Research in Arizona has found that babies are more likely to develop eczema if the family has a pet cat.

The survey of 134 infants whose household had cats found that 28 per cent developed the skin disease that is characterized by itching, scaling, thickening of the skin, and is usually located on the face, elbows, knees, and arms compared with 18 per cent of 286 babies from cat-free homes.

Strangely dogs do not have the same effect. Rather, children exposed to two or more dogs in the home may be slightly protected from developing itchy skin rashes.

However before you send the cat off to Kennels, forever. Dr Esmeralda Morales, of the University of Arizona said: "Other studies have found having cats and dogs at home seems to be protective against allergic diseases, so we expected similar findings".