Caring for pets when you’re pregnant

Many families think of their pets as family. Pets can bring much fun and joy to a home. But when you’re pregnant, not all pets are OK to be around. Pregnant women have to be careful about the kinds of animals they keep in their home and know how to handle and care for them safely. 

Are dogs safe pets to have when you’re pregnant? 

For the most part, there's no reason your dog can't be part of the family when you're pregnant. But take these steps to help keep yourself safe during pregnancy: 

  • Don’t let your dog jump up on your belly.
  • If your dog has bad habits, like biting or jumping, train him to stop doing these things before you have your baby.  
  • Make sure your dog is up-to-date with vaccinations. Do this before your baby is born. 
  • If you and your dog are especially close, ask your partner or a family member to spend more time with him. Because your baby will take much of your time and attention, having your dog develop relationships with others can help prepare him for changes to come once your baby is home. 

Are cats safe pets to have when you’re pregnant?

Pregnant women need to be careful of toxoplasmosis when handling their cat. This is an infection often carried by cats that’s caused by a parasite. Cats pass this parasite in their feces (poop), and you can get it by cleaning kitty litter or touching dirt, like garden soil, where cats may have been.  You also can get toxoplasmosis from eating undercooked meat, especially pork, lamb or deer meat. 

If you have a cat, use these tips to help keep you safe from toxoplasmosis:

  • Ask a family member who isn't pregnant to clean out the litter box every day.
  • Keep your cat inside.
  • Stay away from stray cats. 
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching cat poop or after gardening. 
  • If you have a sandbox, cover it to stop cats from using it as a litter. 
  • Don’t feed your cat undercooked meat. 

Are hamsters, guinea pigs and mice safe pets to have when you’re pregnant?

Many peoples have rodents, including mice, hamsters and guinea pigs, as pets. If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, be very careful with these animals. They may carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (also called LCMV) that can be harmful to you and your baby. LCMV can cause severe birth defects and miscarriage.

You can get LCMV:

  • From a bite from an infected animal 
  • By touching an infected animal’s urine, blood, saliva, droppings or nesting materials
  • By breathing in dust or droplets when sweeping up droppings or cleaning out a cage 

Tell your health care provider if you have signs and symptoms of LCMV. These include: 

  • Fever 
  • Headache 
  • Fatigue (being very tired)
  • Muscle aches or a stiff neck 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Not being hungry

The house mouse (a wild mouse found near and in homes) is the main source of the LCMV. Pets like hamsters and guinea pigs can get infected with LCMV from being in contact with wild mice at a breeder, in a pet store or even in your home.  

Use these tips to help keep you safe from LCMV when you’re pregnant:

  • Keep pet rodents in a separate part of your home. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after touching pet rodents. 
  • Ask other family members to care for the pet and clean its cage. Ask them to clean the cage in a well-ventilated area or outside. Keep cages clean and remove any dirty bedding.
  • Keep pet rodents away from your face. 
  • Avoid contact with wild rodents. 
  • If your home has wild rats or mice, use pest control (such as traps or a professional pest control company) to get rid of them. Talk to your health care provider before using any pest control chemicals in your home. 

If you have children, especially under the age of 5: 

  • Make sure an adult watches them closely when they’re around or playing with pet rodents. 
  • Don’t let them kiss pet rodents or hold them close to their face. 
  • Make sure they wash their hands with soap and water after touching pet rodents.  

Are reptiles and exotic pets safe to have during pregnancy?

Some families have reptiles, like lizards, snakes and turtles, for pets. Some of these animals can carry germs that make people sick. One illness they carry is salmonellosis (also called salmonella infection). 

Most salmonella infections come from food sources, such as poultry, meat and eggs. But salmonella infections can be linked to reptiles. Even if a pet reptile has a negative test for salmonella, it doesn't mean the animal is not infected. It may mean that the animal was just not “shedding salmonella” on the day it was tested. 

Pregnant women and children younger than age 5 are at increased risk of getting salmonella infection. If you’re pregnant, remove any pet reptile from your home before your baby is born. 

More information

Last reviewed: April, 2014