BACKGROUND: It is still unclear how early-life exposure to pets is related to children's risk of developing atopy-related diseases. We estimated associations between early-life exposure to pets and atopy-related diseases at 0-4 years of life in a cohort of Norwegian children. METHODS: A population-based cohort of 2531 children born in Oslo, Norway, was followed from birth to the age of 4 years. Information on early-life exposure to pets, a number of possible confounders, and atopy-related diseases was mainly collected by questionnaire. RESULTS: In logistic regression analysis adjusting for potential confounders, the odds ratio for being exposed to pets in early life (reference category: not exposed) was, for bronchial obstruction at 0-2 years of life, 1.2 (95% confidence interval 0.9, 1.8); for asthma at the age of 4 years, 0.7 (0.5, 1.1); for allergic rhinitis at the age of 4 years, 0.6 (0.4, 1.0); and for atopic eczema at 0-6 months of life, 0.7 (0.5, 0.9). CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate that early-life exposure to pets or lifestyle factors associated with exposure to pets reduce the risk of developing atopy-related diseases in early childhood. However, these findings might also be explained by selection for keeping pets.