Child safety and health around pet rodents

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