Which Pet for Family with Allergies?

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Pets for 9-year-old with allergies

Dec 2007

Hello there, Our 9-year-old daughter has been asking for a pet -- something cute like a bunny or a kitty. We want to make her happy and teach her responsibility, but we have many constraints. We both work full-time and our daughter is of course in school all day. In addition, she has allergy (to dust, mold, grass and a few other things). Her allergy is now under control and we would like to keep it that way. We were told that cats don't mind our being away all day and are relatively easy to take care of. However, we are not sure if cats will make her allergy problem worse... We hope there are families like us who have successfully found that ideal cute pet (not rat, snake, goldfish or turtle). Do you have any suggestions? Thank you so much! Anonymous

I have a VERY cat allergic in-law, and when our cat died there was a lot of pressure not to get another, so I did a lot of research. We ended up getting a dog, but check out Siberian cats. They are a breed of (regular domestic) cat from russia that supposedly has WAY less of the protein in the saliva that causes allergies. There are many stories on the Siberian breeder websites about cat allergic people finally able to get a cat of this breed. There is a breeder in Los Gatos. If you got your daughter tested and found that she was allergic to cats, you could probably visit the breeder and see if she has much of a reaction to that breed. cat lover

Get a ferret! My husband had two female ferrets when I met him and I quickly fell in love. Ferrets are furry, rambunctious, and eternally curious - like little kittens that never grow up. You can buy them in Reno for around $100. It would definitely be worth the drive out of CA to purchase one! Wife of a ferret lover

Editor note: it is not legal to bring ferrets into California!

I'm allergic to cats, but I had no problem at all with a bunny. I would recommend a lop-eared bunny. They are more outgoing than other types of rabbits and they can be litter-box trained. Keep them away from electrical cords, however. If you have limited space, you can get a mini-lop. If you have a backyard, you might be able to get a larger lop. Allergic to cats

My daughter's best friend is allergic to fur

June 1999

My eight-year-old daughter is desperate for a pet, the problem: her best friend, who spends a lot of time at our house, is desperately allergic to anything with fur ... I've vetoed snakes & lizards, fish seem more like decoration than pets ... she currently has a crawfish, which in my opinion is kind of a pathetic pet but better than nothing. I'm considering those little turtles, the kind that live in water, but I know nothing about them. I assume they can be picked up and played with a little, at least more than a crawfish, and might live longer too. I grew up with cats and dogs, and it seems sad for a child to be deprived of the pleasure of the company of other living critters. Any suggestions would be welcome. Melinda

Try the Vivarium in Berkeley for a good look at fur-free pets. The staff are enthusiastic about caring for them and they can give you lots of pointers. -- becky

If you call the education office at the San Francisco SPCA (415-554-3000 ) I think they'll be able to give you good information on non-allergenic pets. As you probably know, the SPCA in the City is not just a pound: it's an amazing clearinghouse for information and referrals about animals.

The education office, in particular, specializes in letting people know about animals and what they're like. Call them and talk to an education officer (the office is busy: you might have to have the officer call you back). Explain all you've done: the animals you've considered and what your daughter needs, just as you did in your UCB message.

The SF SPCA also has an animal-assisted therapy program. They take all kinds of animals to homes, shelters, and hospitals to visit people, and they will know a lot about non-allergenic animals. If you call the animal-assisted therapy office, they may have good information.

The SPCA may have other offices or programs which can help, too. And, as with anything, if you don't get all the information you need, ask who you should call next.

Hamster for a child with asthma?

Aug 1998

I have a 6 year old w/ asthma and he wants a hamster. Anyone have kids w/ asthma that have hamsters? I wanted to know what kind of affect they have on asthmatics if any. Thanks! Em

My son and I have recently become summer babysitters for a dwart hamster (Siberian), which is very cute and has short fur and not much of it. I'm allergic to fur myself, but I've never had any problem with this little critter. If you want to look for hamsters, make sure you don't get a teddy bear hamster which does have long fur and might cause some problems. -- Diana

Regarding non-allergenic pets, I have faced the problem of wanting cuddly pets but being extremely allergic to all furry things. I discovered by chance though that either pet rats are small enough or they are not allergy ridden for me, and that they make GREAT pets. They are loving, gentle, very social little creatures. They need, like all babies, to be mothered and gentled when very young if you want one which is bonded to you. And they love company so I would definately get two (of the same sex!) (preferably females). Frederick Chopin Jr. (had great wee piano playing like hands) filled a huge pet void for me and won the hearts of all of my family and friends who though rats are unappetizing. Their is a marvelous vet named Dr. James Harris 510-339-8600 in Montclair who has cared for school rats for years. It was well worth our while to drive there from Berkeley when needed. He can educate you about the right (and wrong) kinds of wood shavings to put in the cage, what to feed them, etc. and was very reasonbly priced- he loves these little critters too. Andrea