Taking Care of Classroom Pets in Southeastern Massachusetts

School is back in session, and kids from all over the South Coast area are headed back to the classroom. Books, recess, school lunches, and homework fill up the day, teaching kids life lessons that will hopefully stick with them into adulthood. One of the best “teaching moments” in an elementary classroom is the opportunity to provide care for a classroom pet. Many teachers choose to adopt small rodents as pets, as they are relatively easy to care for, can be active and interesting to children, and allow for shared caretaking as part of the lesson. Unfortunately, there are many negative situations and experiences related to classroom pets due to a lack of understanding regarding the basic care that is required for many of these creatures.

Start With a Field Trip to the Veterinarian
Many households only take their pets to the vet for the initial shots and if their pet gets into an accident or has some ailment that cannot be ignored. A trip to your local Southeastern Massachusetts veterinarian can foster an understanding of the importance of annual check-ups, vaccinations, and preventive treatments for all local Westport pet owners. A good veterinarian can provide kids with tips for care and feeding, habitat provision and even winter tips for small pets to keep them safe during cold weather. If a trip to the vet is not possible, consider inviting a local veterinarian to your classroom to provide a presentation and offer a discussion with students. This is a very important part of pet ownership and responsibility.

Adopt – Don’t Shop!
Another important lesson that can come from keeping small animals or small rodents as pets in the classroom is to adopt from a local rescue or animal shelter instead of purchasing a pet from a local pet store. Adoption helps children to understand that all animals are a lifelong commitment, not just an annual “experiment” in animal care. A small mammal that has been kept in the classroom year after year can become a class mascot, helping children to understand the importance of ongoing care throughout the pet’s life. Celebrating the pet’s birthday, discussion about changing needs over time, and getting information from the local Southeastern Massachusetts veterinarian that can be shared as part of the lesson, are just some ways to maximize the impact of the experience for all students.

Typical Classroom Pets
Some of the most common animals to keep in the classroom include fish and small rodents as pets, such as hamsters, Guinea pigs, rats, and gerbils. It is important to discuss life expectancy and for teachers to understand the commitment that they are making to these animals as well. If the school is not year-round, are you willing to keep the animal over summer vacation and properly see to its needs? Or are you going to adopt out the animal to a student or other local Westport pet owners as part of your education program on adoption? Make sure that the students understand that pets are not disposable things to be used, but that they are a long-term commitment and responsibility.

The average life expectancy of typical classroom pets is:

  • Mice – 1-3 years
  • Rats – 2-3 years
  • Gerbils – 2-4 years
  • Guinea Pigs – 5-7 years
  • Goldfish – 5-10 years
  • Ferrets – 10-12 years

Share Information With Parents
Before adopting a new classroom pet, teachers should provide information to the parents and guardians of the student, explaining how the pet will fit into the lesson plan. Details regarding care, duties of students, and a plan of action for any injuries caused by the pet, such as scratches or bites, will be attended to throughout the year. If there are any allergies, parents can ask questions and issues can be addressed at this time before the inclusion of the pet in the classroom. Information for parents, including care of small rodents as pets and winter tips for small pets, should also be shared to help Westport pet owners provide better care for their own pets at home. Contact information for a trusted Southeastern Massachusetts veterinarian can also be shared at this time, especially if the vet comes as a speaker to the class or if the students take a field trip to the veterinary clinic.

Bring Your Pets to Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth
If you own pets and live in the South Coast area, you can bring your pets in for general and emergency veterinary care services at Anchor Animal Hospital. We help Westport pet owners, and pet owners from all over the region take care of cats, dogs, and small rodents as pets. Our team can provide you with regular veterinary check-ups, vaccinations, preventive services, and emergency services, as needed. Whether you need advice on classroom pets or need some habitat and winter tips for small pets, our team can help you to achieve your goals. Give us a call at 508-996-3731 to schedule an appointment or speak with one of our team members today!