If you are considering adding a pet to your classroom, one of the most important decisions you will make is which type of animal to choose. From little hermit crabs to snuggly rabbits, a wide variety of pets have the power to bring your lessons to life, keep students engaged with the subject matter, enhance children’s senses of responsibility and compassion, and much more. However, it is essential to research your options carefully and select an animal that is an appropriate fit for your students and classroom environment. At Pets in the Classroom, we think that the following animals are great options for classroom pets. Here is some information to help you choose the right pet for your class:
- Betta fish. At the “minimal maintenance” end of the pet care spectrum, betta fish offer a great option if you are hesitant about allowing students to handle your classroom pet. These mesmerizing fish can live alone in smaller desktop aquariums or with certain other fish in larger community tanks. Aquariums can be beautiful and soothing, adding a sense of tranquility to your classroom that may have a calming effect on students.
- Hermit crabs. Despite their name, hermit crabs are surprisingly social creatures that enjoy living in pairs or groups with other “hermies.” They are easy to handle and offer an interesting and unusual classroom pet for students of all ages.
- Bearded dragons. Extremely gentle by nature, bearded dragons are a great option for beginner pet owners. They are small, alert, and hardy, allowing frequent handling and eating an omnivorous diet of insects, fruit, and vegetables. While they have fewer needs than other pets, it is crucial to carefully control the temperature in their habitats, since reptiles cannot regulate their body temperatures internally.
- Guinea pigs. A classroom pet favorite, guinea pigs are gentle and social animals that thrive on regular human interaction and may even develop close affectionate relationships with their pet parents. It is relatively easy to care for them, although they may do best with another guinea pig companion and/or housed in a multilevel cage to help them expend their energy. Due to their friendly temperaments and minimal needs, guinea pigs are ideal for small children.
- While snakes might not immediately come to mind as a great pet for kids, certain species may make fascinating additions to the classroom. For example, corn snakes and ball pythons come in a variety of beautiful patterns and colors and are known for their docile temperaments. Aside from the need to regulate the temperature in their habitats, caring for a pet snake tends to be relatively simple.
- Fancy rats. As with snakes, the thought of keeping a rat as a pet may make some people wince—but a species called fancy rats tend be calm and highly intelligent! They love human interaction and can even learn simple tricks, providing endless entertainment, bonding, and play time for students. Rats eat a variety of foods and thrive in large, tall habitats that allow them to climb and play.
- As one of the larger animals commonly found in classrooms, rabbits offer an adorable source of entertainment and affection for students. They are intelligent and social animals that crave daily interaction with humans or other rabbits. It is important to house these sweet creatures in escape-proof habitats at least four times their size in order to give them sufficient space for play and exercise.
These are just a few of the small animals that may make great classroom pets. Other options include turtles, leopard geckos, tarantulas, and small rodents like mice and hamsters. For detailed information on each animal, visit our pet care resources at https://www.petsintheclassroom.org/pet-care-sheets/. Once you have decided which pet is right for your classroom, be sure to apply for a Pets in the Classroom grant (https://www.petsintheclassroom.org/grant-app/) to help you purchase and care for your new addition!