Guinea pigs are beloved pets for millions of families in the US.
If you are pregnant you may be wondering is it safe to have a guinea pig while pregnant?
We asked our OB/GYN, Dr. Doug, Penta, this question and he shared that having a guinea pig while pregnant can pose a health risk during pregnancy, but can be made safer by following some simple precautions.
When I was pregnant with my first, I was a preschool teacher and we had a classroom guinea pig.
He was an adorable black and white piggy named Harry.
I was able to keep Harry in the classroom with us by following some basic safety precautions.
Let’s talk about the risks of having a guinea pig during pregnancy, ways to mitigate the risk, and keep your sweet loving piggy!
Is it safe to have a guinea pig while pregnant?
According to the CDC, pregnant women should avoid contact with both domestic and wild rodents, including guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs can carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), which can cause miscarriages and birth defects.
The risk for LCMV infection from pet guinea pigs is low, but pregnant women need to know the risks of LCMV infection during pregnancy.
How can LCMV be transmitted?
- You can get LCMV by coming into direct contact with urine, feces, saliva, blood, or dander from your guinea pig (including from improperly handling their bedding)
- You can get LCMV if your guinea pig bites or scratches you. Wash any scratches or bites immediately.
- You can get LCMV if you inhale aerosolized particles from their bedding or feces or saliva.
The CDC recommends that you keep your guinea pig in a separate part of your home.
You should avoid spending long periods of time in the same room as your guinea pig.
It is best to not keep your guinea pig in your bedroom, kitchen, or bathroom while you are pregnant.
Open windows in the room when interacting with your piggy.
Proper ventilation is an easy and often overlooked way to lower your risk of contracting airborne viruses.
Should I be cleaning out guinea pigs when pregnant?
No, you should not be cleaning your guinea pig when you are pregnant.
You want to give that job to someone else in your house or have a friend come to do it if you live alone.
If you have older kids you can have them clean the guinea pig cage.
If possible have the cage cleaned and disinfected outside.
Now we understand that for some people that’s just not reality, so if you have to clean your guinea pig’s cage we suggest the following:
- Wear a well-fitting mask preferably in an N95
- Wear gloves
- Open the window in the room where the guinea pig is
- Avoid dusty bedding such as wood shavings. You want to use bedding for your guinea pig that isn’t going to create small particles that can be easily inhaled. Aerosolized fomites have been found to be capable of spreading viruses through the air. (Source)
- Wash your hands as you are done cleaning and disinfecting your guinea pig’s cage.
Can I hold my guinea pig if I’m pregnant?
You want to avoid contact with your guinea pig’s saliva, urine, and feces, so it is best not to hold your piggy while pregnant.
But if you do decide to hold and snuggle your guinea pig:
- Do not touch your guinea pig and then touch your face without washing your hands.
- Do not kiss your guinea pig
- Consider wearing a mask while petting your guinea pig
- Wash your hands as soon you are done.
- Keep the window open
- Use an air purifier in the room
You can still spend time with your guinea pig.
If it is a nice day outside, take your piggy outside in a play yard.
You can make your guinea pig fun snacks and homemade toys.
These are some toys we make for our bunnies that they go crazy over.
All you need is empty toilet paper rolls and your guinea pig’s favorite leafy greens.
Stuff the tubs with the freshly washed greens and give them to your piggy!
Photo Credit: Maternity Comfort Solutions
Do I need to re-home my guinea pig if I am pregnant?
No. You don’t need to re-home your guinea pig if you’re pregnant.
You do need to be careful while you are pregnant, but it is only 9 months!
Remember that the keys to lowering your risk are:
- To have someone else clean the guinea pig cage.
- If you have to do it were a mask and gloves.
- Ventilate the room the guinea pig is in.
- Open the windows.
- Use dust-free bedding.
You can still enjoy your guinea pig while you’re pregnant.
If it’s a nice day have a family member take your guinea pig outside and put it in a play yard.
On a nice sunny day, you can sit outside with your piggy and enjoy some sun.
Make sure you wear pregnancy-safe sunscreen.
If you have an open concept home and you keep your guinea pig in the family room, your pet will still be able to hear you in the kitchen.
Take time when making meals to talk to your piggy and offer special treats.
Some pregnant women choose to not go into the room where the guinea pig is while they’re pregnant.
That’s OK too, but you want to make sure that someone is spending time with your guinea pig.
Guinea pigs are social animals and if they don’t get enough socialization and attention they can develop behavioral problems.
- Aggression and biting
- Engaging in destructive behaviors
- Anxiousness and Depression
None of us want our precious piggies to feel alone, depressed, or to develop destructive habits.
It is important to make sure your guinea pig gets frequent contact from other family members if you are choosing to stay away during your pregnancy.
It isn’t possible for most of us to stay away from our pets when we are pregnant.
We have dogs, cats, and rabbits.
I took precautions caring for them while I was pregnant.
But I still spent time with them.
You can do the same with your guinea pig.
It is important that you talk to your OB/GYN or Midwife about having a guinea pig and follow their advice about caring for your guinea pig during pregnancy.
Are guinea pigs rodents?
Yes, they are rodents. Guinea pigs or Cavies as they are called are members of the rodent family.
Guinea pigs, mice, hamsters, and rats are common household pets that can carry LCMV.
If you have any other pet rodents in the house, you’ll want to follow the same safety precautions that you follow with caring for your guinea pig.
You can keep your guinea pig during your pregnancy.
Practice simple safety steps like hand washing after touching your guinea pig, wear a mask when cleaning or holding your guinea pig.
Remember to open windows in the room your guinea pig lives in for better ventilation, and if possible have another family member or friend clean the guinea pig’s cage outside.
LCMV infections from guinea pigs are extremely rare.
There is no reason to re-home your guinea pig during pregnancy.