Ferrets are becoming more and more popular as pets in America, and a big reason for that is because they’re considered hypoallergenic animals. They shed twice a year and that’s the only time you might have to be extra careful around your ferret. But most people that are allergic to cats and dogs are not allergic to ferrets.
In this article, we’ll talk about why are ferrets considered hypoallergenic and whether they’re a good fit for you or not.
Are ferrets hypoallergenic?
The answer is sadly not as simple as “Yes” or “No”. It all depends on what type of allergy you have and what type of ferret you own. Most people that are allergic to typical domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, can own a ferret without any issues. This is because the allergy is not caused by the fur, but it can actually be triggered by the dander.
Since ferrets only shed around one week in fall and one week in spring, they are considered hypoallergenic and they can be owned by anyone that doesn’t have a severe allergy to animals. But the truth is that no animal is truly hypoallergenic and you should always wash your hands very well after playing with the ferret.
There are very few people that experience serious allergies to ferrets. But you should also keep in mind that they’re not an extremely popular pet and that scientists haven’t made enough research on ferret allergy. They are often recommended as pets for people with mild allergies but most people don’t like them because of their strong musky smell.
Can you be allergic to ferrets?
You can definitely be allergic to ferrets but it happens very rarely. The reason why it’s possible to be allergic to an animal that’s considered hypoallergenic is that your allergic reaction can get triggered by other things besides the pet’s fur. All the dander that remains on you during the shedding season can be dangerous to people with bad allergies.
But you can also get an allergic reaction if you’re simply getting licked on your hand by the ferret. Dogs show all their affection through licking, which is why you could get an extreme reaction to them. But since a ferret licks very gently, you might have mild symptoms or you might not even notice the allergy at all. This is another reason why you need to wash your hands very well after playing with an animal.
Besides dander and saliva, you can get an allergic reaction by attempting to clean the ferret’s litter and clean their cage. This should only be done by someone that has no animal allergy. If you have even the slightest allergy around your ferret, don’t even stay in the same room as their cage that is full of hair, urine, and poop.
Do ferrets shed a lot?
The amount a ferret will shed completely depends on what type of coat it has. An Angora ferret that has a very long coat will naturally shed a lot to change its coat. But most ferrets have short hair and they have less hair to shed during the shedding season. Be careful around late fall and late spring as this is the time a ferret needs to change its coat.
The worse thing you can do if you have an allergy is to have more than two ferrets. This is because they will almost never shed at the same time, which means you will have to deal with a couple of weeks of torture both in the fall and in the spring. Ferrets thrive in pairs and they develop deeper bonds with other ferrets than with humans. This means it’s highly recommended to get two ferrets instead of one.
Can ferrets trigger asthma?
Ferrets can trigger various breathing problems, including asthma. If you have asthma or similar health issues you might want to look for an exotic pet that doesn’t have fur. They are perfectly safe when they’re not shedding, but when the shedding season comes they’re the same as any animal. You might not want to part ways with your loving pet, which is why it’s important to take all the precautions necessary to avoid having a reaction while playing with it.
If you’re not sure whether you’re allergic to ferrets or not, you can find a specific IgE ImmunoCAP test that lets you know. They’re commercially available and they’re known to be pretty accurate. A less trustworthy way to find if you’re allergic is if an allergist creates a homemade extract for skin testing. He will use any available suspected allergens but it’s not 100% trustworthy.
Is hair loss normal for ferrets?
If the hair loss is happening outside the shedding season you need to take your ferret to the vet, especially if the shedding starts from the tail. This is caused by a hormonal problem that is known as adrenocortical disease. It’s very common as almost half of the ferrets will develop this over three years old. There can be other causes as well, which is why a trip to the vet is a must.
A ferret with the adrenocortical disease will start losing patches of hair from the tail all over to their neck and more. With time, they will lose all fur. This can be treated by your vet and it’s not fatal. You should also run to the vet if your ferret develops a “rat tail”. This happens when the pet loses all hair at the tip of its tail and is a sign of another disease.
What to do about ferret allergies?
If you love your ferrets and would like to keep them even if you have a ferret allergy, all you can do is take all the necessary precautions to ensure you won’t have to deal with any serious reactions. This includes a lot of cleaning and a lot of washing. But not of the ferret, you will have to wash all the time. Washing the ferret can cause an overproduction of oils and the allergy will get a lot worse.
It’s important to clean everything inside the ferret’s cage with bleach at least twice a week. The only things you should wash only with soap are their water and food bowls. This might seem like a lot of work, but it will only take less than 20 minutes. Change the bedding as well and wash it very well with a detergent made for sensitive skin and that doesn’t have a strong fragrance.
You should always schedule a day every month for breaking the cage down and disinfecting it properly. Most cages on the market are easy to break down and even easier to clean. It also doesn’t take more than an hour to get everything done.