Considering a Classroom Pet?
Think People, Pets and Place
Here are some things you need to consider based on people, pets and the size of your place (classroom).
You should inform parents and your school’s principal or administrator that you are considering a classroom pet. If a child in your classroom has a known pet allergy, consider fish, hermit crabs, amphibians or reptiles. These pets lack the allergy producing saliva, dander and hair which are commonly found on mammals like hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits. See our Pet Allergy article for more information.
The children in your classroom should participate in pet selection. In groups, kids can research care needs, average life span and average cost of ownership (food, veterinary care, heating/lighting requirements, etc). This research can be presented to the class and then a majority vote taken to determine what type of pet you will welcome into your class.
Many pet stores are able to help you understand pet appropriateness based on the age of the children in your class, your plans to care for the pet during the weekends, summers and holidays and what your personal experience level is with pet keeping. See our Pet Care Sheet resources for care information on specific classroom pets. In general, pets can be grouped in terms of care required as suitable for beginners, intermediate and advanced. See our Dealing with Pet Death article for advice on handling grief in the classroom.
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What will you do to care for your class pet during weekends/holidays/summers?
This should be discussed with a pet store associate before a pet is brought into your classroom. Automatic fish feeders, hay mangers and larger food bowls may be viable options for you to consider on weekends. For longer breaks, you will need to take the pet home or designate a caretaker for the pet
What happens if my pet becomes ill or, worse still, dies? Before bringing a pet into your classroom you should research veterinary care options:
- Association of Avian Veterinarians
- Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians
- Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians
Pet death is an unfortunate yet unavoidable part of pet ownership. Many resources exist to help guide transparent, age appropriate discussions with your students.
How much space will the pet have in your place?
Small classrooms may only be able to accommodate a desktop aquarium (less than 5 gallons). Larger classrooms may accommodate not only a large habitat but also a play area or run about for pets like guinea pigs, rabbits, mice/gerbils/hamsters to interact with the class outside of the habitat. Exercise play pens and exercise balls are good exercise options. In general habitats should never be placed in a draft or in front of a window. Reptile terrariums and fish aquariums need to be near an outlet in order to power heating, lighting and filtration systems.
The CDC healthy pet web page provides the basic guideline for ownership for pets: http://www.cdc.gov/