When it comes to keeping small rodents as pets for the benefit of elementary children in a classroom setting, there are many pros and cons. Aside from the fact that the children will ultimately have to deal with the possible death of the class mascot, there are also many responsibilities that will have to be given regarding guinea pig care and feeding, with quite a few children forgetting to feed or properly care for the pets while they are in their care.
Some classrooms give children the chance to take the class pet home on weekends, holiday weekends or on winter and spring vacation. Again, while this can be a great opportunity for children to learn more about keeping small rodents as pets and about responsibility, it can also put a lot of stress on the child if something happens to the pet on their watch.
When in doubt, speak with your local Dartmouth animal hospital for tips on proper care of classroom pets and schedule a regular veterinary check-up for the animal before the school year starts or before the animal goes home with a student.
Which Types of Pets Are Best?
Choosing which type of small pets to keep in the classroom can also be challenging. Each pet has its own set of pros and cons that must be considered. Here is a basic list of some of the benefits associated with common classroom pets, as well as some of the concerns that other teachers and parents have had with regard to the care and exposure to these specific animals.
- RATS – One of the more popular choices, rats are very intelligent and can be trained to do tricks that will impress even the most stubborn elementary school student. Unfortunately, they do not have a very long lifespan and are known to have a lot of health issues that can require a regular veterinary check-up and treatment.
- MICE – Another common choice in small rodents as pets, mice are very active and entertaining, especially to small children. Drawbacks include a very strong and distinct odor, making them require a lot of extra cleaning and care. They are also more difficult to handle than other small classroom pets and have a very short lifespan.
- GERBILS – Many schools choose gerbils because they are very healthy and have very good tempers. However, they are difficult for children to handle because they are so quick and they are nocturnal, which makes them not as active and interesting as other types of small rodents as pets.
- HAMSTERS – Very cute and totally appealing, especially to young children. Unfortunatey, many hamsters have bad tempers, making them difficult for kids to handle and take care of on their own or even in a classroom setting.
- RABBITS – Depending on the type of rabbit that you choose, that small classroom pet could end up being very large when it is full grown. If they are mishandled, rabbits can be easily injured and the care and feeding or them can be challenging.
- GUINEA PIGS – Very friendly animals and quite easy to handle compared to other small rodents. Guinea pig care and feeding is pretty straight-forward, but they could require care at the local Dartmouth animal hospital if they become ill as a result of poor basic care requirements. A regular veterinary check-up is recommended.
- REPTILES – Require less daily care and are very interesting and unique compared to other classrooms that keep small rodents as pets. However, to set up a proper habitat, it can be quite expensive. Salmonella concerns should also be considered when allowing children to handle reptiles.
Which Animal is Best?
Of all the common small animals mentioned in our list for classroom pets, the most highly recommended choice is the guinea pig. When children learn about taking care of small animals, they don’t just learn about responsibility and compassion, they also gain a greater understanding of what it takes to properly provide for guinea pig care and feeding. Too often, parents purchase pets for kids thinking that the kids will take care of the pet. Unfortunately, most children are unaware of how much goes into the daily care of most pets.
If you still aren’t sure what type of animal is best for your classroom, speak with one of the veterinarians or staff members at the Dartmouth animal hospital. Anchor Animal Hospital has been providing quality care and veterinary check-up opportunities for a wide variety of animals for many years. Call to set up an appointment for any small rodents as pets or to learn more about proper guinea pig care and feeding for your classroom pet.