Over a 34-mo period we studied 51 patients with Q fever and 102 control subjects (with various lower-respiratory-tract infections) who were matched for age, sex, and time of onset of infection. By univariate analysis (not adjusted for multiple comparisons), cases differed significantly from controls in the following activities: working on a farm; slaughtering or dressing animals; and contact with cats, cattle, and sheep. The strongest association was with exposure to stillborn kittens--11 of 51 cases vs. none of 102 controls (P less than .00000)--and with exposure to parturient cats (odds ratio, 10.3; 95% confidence interval, 3.5-31.8). Exposures to newborn animals (chiefly kittens) and stillborn kittens were significant risk factors by multivariate analysis, as were rural residence and slaughtering or dressing animals. In 13 Q fever incidents following exposure to parturient cats, 80 people became ill, 52 of whom had serological evidence of recent Coxiella burnetii infection (most of the others were not tested).