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Last Updated: Tuesday October 07 2008 14:16 GMT

Exotic pets 'could make kids ill'

a hedgehog curls up in the hands of its owner (AP Photo/Al Grillo)

Lizards, turtles, even hedgehogs... it might sound cool to own an unusual pet, but experts in America are warning they could make you ill.

Experts say some creatures carry bugs which they can pass on to young kids and old people and make them sick.

And other exotic animals like iguanas and monkeys can bite or scratch, causing wounds that could get infected.

Parents with children under the age of five are being told to avoid having an unusual animal as a pet.

Most families in America have one or more pet, according to the study.

Forty thousand homes have hedgehogs, but they're one of the animals which can carry a bug called salmonella.

hamster
Even hamsters could make kids ill!
Dr Larry Pickering from the American Academy of Paediatrics said: "Many parents clearly don't understand the risks from various infections these animals often carry."

Other animals which could be bad for kids' health include hamsters, monkeys, baby chicks, and ferrets.

However, the researchers say that learning to care for animals can be good for children.