Domestic Rat Care and Human Safety
Many people own and enjoy pet rats. However, pet rats, even when they look clean and healthy, can carry germs that can make people sick.
A clean environment will help reduce the chance of the rat becoming sick and spreading germs to humans. Taking proper care of your animal is important to your own safety.
Seoul hantavirus and other germs like Salmonella, Giardia, and rat bite fever can be spread through the urine, feces, and saliva of recently infected rats. When caring for a pet rat, it is important to keep the animal’s cage and environment as clean as possible.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that families with children under 5 years of age, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems not have pet rodents because these groups are at higher risk of serious illness.
DHS Resources on Animal Care and Human Safety
Safety Tips for You and Your Rats
- Wash your hands immediately after touching, feeding, or caring for pet rats or cleaning their habitats.
- Keep pet rats and their supplies out of the kitchen or other areas where food is prepared, served, or consumed.
- Play safely. Do not kiss, nuzzle, or hold rats close to your face. This can startle your rats and also increase your chances of being bitten. Bites can spread germs and can make you sick.
- You don’t have to touch pet rats to get sick from their germs. Some of the germs rats carry are found in their saliva, feces, or urine and can get into the air when they dry.
Recommendations for Cleaning Up After Rats
Take the following precautions before, during, and after a cleaning an area that was occupied by rats (either due to infestation or when cleaning rat housing environments and habitats):
To clean up any urine and droppings:
- Wear rubber, latex, or vinyl gloves when cleaning rat urine and droppings.
- Do not stir up dust by sweeping or vacuuming up rat urine, droppings, or nesting materials.
- Spray the urine and droppings with a disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water and let soak for 5 minutes.
- Use a paper towel to pick up the urine and droppings, and dispose of the waste in the garbage.
- After the rat urine and droppings have been removed, disinfect surfaces and items that might have been contaminated by rats or their urine and droppings.
Disinfectant Dilution Recommendations
- The recommended dilution of bleach solution is 1 part bleach to 10 parts water (10% solution).
- When using a commercial disinfectant, follow the manufacturer's instructions on the label for dilution and disinfection time.
When you are done cleaning:
- Remove gloves and put in the garbage.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.