow her following, saying, “Getting a little fan club for her would be nice.”
In April, The Today Show reported that some influencers are cloning their dead pets so they can continue to post pictures of the animals on social media. As previously reported by Insider, social media accounts dedicated to pictures of pets often attract large followings and can generate millions of dollars in income for the animal’s owners.
For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider’s Digital Culture team here.