“Furever” Homes for Allergy-Proof Pets

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Pets are a great addition to any home. Pets reduce stress with snuggles and they’re always happy to see us. They help to reduce anxiety and create an environment of learning for kids.

That being said, many would-be pet owners are deterred from getting a partner or buddy because of allergies to fur, feathers and pet dander. Fur-bearing companions such as dogs and cats don’t mean to cause their human owners discomfort in the form of sneezing, wheezing and itching, but when allergies are present, being a pet owner can be unbearable.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, about 10 percent of Americans are allergic to animals, with between 20 percent and 30 percent of asthmatics experiencing allergies to pets. The primary source of animal-induced allergies is dander. Animal dander is not the fur or hair of the animal itself, but the microscopic skin cells that flake off when the animal sheds. Cats seem to be a bigger culprit than dogs, with twice as many people showing symptoms from their feline friends. So what options are there for animal lovers who seek an “allergy-proof” companion?

Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds
Felines may be a big culprit of animal allergies, but certain breeds are considered a safer choice for allergy sufferers. Despite what many think, it’s not always a cat’s hair that causes these symptoms. The trigger for most cat allergies is a protein named Fel D1 that cats produce in their skin, saliva and urine. When cats groom themselves, the protein in their saliva dries on their fur. Those who are committed to adding a cat to their family can consider breeds such as Sphynx, Balinese, Bengal, Burmese, colorpoint shorthair and Cornish rex. The drawback is that all cats produce some amount of dander, so finding a 100-percent dander- or allergy-free cat is not possible.

Allergy-Proof Dogs
Many experts argue there’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic breed of canine, but there are a handful of dogs that produce or release fewer allergens due to their fur and skin composition. These breeds include the Kerry blue terrier, Bichon frisé, poodles and Portuguese water dog. Though they possess low-maintenance coats, all of these breeds require occasional grooming and regular baths. Another dog breed growing in popularity is the Bergamasco. Bergamascos have thick, matted locks that reach the ground and make them look somewhat like a rag mop on four legs. The dense mats of hair keep most of the dander from releasing into their owner’s home.

Although the sight of a snake can invoke a less-than-positive response in many people, snakes make excellent pets. Snakes are relatively low-maintenance critters that enjoy being handled and held. More tolerant and mild-mannered legless reptiles such as ball pythons, milk snakes, and corn snakes are great starter pets for anyone looking for a buddy they don’t have to exercise or house train. Snakes need larger tanks to live in, in the range of 20 to 40 gallons, but for the most part, they don’t mind being left alone. The only drawback with snakes as pets is that they like to eat live food such as mice, but they can be easily trained to eat frozen instead.

Even small kids can learn to feed, clean and care for these pets. Fish don’t need much attention beyond feeding and a regular tank cleaning. They may not be cuddly, but many kinds of fish have distinct personalities. Easy-to-care-for fish breeds such as bettas, sallies, platies and plecos are big on character and entertaining to watch. All fish need careful consideration when it comes to monitoring water temperature, salinity and food intake, so start with less fussy freshwater fish that are hardy and don’t require special water or lighting.

If spiders give you the heebie-jeebies, this arachnid may not be the best idea. Tarantulas are favorite pets for teens and surprisingly easy to take care of. If parents can get past the crawly part, this pet is not only hypoallergenic; they are quiet and non-messy. The three things tarantulas like best are to crawl, eat live bugs and sleep. Their habitat is an aquarium in which they can move around and relax. If you are looking for a snuggle buddy, this pet isn’t a good choice, but these crawlers are still a good option for animal allergy sufferers.

If pet-induced allergies still seem to present themselves on occasion, consider installing an air-cleaning system that is equipped with HEPA technology. Since pet allergens are often lightweight and airborne, they can be captured by a high-quality air purification system that is effective at removing ultra-small particles. To ensure that the purifier is effective against allergens, replace the filter regularly as directed. ■

Sources: acaai.org, akc.org, catoverdose.com, fishkeepingworld.com, learn.allergyandair.com and the experience of the author.