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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My stepmom got mad at me the other day because there was rat poop on the floor (They only poop under their cage though, so maybe she saw litter?) So, I cleaned it up and everything but I got this rant last night about how unhealthy it was to have rat poop on my floor. Admittedly, there were probably 15-30 pellets under the cage. I admitted to my mistake and said I'd keep it clean from now on, but she just wouldn't stop going on about it... Eventually she got to saying that there were diseases in their poop, even though they were domesticated, and I was going to get sick or everyone else sick. She also went mentioned the dust from the poop and how it was going to get in our vents and make us all sick. I'm wondering how true this all was? Apparently she looked it up once, but I feel like it came from an anti-rat site. So, none of this will go back to her, I'm strictly interested in knowing if this is true. Anyone know?
 

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Wild rat poop is more likely to make you sick, as a rule, because they've been exposed to - well - the wild. The poop from your rats is not as big of a deal. Though, all pet poop is icky. There's really no dust from rat poop that can get into the vents and make people sick. If there were wild rats living in the vents it would be an entirely different story. But still, no dust. Unless it's really old and you crumble it up or something, in which case it's dried out to the point that there's probably no harmful bacteria anyway. At that point it's pretty much petrified, and many germs like things that are warm and moist, rather than dried up and forgotten. Depending on how long they've been down there, there's probably nothing left that would make you sick, as whatever germs were on it have had no host. From what I've read, it's actually urine and saliva from an affected animal that can make you sick - usually not their poop. It might be a gross fact, but they also tend to eat their poop (<<I wouldn't tell your mom that, though) because it's made to pass through them and be re-consumed for nutrients. I've never seen it make them sick!

I go about it like this - how long have you had your rats? All of the major zoonotic illnesses that I've read about that can come from them (RBF, Wiel's) take about two weeks to a month to show up in most humans. If you've had them longer than that, then there's really not as big of a risk. If they were going to get you or your family sick, they would have already. It's not like they just harbor pathogens out of spite. That's not to say you shouldn't keep clean or that you could never contract anything from them. If you ever go to a petstore or a dog park, you could always bring something home that they get and transfer. But, the same exact notion goes for dogs and cats. Their natural "germs" are not something to worry about as much. The air that you breathe around them is full of their bacteria just like it's full of your bacteria and even your mom's bacteria. In fact, the entire world is made of bacteria - most of them harmless or beneficial. There's a program that the Smithsonian channel put on that I believe is called "Superbug" or something of the like. It puts in perspective the bacteria we share our world with; including the fact that our pets have proportionately about as much as humans. Very good documentary!

If your stepmom is so worried about them causing diseases with their poop, you should ask her if she's ever had a cat or dog; or if she hates birds. Their poop is way more likely to cause disease. Pregnant women shouldn't change kitty litter or deal with cage cleaning for birds because their poop causes the miscarriage inducing and often fatal histoplasmosis. Rat poo, as far as I know, doesn't. Rats can become infected and pass it, but it comes from birds. The world is filled with animals that harbor diseases much more intimidating than the tiny pellets of our friend, the rat.
 

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As our rats go outdoors and come into contact with things indoor rats wouldn't, I can't say with quite the same certainty that our rat's poop is quite as sterile as that of indoor rats and as we have wild mice in the house the issue of cross contamination is real...

Still we haven't had any issues. For folks with hot house rats and no wild mice in the house I'd say your about as safe as you can be... For those of us with wild mice and true shoulder rats I can only say from experience we haven't had any issues yet...

Now if you live in an area where certain rodent borne diseases are prevalent you take your risks... both with wild mice in your home and with taking your rats outdoors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I do infact own a bird as well as rats. I've had my pair for a few months as well. Like I said, I'm not asking to go back and dissuade her from her beliefs, I just wanted to personally know how much of what she said was actually true. :3
 

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I don't see where rodent poop isn't or can't be a disease vector. Just that indoor rats living isolated from wild rodents aren't likely to contract or spread whatever the diseases are or might be in the future.

One day our rat came home covered in larval deer ticks, so it turns out ticks aren't born with lyme disease so while they are larval and living off of rodent's they don't usually carry lyme disease. They don't usually pick up lyme disease until they are old enough to get it from deer. But there may or may not be a possible disease vector there... In all reality, if your rats don't play in the tall grass pr where larval ticks are they can't pick up larval ticks, making the point moot.

Ebola and other viruses are currently just a few mutations and an economy airline ticket away from becoming a global pandemic, but we still go shopping. The fact is that you are way more likely to catch some lethal pathogen from going shopping at your local supermarket than you are from your indoor rats. The question isn't whether rat poop can make you sick. the question is what are the odds of it happening in your particular area and with your particular rats.

Life is full of risks.
 

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Can't really test for diseases(and would be costly to do so) . If she is worried about parasites she can always take poop samples to the local vet to have tested for internal parasites to make her feel better. (which they can get, but it's far more likely a dog or outdoor cat from your home would have them rather than your rats) but it might give her some sort of peace of mind about it.
 
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