By Hannah Woit
If your nose itches merely in the vicinity of fur, even a “low allergy” cat or dog may not be for you. “Dander allergens are actually found in their saliva and urine,” warns James Sublett, MD, chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology indoor environment committee.
RELATED: Keep The Pet, Lose The Allergies
A turtle, goldfish, or gerbil might not be as cuddly as a kitty, but love comes in many forms. Check out the following allergy-friendly pets to see which would best fit your lifestyle.
Reptiles and Amphibians
If your allergies are severe and your home needs to be completely dander free, consider a reptile or amphibian. Even these scaly or slippery pets can have a therapeutic effect: In one study at Tel Aviv University in Israel, researchers found that holding a turtle reduced participants’ anxiety levels about as much as holding a soft, fuzzy rabbit did—even for people who did not classify themselves as animal lovers.
Special Care for Reptiles & Amphibians:
Exo Terra habitat kits (exo-terra.com) have almost everything you need to get started: a terrarium with front-opening doors, a light, and a water dish.
Be sure to wash your hands after handling these pets or cleaning their habitats, as some amphibians and reptiles bring the potential risk of Salmonella.
Just because you can’t hold a pet fish doesn’t mean it won’t give you comfort. Studies show that watching fish (even just a video of a live aquarium) can lower your heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure—all signs of stress reduction. Plus, a University of California, Davis, study found that fish owners view each other as more patient, curious, and committed—so get an aquarium and you may find yourself with some quality human friends as well as fishy ones.
Special Care for Fish:
“Dust mites can feed on flaky fish food, so wipe down the top of the tank to remove remnants,” Dr. Sublett says. Newer aquariums are pretty low maintenance.
Some, like the biOrb (biorbfishtanks.com) can be cleaned using a magnetic device, so you never have to scrape algae.
If your pet dander allergies are minor and you have your heart set on a furry friend, consider a hamster or gerbil—or even a rat. “Rats are a good choice if you want hands-on interaction,” says Marty Becker, DVM, who has written 22 books on pets and is featured on vetstreet.com. “They have less hair than other rodents and love being handled.” They also don’t demand the run of the house the way a cat or dog does. The small amounts of dander may not bother you if you use HEPA air cleaners and keep the cage somewhere outside your bedroom.