One issue that prevents many prospective owners from having a pet rodents is allergies - whether you experience runny noses, itchy eyes, watery eyes, and coughing around animals, allergic reactions can be a large consideration of why not to get a pet.
This leads many prospective owners to look for a hypoallergenic pet. In this article, we’ll go over if chinchillas are hypoallergenic and how to curb any potential allergic reactions.
What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?
The first thing that we want to do before we talk about if chinchillas are hypoallergenic is to break down exactly what hypoallergenic means so that you have the most thorough understanding of it.
It is important to understand that hypoallergenic does not mean that they are completely free of allergens, rather it is merely a term that means they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction compared to animals that are not considered hypoallergenic.
Not Completely Trigger Free
Basically, what it means for animals is that the ones that produce very little dander or skin cells that trigger allergy that gets into the air and can less likely trigger an allergic reaction in people's immune system are considered hypoallergenic.
With the above in mind, it is extremely important to still take precautions whenever you are handling any animal when you have allergies to pet dander, no matter if they’re considered hypoallergenic or not to prevent possibilities of severe or mild allergic reaction.
Are Chinchillas Hypoallergenic Pets?
Having allergies to pet dander makes being a pet owner difficult since there are only a few pets you can own if you or someone else in the house suffers from them.
Chinchillas are an excellent pet for allergy sufferers. Chinchillas are considered hypoallergenic pets, which means that owners who cannot have cats or dogs can now enjoy spending time and bonding with a furry friend.
As mentioned above, chinchillas are considered hypoallergenic, but that does not mean they’re entirely allergen free - as people with severe allergies could still have a reaction when interacting with a chinchilla.
What Makes a Chinchilla a Hypoallergenic Pet?
In spite of the fact that chinchillas do produce and shed allergy triggering skin cells, dead skin or animal dander, their quantities are much smaller than most other pets, which is why they are less likely to trigger allergies and asthma in their owners.
It is worth mentioning, however, that there are times of the year when dander or dead skin production can be higher, for instance, when the weather changes, but overall this production is still very low at the end of the day.
This isn’t to say that owning a chinchilla is an allergy-free experience as people can have an allergic reaction by certain things like their dust bath they bathe in or the hay dust or even fine dust from the food pellets they eat.
You don't necessarily have to give up owning chinchillas just because of these allergies, however, you have to take some precautions if you do.
Possible Allergens In A Chinchilla's Cage
Now that we’ve ruled out chinchillas as a likely allergy trigger, let’s talk about what in their environment can cause an allergic reaction in humans.
As mentioned above, there are two main causes of allergies in a chinchilla's cage and that is the dust in their dust bath and the hay that they eat. The wooden bedding that some owners choose to use in their chinchilla cages may also trigger allergic reactions in some people sine these may produce fine dust releasing to the air.
There are several ways in which these allergens can be reduced, but if you are severely allergic to these things, then a chinchilla or other furry pets may not be the right pet for you.
Is There Hypoallergenic Dust for bathing?
It is not uncommon for large amounts of dust in the air to be a common allergen for many people. This situation presents itself as a problem considering the fact that chinchillas bathe in dust that’s made out of either pumice sand or volcanic ash.
Chinchilla dust meant for bathing can certainly be a cause of sniffles and sneezes in owners who have allergies, which makes owners wonder if there's a better alternative to pumice or volcanic ash dust.
Unfortunately, there’s not any place where you can find hypoallergenic chinchilla dust nor are there ways to bathe a chinchilla without using a dust bath.
What to do during Chinchilla baths?
If your allergic reaction is mild enough, we recommend having someone else in the home give your chinchillas dust baths if possible - and staying a far enough distance away to not have the dust blown up in your face and get into your system that may cause your allergic reaction.
Additionally, we recommend thoroughly sweeping up the room after dust baths to ensure as few particles are lingering in the air as possible. Powerful vacuums may help however the noise from your vacuum may stress out your pet chinchilla.
Other Alternatives To Wood Shavings
Wood dust can be another common trigger for allergies and wood shavings as bedding can often be a culprit for allergic chinchilla owners.
There are many bedding alternatives to shavings as bedding in a chinchilla's cage - many owners will wrap the shelves up in non-pill fleece or lay non-pill fleece directly into the metal pans that come with certain chinchilla cages.
This takes away any concern of wood dust flying up and filling the air entirely and is the most recommended for chinchilla owners who may have allergies.
Some owners will keep a small pan (such as a glass pie pan) with a smaller amount of wood shavings or pine pellets and attempt to litter train their chinchillas - there is a dispute as to the effectiveness of this as chinchillas aren’t the easiest animals to train.
What to do if You’re Allergic To Your Chinchilla's Food?
This is one of the trickier allergies to combat as there are no alternatives to feeding your chinchilla their diet of Timothy Hay or similar hay.
The reason Timothy Hay is most popular with owners is largely due to its nutritional value for a chinchilla's diet and price point, as Timothy Hay both provides everything a chinchilla needs in their diet and is the most available hay to find in bulk quantities.
Are there Hypoallergenic Hays Available?
The good news is that there are chinchilla-safe hays that can trigger fewer allergies in owners. Specifically, Orchard Grass can be a better option for chinchillas that may be underweight due to its higher caloric content than most other chinchilla-safe hays.
If you’re unable to find bulk quantities of hay that’s safer for your allergies, this is again where we recommend having someone else in the home feed the chinchilla their hay and remain a safe distance away during meal times for your chinchilla.
Making A Chinchilla Cage Allergy Friendly
While we’ve covered the most common allergens and how to work around them, there are a few things you can still do in your cage to make it as allergic owner friendly as possible.
The most important thing you can do is make sure your chinchilla's cage and the surrounding area are thoroughly cleaned as often as possible, as this will remove many of the particles in the air that can trigger allergic reactions.
Ask for Help from Other Chinchilla Loving People
Additionally, having another person in the home to handle what your known allergens are is an incredibly helpful way to prevent flare-ups. However, if you don’t have another person in the home to help with taking care of a chinchilla, there are still steps you can take to be safe.
We recommend having a specific set of clothes accessible to wear when you’re handling any allergens, and thoroughly washing any skin that comes into contact after to prevent particles from lingering.
Allergy Proof Yourself
Additionally, some owners with allergies recommend that you wear a protective mask on your nose and mouth and gloves if your allergies are more prone to flaring up because this keeps you from directly breathing in or handling allergens while you are taking care of your chinchilla.
There are also things you can do to make the house itself more allergy-friendly with a chinchilla, such as making sure the chinchilla cage is located in a spot that you don’t frequent regularly, like a bedroom or office. Perhaps place them in a corner of your house where you seldom go to but also is comfortable enough for your chinchilla in terms of temperature.
It is also a good idea to buy an air purifier if the cage is located in a more confined location of the house in order to keep dust and hay particles out of the air you breathe.
Chinchillas are among the most hypoallergenic exotic pets you can own, as they produce and shed very little dander from day to day. However, there are other allergens to consider such as their food, bedding, and dust.
These factors don't mean that you can't get a chinchilla, but they do mean that you will need to take special measures to take care of them and how you house them if you do.
There is, however, a possibility that you will have severe allergies or asthma caused by any of the above, so we are unable to recommend a chinchilla in good faith as the right pet for you to not possibly mess up your immune system.
Have Questions About Allergies and Chinchillas or Chinchillas?
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Author Bio: Morgan Mulac