Animals are thought to be hypoallergenic if they don't produce much dander, which chinchillas do not. However, if you have allergies, there are more factors to consider before making the decision to get a chin for a pet.
An allergy is what occurs when your immune system overreacts to a specific trigger that doesn't bother the average person. To combat the perceived invasion, allergic people produce antibodies which trigger the release of chemicals into their bloodstream. This reaction causes symptoms such as sneezing, hives or even life-threatening anaphylaxis. People who are allergic to dogs, cats or other pets are usually reacting to airborne animal dander, which includes the flakes of dead skin they shed, or to the saliva that gets on their fur through normal grooming.
Hypoallergenic or Non-Allergenic?
Contrary to popular belief, hypoallergenic means something is less likely to cause allergic reactions, rather than having no allergens at all. Since they produce little dander, technically chinchillas could be considered hypoallergenic. And those who are allergic to other furry pets may find they can own a chin with little or no problem.
However, chinchillas are not non-allergenic. Despite that lush, soft fur, they don't shed as much as you might expect, but they do shed some, especially when the seasonal temperatures change. In addition, you may not be allergic to the chin himself, but his food or items in his habitat could bring on an allergic reaction.
- Chinchillas bathe in a light powdery dust several times a week. This fine dust is needed to remove greasiness from the chinchilla's fur, and the dust is prone to flying around the room when the chinchilla rolls in it and subsequently shakes off the excess. This airborne dust can cause allergic reactions in those who are allergic to dust.
- Chinchillas need wood shavings in the bottom of their cages, like most pet rodents, to absorb urine. People who are allergic to wood dust might have reactions to the pine dust when it becomes airborne through the chinchilla's normal activity -- and a chinchilla is extremely active, especially at night.
- Chinchillas eat food pellets but also dry alfalfa and timothy hay. Those that have hay allergies may be bothered by the hay dust that becomes airborne when the chin eats.
As a result, even if you find that a chinchilla himself does not bother your allergies, it's possible that the process of keeping your pet healthy and happy might have the opposite effect on you.
Heather Vale is a writer, interviewer and seasoned journalist. She has authored news, entertainment and informational programming in TV, radio, print and online media. She is also a certified childhood fitness and nutrition specialist with a background in mind-body-spirit health, self-help, business, technology and pet breeding. Vale holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in visual arts from York University.