Cats are the pets most commonly implicated in the etiology of asthma and allergic disease. However, systematic reviews have concluded that there is a lack of evidence to support the idea that cat exposure in early life increases the risk of allergic disease. Indeed, it appears most likely that cat exposure is protective against allergic diseases. Recent large prospective studies have shown that living with a cat during childhood, especially during the first year of a child's life, could be protective. However, any advice given to the parents should also incorporate how new acquisition of cats can affect other family members, especially those who are already sensitized. Research is urgently needed to determine whether the suggested impact of acquisition of cats in adult life is modified by the person's childhood pet ownership, to help parents who seek advice on whether or not to get a cat.