I think my biggest takeaway from this journey (besides being gifted with the most precious thing in my life) is that everyone’s experience with cloning is so wholly unique. It’s such an amazing process and science, allowing us a piece of our loved ones back, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

My story started in 2011 when I picked up a kitten, Chai, from a terrible breeder in California. I didn’t know any better at the time, but the experience educated me quickly. She came to me with calicivirus, mycoplasma, a bacterial and yeast infection in both ears, and Giardia. A ton of health issues that took upwards of three months to clear out. During formative months, I was shoving medication into just about every part of her body while she remained isolated away in my bedroom, so as not to infect my other pets. I truly believe it shaped her personality wildly. Her breed, Ragdolls, are known to be friendly and outgoing, where she was reserved, standoffish, and really only wanted to be around me. Those months nursing her back to health bonded us, though, and we came out of it with a relationship stronger than ever.

From there, she was healthy the rest of her life. It was her who nursed me back to health from bouts of depression, always finding the right moments to cuddle up with me, even though she wasn’t a cuddly cat by nature. I can’t count the number of times she saved my life. By the time she was grown, everyone in my world knew how special of a cat she was, how much we both needed each other. The longest time I spent away from her was when I went to treatment for anorexia, and even then, friends flew her out to visit me in the middle of it. Our reunion was like no other. I needed her and she needed me.

We spent five wonderful years together before she passed away. Not nearly enough time in the world. A pet sitter left plastic out that she consumed, and she had to have surgery. It went well, but she passed away from post-op complications in the back of the vet office. It was beyond devastating. I’ve experienced loss in my life but nothing like this. I truly didn’t think I could move on from it. But the night of her passing I remembered a serendipitous conversation about cloning that I’d had with my roommate a few weeks back and started to research. My mind was made up by the time ViaGen Pets opened that next morning and the rest is history.

Fast forward four years (yes four) and I finally got to meet Belle, her clone. They don’t know why it took so long, but to anyone looking to clone, I think it’s important to be realistic in your expectations. You might get your clone in a year or it may take a little longer. Everyone’s experience is different. It was worth every second, though. Belle is absolutely the light of my life.

They look almost exactly alike. Their personalities couldn’t be more different, though, which is something I expected. Chai had been so so sick as a kitten, and her isolation shaped so much, I believe. Belle was raised with a silver spoon from day one. She is practically royalty in my home, and she knows it. Where Chai was reserved, Belle is outgoing and curious. Where Chai was standoffish, Belle wants to be a part of whatever is going on. She’s my little adventure kitty. We go out to bars and breweries and on hikes all of the time and she loves it, all of the things Chai never really had a chance to do or be. Their meows are even different. But then at the core, they share so much. Beyond being the most special cats of my life, they’re both bold and sassy cats, prone to always being nearby but not quite cuddling. I see Chai in Belle every day, that little piece that I had wanted all along.

For me, I never wanted to bring my cat back to life. I just wanted to carry on that piece of her. And that’s exactly what I got out of cloning. It was an amazing experience that I would absolutely do ten times over. I love Belle to pieces and have a bond with her unlike any I’ve experienced. She isn’t replacing Chai, no one ever could, but she is extending that legacy that got cut too short. I can’t thank ViaGen Pets enough for allowing me this experience. It was truly life changing.