Chinchillas are an extremely popular pet due to their cute behaviors – after all, who doesn’t love watching them take a dust bath?
With their soft, luxurious furs, it doesn’t come at a surprise that more and more people are looking to adopt one of these lovable rodents into their family.
However, like with any pet, before adopting, it’s important to do your research and make sure that a chinchilla would fit well into your daily life.
One of the main questions asked by potential chinchilla adopters is whether or not they are hypoallergenic.
What Causes Pet Allergies?
A common misconception is that pet allergies are caused by the fur of your animal when they shed.
This is only partially true. You see, pet allergies are actually a complex biological reaction to – not your animal’s fur or even dander – but a certain organic compound known as a protein.
When your chinchilla grooms itself, it uses its mouth and saliva, where these proteins, known commonly as allergens in this case, are.
The proteins then bind to your chinchilla’s fur and skin cells, or dander. When the fur sheds or the dander flakes off, you then become at risk for inhaling the cells and, thus, the protein.
Once in your body, your immune system reacts to keep the allergen from harming you.
Your immune system produces different antibodies, one of which is known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE).
The protein binds to IgE and produces histamine, which causes the allergic reaction you know.
Knowing this, it’s much easier to answer the question of whether or not chinchillas are hypoallergenic.
Hypoallergenic: Fact or Fiction?
This can be a tough question to answer, and it’s easier when broken down into sections.
First, chinchillas are not hypoallergenic, but, as seen above, no animal is truly hypoallergenic as they all have saliva and groom themselves.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t own a chinchilla if you have allergies.
While they’re not hypoallergenic, due to the thickness of their short coats, chinchillas are not excessive shedders.
This fact, paired alongside proper grooming, means that chinchillas are allergy-friendly pets even though they can’t be considered hypoallergenic.
Can Allergies be Prevented or Cured?
The best way to help prevent having an allergic reaction to your chinchilla is by providing a healthy diet and grooming them regularly.
This will keep their fur and skin in top shape, which keeps shedding to a minimum level.
What Should you Feed Your Chinchilla?
In order for your chinchilla to be at their best health, which in turn will help prevent excessive shedding that can trigger or worsen your allergies, it’s important to make sure that they have a proper diet.
Good quality hay and clean water provided in a bottle should be available at all times.
For their main meal, you should feed them one to two teaspoons of grass-based pellets designed for chinchillas once a day.
As an occasional treat, chinchillas also enjoy many dried fruits such as raisins. You can also feed them many raw fruits and even herbs and some tree nuts.
However, all of these are treats and should only be given to your chinchilla occasionally. High quantities of fruits can harm your chinchilla’s sensitive digestive tract.
How to Groom a Chinchilla
When it comes to grooming, chinchillas take care of most of it by themselves, just like cats.
They are also naturally odorless, so you don’t have to worry about any disgruntling musks.
All of this means that, while minimal grooming is still required, it’s much easier than it is for larger animals.
Before you learn about how to groom your chinchilla, though, it’s important to know what not to do. Chinchillas aren’t like your regular pets.
When it’s time to groom them, you can’t simply draw up a nice bath and wash them.
Due to the denseness of your chinchilla’s fur, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to fully dry them in a reasonable time.
This can lead to painful and potentially dangerous bacterial and fungal infections.
The Correct Way: Dust Baths
Instead, your chinchilla needs regular dust baths.
These baths, which can be amusing to watch, help remove loose fur from the coat and absorbs excess moisture, helping keep your chinchilla clean.
To give your chinchilla a dust bath, simply fill a small container – you can buy special containers designed specifically for dust baths that will keep your chinchilla from making a mess – with around 2 inches of a store-bought dust made specifically for chinchillas, such as this one.
Your chinchilla will require a dust bath two to three times a week in order to keep their coats in good health and prevent excessive shedding that could worsen your allergies.
When it comes to brushing, you can skip that step. Most chinchillas do not require brushing – in fact, a majority dislike it and doing so can cause them stress.
If you notice, however, that your chinchilla’s fur is matted, a long-toothed comb and a gentle touch can be used just to remove the knot.
This should be done as carefully as possible to prevent causing your chinchilla any harm or distress.
Final Thoughts: Are Chinchillas Hypoallergenic?
Doing your research before adopting any pet, whether it’s a dog, chinchilla, or even a horse, is always important as it helps you decide whether or not a certain animal would thrive in your home.
It’s also important for your own health and safety, especially if you have allergies. Of course, no animal is 100% hypoallergenic, but that doesn’t mean owning one is out of the question.
You can have allergies and still have a lovable companion like a chinchilla thanks to the fact that, while they’re not hypoallergenic, they are allergy-friendly.
The key step to making sure both you and your chinchilla coexist in a happy and healthy environment is regular care and grooming.
This is to help prevent any excessive shedding or self-grooming that could potentially aggravate your immune system and produce an allergic reaction.
Thankfully, chinchillas have a relatively simple diet, and grooming only consists of regular dust baths – which means more time for playing and spending time with your new, furry best friend.