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Did You Buy “Kitty Litter?”

I haven’t written about confusing words in a while, so I thought I’d delve into a familiar product to all cat owners.

We know it as Kitty Litter. It’s capitalized because it’s a brand name, now owned by Ralston Purina. I find the story interesting.

A man named Ed Lowe (1920-1995) invented the stuff. In 1947, while working in his father’s business that sold industrial absorbents, a neighbor approached Lowe and complained that the ash in her cat’s litter box stuck to the cat’s paws and spread all over the house.

Lowe suggested she use a clay-like material called Fuller’s Earth. The neighbor reported the stuff  absorbed not just the cat waste but also the odor better than anything she had previously used. Lowe figured more cat owners would want it, so he filled 10 five-pound brown bags of the stuff, called it “Kitty Litter Brand” and sold each for 65 cents.

It was, of course, a clean success.

In 1964, Lowe, now head of Edward Lowe Industries, created Tidy Cat brand. In 1990, he sold the business to venture capitalists that renamed the company Golden Cat Corporation, but he remained an equity holder and director. After Lowe’s death, Ralston Purina bought the company.

To make a long story short (too late?), don’t use the term kitty litter unless you welcome a lawsuit, which would stink. Just call it cat litter.

Until next time! Use the right words!


September 4, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Yeah. It’s one of those words like Band-Aid and Kleenex and Jello, whch are trademarked, but people use those terms even if they are talking about a generic or different brand of the object. I guess the same goes for drugs/prescreiption meds. If we used the chemical generic term, no one would know what you were talking about, until you tell them what it is the generic version of. (Sorry for ending that sentence with a preposition.)


    Comment by Anne Davies | September 4, 2013 | Reply

  2. I wonder if the makers of Sudafed get mad when you refer to generic pseudoephedrine as Sudafed. Similarly, I wonder if Zantac people get mad when you refer to generic ranitidine as Zantac. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.


    Comment by usingtherightwords | September 4, 2013 | Reply

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