We investigated the prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) carriage in a convenience sample of purposely selected populations of dogs, cats and horses in the Greater London area. Swabs from carriage sites were pooled, enriched and processed by standard bacteriological methods. The presence of nuc and mecA was confirmed for MRSA. Risk factors were investigated among veterinary treatment group animals using exact logistic regression analysis. Twenty-six (1·53%) MRSA carriers were identified in the 1692 animals (15/704 dogs, 8/540 cats, 3/152 horses). Animals presenting for veterinary treatment more frequently carried MRSA than healthy animals (OR 7·27, 95% CI 2·18–24·31, P<0·001). Concurrent carriage of non-MRSA coagulase-positive staphylococci was associated with MRSA carriage (OR 0·088, 95% CI 0·016–0·31, P<0·001); none of the other 13 putative risk factors was significant. MRSA carriage was rare in the selected companion animal populations. The absence of typical risk factors indicates that companion animals act as contaminated vectors rather than as true reservoirs.