When Bewlah, our Siamese cat, died, a heartless friend suggested that we stuff her and turn her into a doorstop. Maybe she wasn't being that heartless.
Distasteful as it would be for me to have Bewlah's corpse propping open the kitchen door, there are those who regard taxidermy as a token of affection. Soon after Bewlah departed to the great mousehole in the sky, I was invited to take part in a television debate about pampered pets.
You can probably guess where I stand on PPs, so when asked whether I would spend £150 on a doggie shampoo and pedicure or £300 on a cat basket with orthopaedic mattress, I said certainly not. A mild enough response, you might think, but Reg from Burnley, a self-confessed feline fanatic, became incensed and called me a tight-fisted old bat and said that he had just forked out £1,000 on his beloved long-haired Persian, Omar.
Even the presenter looked surprised. What did you get, she asked. This, said Reg, as he reached down for a large box from which he produced a furry pyjama case that turned out to be Omar. "That's how much I loved my cat,'' said Reg. "He may be dead but I take him with me everywhere.''
I said mildly, for I am by nature a gentle soul, that I loved my mother but when she eventually moves up to the Great Cigarette Factory in the clouds (she smokes 40 a day) I wouldn't dream of stuffing her and carting her around with me in a box.
That did it. Reg lost his rag entirely. "You know what your problem is lady,'' he shouted. "You could do with a dam good stuffing yourself,'' at which the studio audience took up the refrain yelling, "yeah, get stuffed.''
I mention this distressing episode only because, having just heard the news from Texas that genetic scientists have cloned the first kitten, I wonder if Reg from Burnley would consider £10,000, the estimated price for producing an identicat, too much to pay for an Omar lookalike.
Money rather than morality does seem to be at the heart of the issue. I ran into an old colleague called Vera on Wednesday who said no, she really wasn't enjoying retirement. Her husband had left her, her two daughters were unemployed, unmarried and, at this rate, unlikely to produce grandchildren, and the previous day she had had her cat put down.
Oh dear I am sorry, I said. What was wrong with it? Vera said that she didn't know, which was why she had taken it to the vet, who thought that it might be suffering from kidney failure, but to find out would involve tests, catheters and anaesthetics.
How much would that cost, asked Vera. About £300, he said. And how much to put it down? The answer was £69. "Well you have to be realistic,'' said my erstwhile colleague. Besides, she added, for £300 she could have a pond feature. I said that I would buy her a goldfish. I nearly said that I could see why her husband left her.
Meg, our current cat, is getting on a bit, but much as I love her, and even if I had 10 grand to spare, it would be too spooky to get a clone.
CC the cloned kitten doesn't look a bit like his mother, by the way. This is because identical appearance isn't necessarily a part of cloning, explained the Texas scientists. Pull the other one boys. If I were handing over £10,000 I would expect in return an identical replica of my pet, same-length whiskers, same taste in field mice, same method of garrotting voles, same plaintiff miaow when she falls in the bath.
Meg is a small tortoiseshell with marmalade patches behind her ears and white paws. If her clone turns out to be smoky grey with a black tail, how could I prove that it really was a chip off the old block and not just some stray?
Last time my heartless friend with the doorstop designs came over, I caught her staring long and hard at Meg. "She's exactly the same colour as the coat I've just bought. She would make a terrific collar,'' she said. Now there's a match I'd go to – Cruella De Vil meets Reg from Burnley. Omar can sit next to me.Reuse content