The world's first sneeze-free GM cat (yours for £2,000)

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The Independent Online

At £2,000 a kitten, it's a cat not to be sneezed at. Not that you could even if you tried. Orders are now being taken for the world's first allergy-free feline - a British shorthair - which is being genetically modified so that even the most sensitive soul could own one.

At £2,000 a kitten, it's a cat not to be sneezed at. Not that you could even if you tried. Orders are now being taken for the world's first allergy-free feline - a British shorthair - which is being genetically modified so that even the most sensitive soul could own one.

The company developing the "Franken-pet" - inevitably, perhaps, a Californian enterprise - last week began taking orders for kittens that it says will be on the market by 2007. It hopes to sell 200,000 cats in the first year.

The company, Allerca, believes it has identified the gene that causes allergies and that by a hi-tech process known as "gene silencing", it can end the spluttering and sneezing in even the worst-affected, allergy-suffering cat-lover.

"The response from the public has been amazing," says Simon Brodie, Allerca's chief executive.

But his plans have produced a somewhat catty response from animal rights groups, already alarmed at a growing industry in GM pets.

Dr Maggy Jennings, genetics expert at the RSPCA, said last night: "I am appalled at the attempts to produce hypoallergenic cats. We would urge people who are allergic to cats to consider alternative companion animals."

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