Gene therapy, as a promising therapeutics to treat genetic or acquired diseases, has achieved exciting development in the past two decades. Appropriate gene vectors can be crucial for gene transfer. Cationic lipids and polymers, the most important non-viral vectors, have many advantages over viral ones as non-immunogenic, easy to produce and not oncogenic. They hold the promise to replace viral vectors to be used in clinic. However, the toxicity is still an obstacle to the application of non-viral vectors to gene therapy. For overcoming the problem, many new cationic compounds have been developed. This article provides a review with respect to toxicity of cationic lipids and polymers in gene delivery. We evaluate the structural features of cationic compounds and summarize the relationship of toxicity and structure and hope to provide available suggestions on the development of these cationic compounds.