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Having a pet in the home, particularly a cat or a dog, may contribute to problems with allergies and asthma if there is a family history of allergies. Cats are very allergenic animals, as they leave their fur (containing the offending dander) everywhere. If you have an allergy to animals, your child is more likely to develop one. You're probably confused because some studies have suggested that children who were exposed to pets as babies were less likely to develop allergies than those who weren't, but more research is needed to know for sure. For now, we recommend not having pets in the home only if there's a family history of allergies.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, April 2004. Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.