Medical studies show pets can do a lot to keep you healthy, from keeping you active to warding off depression. But sometimes—and often because of improper care—pets can make you sick. Take our true-false quiz to learn how to keep both you and your four-legged friends happy, healthy, and safe.
1. Sleeping with pets can be hazardous to your health.
True. but not for the reasons you might think. If you're worried about catching germs from snoozing with your schnauzer, the truth is you're more likely to catch a bug by not washing your hands, according to a Kansas State University study. The real health hazard? Pets can disturb your sleep, and over time, that can make you more susceptible to illness. According to a study of 300 patients at the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Clinic, 53 percent of those who let their pets sleep with them said their animals disrupted their sleep somewhat every night. Your best bet: Save some snuggle time with Fluffy or Fido during the day, and leave them out of the bedroom at night.
2. Pregnant women should never change the kitty litter.
True. Cats can carry a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii and pass it in their feces. Handling infected cat litter can cause toxoplasmosis, an illness that can lead to miscarriage and other problems with pregnancy. To be safe, pregnant women should have someone else in the family change the cat litter daily. If there is no other option, expecting mothers should wear gloves and wash their hands afterward with soap and water. The same goes for doing yardwork or gardening where cats may have been.
3. Turtles make great pets for young children.
False. Since 1975, the sale of turtles smaller than four inches has been banned by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That's because turtles carry bacteria that can cause salmonellosis, a disease that can prove fatal for young children, the elderly, and other vulnerable groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the FDA's ban prevents some 100,000 cases of salmonellosis each year in children. If children come in contact with a turtle, they should wash their hands thoroughly.
4. You can catch a cold from a dog's kiss.
False. Think about the last time your dog drank out of the toilet or the way he greeted a fellow canine, and you may not want that friendly muzzle near your mouth. But research shows that the chances of actually catching an illness from a wet doggy kiss are slim. The Kansas State University study on sleeping with pets (see #1) also found that allowing licks to the face was not linked with an increase in shared E. coli, a type of bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tracts of both dogs and humans. The best way to keep dog germs at bay: Wash your hands and face after a slobbery kissing session.
5. Cat scratches can hurt, but they aren't dangerous.
False. You can get cat scratch disease (a.k.a. cat scratch fever), an illness that causes swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, fatigue, and loss of appetite. A cat can look perfectly healthy and still carry the harmful bacteria, and kittens are more likely than adult cats to be infected, says the CDC. To lower your chances of getting sick, avoid rough play with your cat or kitten, and wash any scratch or bite thoroughly with soap and warm water. See a doctor if the injury begins to look swollen or infected.