Abstract Studies addressing the relationship between pet keeping and development of asthma and allergies may be influenced by pet avoidance in families with a history of allergic disease. Following a cohort of 1019 children in Oslo till 10 years of age, we studied the association of pet keeping with socio-economic factors and allergic disease in the family. A family history of asthma and rhinoconjunctivitis was not significantly associated with pet ownership at birth or with pet removal by 10 years. Acquiring cats and dogs was less likely if the child had allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, whereas no association was seen with asthma (in any family member). Single parenthood increased the likelihood of acquiring a cat, smoking parents more often had cats or dogs, and having older siblings was associated with keeping dogs and other furry pets. Among 319 families reporting pet avoidance, 70% never had pets, 8% had given up pets, and 22% avoided a particular type of pet only. Twenty-four per cent of the parents failed to retrospectively report pet keeping during the child’s first year of life. Overall, allergic rhinitis, but not asthma was associated with actual pet avoidance, whereas the strongest predictors for keeping pets were found to be socio-economic factors.
Allergic disease in a child most often does not lead to the removal of the family’s furry pet. Pet avoidance is associated with allergic symptoms, but not asthma. Socio-economic factors like parental education, single parenthood and smoking affects the families’ decisions on pet keeping, including the type of pets the families will avoid or acquire. The large recall error demonstrated points to the need for prospective data regarding pet keeping.