Child safety and health around pet rodents

I think mice are rather nice. Their tails are long, their faces small, they haven't any chins at all. Their ears are pink, their teeth are white, they run about the house at night. They nibble things they shouldn't touch and no one seems to like them much. But I think mice are rather nice!

"Mice" by Rose Fyleman

Keeping your child safe and healthy around your pet rodent - rat, mouse, guinea pig, hamster, gerbil, etc:

  • Children may be at risk from bites and scratches, so to reduce the risk of these:
    • Get advice about keeping rodents as pets.
    • Make sure your rodent is used to being handled.
    • Supervise children’s contact with the pet rodent.
    • Teach children how to safely handle and treat the rodent.
    • Do not disturb sleeping rodents as they can be quite cranky when awakened!
    • Talk to your vet about grooming and claw trimming.
  • If a child is bitten or scratched, wash the wound immediately and use disinfectant cream/solution.  Always contact your GP if you are worried about a wound or if a wound is not healing properly.

Infectious diseases which can be associated with pet rodents:

  • Spread of diseases from rodents to humans is quite rare.
  • Guinea pigs, mice and rats can be the source of intestinal illnesses such as salmonella, Campylobacter, Giardia and Cryptosporidium
  • These diseases can be spread by contact with the droppings of an infected animal or by contact with something which has been contaminated with infected droppings.
  • To reduce risk of infection:
    • Talk to your vet about what is needed to keep your rodent healthy and well.
    • Consult your vet if you have any concerns about your rodent’s health.
    • Do not feed raw eggs or meat to your pet – uncooked eggs and meat can contain bacteria.
    • Wash your hands carefully after handling the animal, its droppings, bedding, cage, bowls or toys  – make sure your children do the same.
  • When choosing a pet rodent:Rodent care
    • The pet should be lively and alert, with a glossy coat, free of droppings - don’t pick one that is quiet, tired, has diarrhoea, or looks sickly.
    • The animal’s breathing should be normal and there should be no discharge from the eyes or nose.
    • If one of the animals in the cage in a pet store has diarrhoea or looks sick, the others may have been exposed to an infectious disease, so do not choose any of these animals as your pet.
    • If your pet rodent dies, do not use the cage, toys, water/food bowls for a new pet until they have all been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
    • For further information about infectious diseases which may be linked with rodents, visit www.hpsc.ie

Information about caring for your pet rodent:

Back to Child safety and health around pets main page

Information on this page is adapted from:

  • A healthy pet is a safe pet. House Rabbit Society
  • Care of pet mice and rats.  www.hilltopanimalhospital.com
Most unintentional injuries (often called accidents) can be prevented:

Remember the key message where child safety is concerned -
Watch your child at all times, as children do not understand danger