There’s nothing quite like the feeling of nuzzling your nose into the bristles of a hedgehog’s belly, necessary quill precautions taken, of course. Or watching it shyly curl into a ball like a roly-poly bug, cradled in your hands. Irresistible is the temptation to give its sweet face a little kiss, or tug playfully at its tiny, bony feet.
It almost seems criminal not to cuddle something so cute and wee.
At least, that’s what the Coloradoans who caught salmonella in 2019 from cuddling their pet hedgehogs said right before their unpleasant symptoms kicked in. Fortunately, everyone was OK. But the CDC issued pet owners a stern warning: stop nuzzling your hedgehogs, and don’t let them crawl around in your bed. (Because apparently that’s a thing.)
It wasn’t the first time unconventional pets gave their owners a bad case of something you don’t want to have. In 2020, Colorado was involved in a multi-state salmonella outbreak resulting from pet owners mishandling their backyard chickens. The seemingly harmless yard birds sickened enough people that the CDC issued a public service announcement, urging chicken owners to stop kissing and snuggling their poultry.
Even pet turtles and bearded dragons have been implicated in salmonella outbreaks. The turtles tend to be master escape artists too, but that’s a different story.