Pet Allergies – Hedgehogs and Pom-Poms

What are pet allergies?

Pet allergies, most often to dogs and cats (but also includes other furry pets), affect nearly 20% of the population worldwide, and the percentage is growing.  Allergic reactions are the result of cat and dog dander which contains oils that coat and protect their fur. These oils contain proteins that stimulate the human immune system. Similarly, most furry pets use their own saliva to clean themselves, which can also trigger an allergic reaction in people with pet allergies. For some, these reactions are mild and can be treated with over-the-counter medications.  However, for a segment of those allergic, these allergies can be severe, requiring hospitalization, or can even result in death.

The Tuft and Garland Allergy Problem

Tuft and Garland is a family run company and regrettably nearly every member of the family is allergic to furred pets.  We have made attempts at owning different varieties of furred pets, but, in the end, the results have been severe allergic reactions that required medical attention, and having to finding new homes for the pets. In addition, with each time a pet was given away, the heartache and sadness grew. So, while no member of Tuft and Garland has owned a hedgehog as a pet, the potential sadness of not being able to keep one after bringing it home is too great to risk it.

Toy Hedgehogs Instead

Instead, we have two toy hedgehogs that hang out with the pom-poms and don’t mind having their pictures taken to show off our products and participate in company campaigns.   Check out more about our Toy mascots, Tuft and Garland here.

Can You be Allergic to Live Hedgehogs?

The short answer is yes, but Hedgehog allergies are not quite the same as other pet allergies.  Studies have shown that people allergic to cats and dogs have a propensity to be allergic to other furred animals as well. However, it is not the fur that an allergic person’s immune system is responding to it is the natural oils in the fur, and the saliva used by the pet to clean themselves, that are the triggers.   Hedgehogs use similar methods to clean themselves as other furred mammals, and while they have specialized fur that makes up their quills, they still produce natural oils to maintain their quill health. 

However, saliva and dander are not the most common things that people are allergic to related to hedgehogs.  Instead, hedgehogs have hardened fur called quills that can leave prick marks or minor skin perforations when they are handled.  These may result in red bumps on the skin of people with sensitive skin. For people who are allergic to hedgehogs these pricks also push dander below the skin and can intensify an allergic reaction. 

Many people have reported allergies to hedgehogs that were actually found to be allergies to the bedding the hedgehogs prefer and the dust they play in.  And like people allergic to hedgehog dander, dust and bedding embedded in the skin by the hedgehog’s quills causes a fast and intense allergic reaction. People with these types of allergies may be able to change their hedgehogs’ bedding and give their hedgehogs baths more often to eliminate most of these problems.  In addition, those who have found the quills irritating can minimize the problem by using a soft towel to handle their hedgehog. To learn more about hedgehogs see our hedgehog resources page.

Can You be Allergic to Pom-Poms?

While it may sound like a silly question, people who suffer from severe pet allergies, or allergies to certain materials like wool or polyester, do need to be concerned about where pom-poms are made or stored, in the same way they would any other cloth or upholstery.  Dander, oils, and saliva can be found in a pom-pom if it is made in a place where pets live or visit.  In the case of Tuft and Garland pom-poms, our pom poms are made in a home without furry pets or furred visitors.  However, we do have a pet bird.  The pet bird, a small yellow canary named Orville, doesn’t care much for pom-poms.  He finds them scary and never wants to be near them.  A person who has a severe allergy to birds may need to know this but is it unlikely there is enough exposure to trigger an allergic reaction in most cases.

As for materials, wool allergies are also very common, and wool is a material used by many other crafters to make pom-poms.  However, Tuft and Garland makes all our pom-poms from acrylic yarn.  Acrylic yarn is considered by most to be more hypoallergenic and filled with less dust and organic materials than natural fibers. However, there are cases of individuals who are sensitive to artificial materials as well.  Our pom-poms are made of artificial materials, but those same materials are also what give our pom poms the ability to be machine washed.  And the best defense for people with pet or dust allergies is frequent washing.  

To learn more about allergies and pet allergies check out this article by Very Well Health.

What do you think? Have your own allergy story to share? Please let me know in the comments below.


Post written and mood board designed by Darhla Gilson, registered architect, co-owner, and lead designer for Tuft & Garland.

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