To date, there is no evidence that Allerca has produced a single hypoallergenic cat, although Leslie Lyons, the UC-Davis geneticist, stressed that she and other experts believe that doing so is scientifically possible. In 2009, the Union-Tribune reported that the company had moved from San Diego to Las Vegas and would stop taking orders at the end of the year, but its website is still live—and it still touts some scientific-looking documentation and an independent study attesting to the fact that its cats “are different from the standard cats in the [Fel-D-1] region of their genome. The site’s FAQ section claims the pets are 95 percent effective among customers “who are extremely allergic to cats.”

“It’s amazing that he’s continued to do this as long as he has,” Avner said. “Because it’s such a sensational story, he’ll get a lot of press from news outlets and TV shows that didn’t do their research.”

Pepling said she doesn’t regret that her story is still online. She hopes someone doing research and thinking about buying from Allerca will find something like The Scientist’s expos√© as well as her article. But she and others clearly took Brodie’s bait back in 2006.

Just last week, Allerca turned up in a Montana health news site’s report on the hypoallergenic pet market - which shows the website is still being found and uncritically cited, five years after the suspicious nature of the company was publicly uncovered.

Cute animals, cutting-edge science, online entrepreneurship - the story had everything. Except credibility.

Jonah Comstock is a freelance journalist, blogger and recent graduate of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in Manhattan.