Kids have been back in school for a while now, and talk may be turning toward getting a classroom pet. Picking the right type of classroom pet is essential in order to reduce the possibility of disease transmission and student injury as well as ensure animal well-being.
The following animals are not well-fitted to life as a classroom pet:
- Reptiles and amphibians (i.e. snakes, turtles, lizards and frogs) frequently carry the disease-causing bacteria Salmonella. They are not a good choice when students will be allowed to handle the classroom pet.
- Some ferrets have a tendency to bite. They also have a strong odor associated with them even when they are descented and their enclosures are kept clean.
- Birds can be noisy, messy and some species require a lot of mental stimulation to ward off boredom and its resulting behavioral problems. Birds can also carry Salmonella.
- Rabbits require very careful handling to avoid back injuries and can bite or scratch when scared.
- Nocturnal animals like hamsters, hedgehogs and chinchillas prefer to sleep during the day and may be grumpy if woken.
Animals that are better choices to teach children about the natural world and responsible pet ownership in the classroom include:
- Small pets like rats, gerbils or guinea pigs that tend to be active during the day and are less likely to bite or scratch when well socialized.
- A very low maintenance animal like a hermit crab.
- The the old standby, the goldfish.
Of course, while children can be involved in the care of a pet, a responsible adult should always supervise interactions between animals and kids. An adult should make sure that the classroom is stocked with all necessary pet supplies and that the animal is receiving the care it needs to thrive.