New Report Says Think Twice Before Getting A Petite Pet

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) --"The pocket pets are real popular because they're small, they're compact for new families in smaller homes. They may be more ideal," said Veterinarian, Dr. Kevin Reed.

Pocket pets--like hamsters, gerbils and even reptiles-- are growing in popularity. In a recent report, pediatricians warn they may be a health hazard--especially to kids younger than five.

"For them, it could be like a stuffed animal or toy--they could pick it up a squeeze it--the animal,  just naturally being defensive,  it may just turn around and bite them," said Dr. Reed.

Sharp Teeth aren't the only concern.

"Pocket Pets" carry diseases and germs that can be hard for a young immune system to ward off.

Definitely we see more problems, or potential problems in the reptiles, like snakes, turtles, and lizards.  They are known to and can harbor Salmonella and can pass it to people," said Dr. Reed.

Salmonella can be spread orally. Kids pick up the pets,  then put their hands near or in their mouths. That's why Dr. Reed says adult supervision and helping children wash their hands after handling these animals is a must. While Dr. Reed agrees pocket pets are not the best pets for young children.  He says if they're already in the home, kids can still learn from and enjoy these animals-- even if they're not old enough to handle them.

"A lot of pets are kept in enclosures and little aquariums and children don't necessarily handle them, they look at them...and that's fine too. Some of these hamsters don't get out of their plastic castles or the plastic balls, but the kids enjoy watching them and interacting that way," said Dr. Reed.