As far as pets are concerned, few are more kissable than hedgehogs. I’ve double-tapped enough pictures of Mr. Pokee on Instagram to know that they love being snuggled, enjoy getting face rubs, and have an affinity for wearing tiny socks. But if you ever have the urge to lock lips with a hedgehog, you (sadly) might want to hold back.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an outbreak of salmonella has been directly linked to the cute little critters. As of publication, 11 cases of hedgehog-related salmonella have been reported across eight states. At least one person required hospitalization. The CDC strongly advises all hedgehog owners to stop smooching the spiky mammals, which potentially spread bacteria to the face and mouth, causing illness. While limiting mouth-to-mouth contact with another species is a good place to start, those wishing to stay healthy while living with a pet of any kind need only follow a few simple rules.
Here are 4 more ways to stay healthy when you have furry BFFs.
1. Wash your hands regularly
In addition to no-kisses, it is also recommended that hedgehog owners wash their hands after touching, feeding, or caring for their pets—a rule that goes for other types of animals, too. The CDC recommends washing up after handling any “pocket pet”—rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, and sugar gliders. The same goes for reptiles, amphibians, and birds, which have been associated with the transmission of several types of bacteria and parasites.
2. Treat scratches properly
It’s rare for dogs and cats to carry germs that will make you sick, but if you get scratched by your pet, you should properly take care of it just in case. The CDC says that means washing the wound with warm, soapy water and making sure to seek medical attention if it becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen. Also, make sure your pets are always up to date on their rabies shots.
3. Don’t wash pet bowls in the kitchen sink
Dog bowls often get washed in the kitchen sink, but the CDC says the that’s a big no-no. Because you handle your food in the kitchen, cross-contamination is almost certain. Pet bowls are a hotbed for everything from salmonella and E. coli to staph and giardia. The best route is going with the dishwasher, which has high temps that can kill that bacteria.
4. Clean the cat litter box daily
Cleaning the cat litter box is by far one of the worst jobs, and you’re supposed to do it more often than you think. Instead of scooping the poop every few days, the CDC recommends doing so daily to lower the chances of coming into contact with a harmful parasite.
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