Hidden Dangers of Unusual Pets

What to know about guinea pigs, snakes, ferrets, iguanas and more
box turtle Photo: Martha Marks/Shutterstock
boy holding guinea pig
ball python
green iguana
box turtle
yellow cockatoo
black and white rabbit
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With their wise eyes and plodding gait, turtles seem like innocuous pets. But before you shell out for one, know they can carry salmonella. For this reason, in 1975 the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of turtles less than 4 inches long. The FDA claims this ban has prevented up to 100,000 cases of salmonellosis in kids each year. The only way to safely have a turtle is to follow strict guidelines for caring for them. The CDC suggests handling all turtles and any surfaces they touch as if infected with salmonella. That means washing hands after touching a turtle or its cage and not touching anyone else or your face until your hands are clean. Don’t let turtles roam around freely; keep them out of the kitchen especially. If you have kids under 5 or live with someone with a weakened immune system, a turtle isn’t for you.