We assessed the accuracy of questionnaire reports of cat and dog ownership and presence of cockroaches in predicting measured allergen concentrations in house dust. We collected dust samples in the homes of 932 newborns living in New England. Dust samples were taken from the main living area and the infant's bedding. Allergen content of house dust was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) and related to questionnaire information on past and current cat and dog ownership and presence of cockroaches. Allergen levels were dichotomized using the limit of detection and the following cut points: 1.0 microg/g and 8.0 microg/g for cat, 2.0 microg/g and 10.0 microg/g for dog, and 2 U/g and 8 U/g for cockroach allergen. For the upper cut point, both specificity and sensitivity of questionnaire-reported cat and dog ownership and presence of cockroaches were high. For the limit of detection and lower cut point, specificity was high (> 80%), whereas sensitivity was low, particularly for current cat and dog ownership (21-60%). Taking pet ownership during the preceding 2 years into account increased the sensitivity by 10%, but it remained relatively poor. In conclusion, questionnaire-reported pet ownership and presence of cockroaches predicts allergen levels above the upper cut point but is a relatively poor measure of allergen exposure above the limit of detection and the lower cut point. Knowledge of past pet ownership can improve pet allergen exposure assessment by means of questionnaire. However, for epidemiologic purposes, measured concentrations of allergens are necessary.