It Failed The Smell Test - Judge Orders Kitty Litter Ad Pulled : The Two-Way A federal judge ordered Clorox to stop running a Fresh Step kitty litter commercial because its claims aren't verified. He ruled "cats do not seal their waste" and said the ad's claims hurt a rival company.
NPR logo It Failed The Smell Test - Judge Orders Kitty Litter Ad Pulled

It Failed The Smell Test - Judge Orders Kitty Litter Ad Pulled

A federal judge is ordering Clorox to pull a television commercial featuring its Fresh Step kitty litter because it stretches the truth.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who's currently getting attention for rejecting a settlement between Citigroup and the Securities and Exchange Commission, is rejecting Clorox's ad as unrealistic.

Mel Evans/AP
A cat reaches for a toilet handle at the home of animal trainer Dawn Barkan. Barkan trained all the Himalayan cats who have portrayed Mr. Jinx in the films "Meet the Parents," "Meet the Fockers" and "Little Fockers.
Mel Evans/AP

The Clorox case began last year when rival Church & Dwight Co. sued, claiming its own Arm & Hammer kitty litter products suffered damage from the Fresh Step ad, according to Reuters.

The commercial features cute cats doing cute things, then cuts to two beakers filled with green and presumably smelly gas, one filled with carbon, used in Fresh Step and the other with baking soda. The ad voiceover says Fresh Step uses carbon to kill odors and then claims a sensory test revealed carbon works better than baking soda and cats are smart enough to know this.

Law professor Jonathan Turley points out why Arm & Hammer hissed - it's the only company that uses baking soda in its kitty litter products. He highlights how Clorox came up with its smell test. Jars of cat poop treated with both carbon and baking soda were sealed for nearly a day before they were unscrewed and sniffed by testers.

In what's sure to become a famous legal proverb, Judge Rakoff declared, "In actual practice, however, cats do not seal their waste, and smells offend as much during the first twenty-two hours as they do afterwards."

The judge also doubts the work of the kitty poop sniffers, according to the New York Times (paywall) which says he was "suspicious" that all the testers consistently gave the carbon treated poop the best score possible. Professor Tushnet points out that kitty litter testing didn't appear on the Best Jobs List for 2011.