Healthy Pets and People
Enjoy Your Pet!
Picking the Right Pet
- Households with children under 5 years of age should not have pet reptiles, amphibians, or backyard poultry because of the risk of serious illness from harmful germs shared between these animals and young children.
- Pregnant women should avoid contact with pet rodents to prevent exposure to lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, which is a virus that can cause birth defects.
- Pregnant women should avoid adopting a new cat or handling stray cats, especially kittens. Cats can carry a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis—a disease that can cause birth defects. Pregnant women do not need to give up their current pet cat. Pregnant women should avoid changing cat litter if possible. If no one else can perform the task, pregnant women should wear disposable gloves and wash their hands with soap and warm water afterwards. Additionally, ensure that the cat litter box is changed daily. Changing the litter box daily can lower the possibility of exposure to the parasites that could cause toxoplasmosis, because the Toxoplasma parasite does not become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it is shed in a cat’s feces. Get more information on toxoplasmosis and cats.
- People with weakened immune systems or immunocompromised persons should take extra precautions when choosing and handling pets. Talk to your veterinarian and health care provider to help pick the best pet.
Wash Hands Right after Being Around Pets
- Adults should always assist young children with hand washing. See more information on hand washing. See the CDC’s Clean Hands site for more information on hand washing.
- Running water and soap are best for hand washing. Use hand sanitizers if running water and soap are not available. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water as soon as a sink is available. Always wash hands
- Upon leaving areas where animals live (e.g. coops. barns, stalls, etc.), even if you did not touch an animal;
- After going to the toilet;
- Before eating and drinking;
- Before preparing food or drinks; and
- After removing soiled clothes or shoes.
- Call your health care provider if you or a family member are concerned about illness, and be sure to tell them about the pets you have contact with.
- Contact your pet’s veterinarian if you are concerned that your pet may be sick. Your pet’s veterinarian can also be a valuable source of information on diseases shared between animals and people.
Keep Your Pet Healthy
Tips for Good Pet Hygiene
Keep Wildlife Wild
Teach Children How to Appropriately Interact with Animals
- Visit CDC’s Healthy Pets Healthy People site for more information on how you and your pet can stay healthy.
- Visit CDC’s Gastrointestinal (Enteric) Diseases from Animals site, your one-stop-shop for information about zoonotic outbreaks, prevention messages, and helpful resources.
- Visit CDC’s Clean Hands Save Lives! site for more information on hand washing.
- Visit CDC’s Rabies site for more information on rabies.
- Visit CDC’s Dog Bite Prevention site for more information on how to prevent dog bites.
- Read CDC’s Stay Healthy at Animal Exhibits This Summer feature.
- Read CDC’s Toxoplasmosis fact sheet.
- Read the Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settings, 2013
- Educational Posters (available in English, Spanish, and French).
- Pets Can Make People Sick: Medscape Video Commentary.
- Visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Care for Animals site.
- Learn more about how CDC uses a One Health approach.