Are Ferrets Hypoallergenic?
Anyone who has spent time with a pet ferret knows how funny, affectionate, and mischievous these animals can be. They are perfect pets for a number of different reasons, but those of us who suffer from allergies often wonder if a certain type of pet is hypoallergenic before we can bring one into our homes.
So the question becomes, are ferrets hypoallergenic? Unfortunately, there is no short answer to this question, but in this article, we will do our best to give you the most clear answers and help you to determine if you may be able to have ferrets without triggering your allergy symptoms.
What Makes A Pet Hypoallergenic?
A very common misconception about pet allergies is where the allergy comes from. Many people assume, incorrectly, that they are allergic to an animal’s fur, whereas in reality, people are allergic to the dander that attaches to the individual strands. People also tend to be allergic to an animal’s saliva. So, while no animal is truly hypoallergenic, those who are not licking your face or belongings, and are shedding little or produce less dander, will be easier for people with allergies to keep as pets.
Are Ferrets Good For Those With Allergies?
The best answer to this question is that ferrets can be good for those who suffer from allergies to cats and dogs, but there is no guarantee. For some, the dander on cats and dogs can trigger allergic reactions, whereas the dander on ferrets do not cause a problem. Additionally, ferrets tend not to produce large amounts of saliva like some breeds of dogs do, and ferret kisses are a little bit less aggressive that dog licks.
Additionally, the coat and the shedding cycle of a ferret tends to be a little bit different than that of many types of dogs and cats. While ferrets do shed small amounts throughout the year, they do not constantly shed the same way that many breeds of cats and dogs shed.
Ferrets have two separate layers of fur, the undercoat, which generally tends to be cream or white. This coat insulates the ferret throughout the colder months of the year. The top coat, also known as the guard hairs, are what gives your ferret its characteristic coloring, and helps to repel water and dirt. Twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring, your ferret will shed old guard hairs. At this point, if you are allergic to ferrets, you will probably have some issues with dander.
However, for most people who are allergic to ferrets, this is the only two times of the year that you will experience issues. Unfortunately, ferrets do not shed simultaneously, as their shedding process depends on their exposure to light. Therefore, if you have more than one ferret, you may be struggling with your allergies for multiple weeks at a time as they go through their shedding process.
Additionally, some people who are allergic to ferrets don’t just have problems with their dander and saliva, but their urine and feces as well. Since ferrets can be litter box trained, this might mean that a person who is allergic to ferrets should avoid spending significant amounts of time in a room that houses a ferret’s cage and litter box, and should avoid cleaning these fixtures.
How Can I Tell If I Am Allergic To Ferrets?
The worst time to determine if you are allergic to ferrets is when you bring your first little furry friend home. There are a couple of different ways you can determine if you are allergic to ferrets, as this is generally not in a standard allergy test panel at your allergist’s office. Ask a friend who has a ferret if you can come over and play with their furry friend and see how you react around the ferret and their habitat.
Similarly, contact a ferret rescue group or humane society who re-homes ferrets and see if you can spend some time with the ferrets. This way, if you determine you are not allergic to ferrets, you have spent some time with different ferrets and see what their personality is like so when you are ready to adopt one, you know which one meshes well with your needs.
Trying to determine if you are allergic to ferrets at a pet store is probably not advisable. Ferrets at the pet store are probably caged with many of their littermates and other ferrets, and someone who is not allergic to one or two ferrets may find they have a reaction to ten ferrets housed together. Additionally, there are so many different animals at a pet store, so it may be hard to differentiate what animal you are having a reaction to.
How To Manage Ferret Allergies
Despite all of the symptoms of ferret allergies, some people may find that their symptoms are mild or that they love ferrets too much to let allergies keep them from owning one as a pet. Here are a couple of tips in order to manage your allergies.
Talk With Your Allergist
If you find that you are having extreme allergic reactions to your ferrets, make an appointment with your allergist and see if they are able to give you allergy shots to help you manage your allergies.
Additionally, taking an over-the-counter allergy medication will also help you to manage your less severe allergy symptoms.
Clean Your Home Thoroughly
Even though ferrets do not shed the same amount throughout the year, ferret owners know they urinate and defecate quite frequently. Therefore, it is important to keep your home clean by vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting regularly, to avoid reacting to any small particles throughout the year. It’s also a good idea to wash your walls once a month to about knee height to remove any dander or other matter that has collected there that may be contributing to your allergies.
Get HEPA Filters
The simple act of getting an air purifier in your home will do wonders for your allergies, whether they are simply related to your ferret or if you are suffering from other allergies. These filters remove pet dander, pollen, dust, smoke, and other irritants to ensure that you breathe easy.
Keep Your Ferrets Habitat and Litter Box Clean
No one likes living in filth, and ferrets are no different! Use a low dust, recycled paper based litter in your ferret’s cage and litter box, and scoop both areas at least once per day. Once a week, completely change the litter in the cage and box, and wash out the bottom and sides. Take this time to wash any blankets, beds, or hammocks in your ferrets cage and any common sleeping places. This will help to cut down on dander levels as well keep your home free of feces and urine.
Don’t Give Your Ferrets Baths Regularly
This may seem counterintuitive, but it is inadvisable to give your ferret regular baths. Ferrets do a great job keeping themselves and their cage mates clean, so generally, there is no need to help your ferrets out. In fact, overbathing your ferret will cause them to to produce more oils which may cause allergy problems.
Of course, there are a couple reasons you may need to help a ferret out- due to illness or age, if they got into a substance that you need to get off their fur, or during shedding time. It’s advised to only bathe your ferrets twice per year, during their shedding period, to help lower levels of dander and help along their shed to avoid hairballs. It’s important to use a very gentle shampoo and be careful not to get too much water or shampoo in their eyes or ears.
Wash Your Hands
If you find yourself sneezing or coughing after playing with your ferret, there are a couple things you can do to prevent mild reactions. The first is wash your hands thoroughly after brushing, bathing, or playing with your ferret, and especially after cleaning out their litter box or cage. Additionally, after cuddling your ferret, make sure to wash your clothes before wearing them again to avoid a delayed reaction.
Don’t Adopt A Bunch Of Ferrets At Once
As a ferret owner who recognizes how much fun ferrets have with other ferrets and even other pets, it can be tempting to adopt a whole litter of ferrets at once or continue to add ferrets to your home year after year. However, no matter how fun these animals are, it isn’t advisable to have more than one or two ferrets in your home at a time if you are struggling with ferret allergies. It’s highly unlikely that multiple ferrets will go through their shed at the same time, leaving you stuffed up, red eyed, and coughing for multiple weeks throughout the year.
Pet allergies can be incredibly frustrating when you are trying to adopt a pet in need of a home. Thankfully, even if you are allergic to cats and dogs, it does not automatically mean that you are allergic to ferrets. Even if you are allergic to ferrets, there are many ways that you can manage your allergies and continue to have these loving creatures in your home.