Our Top Ten Best Classroom Pets for Kids

Are classroom pets a good idea?

But – yes! Classroom pets are a great idea, especially for younger students. Not only does the job of caring for animals help to promote children’s emotional awareness, but it can also provide opportunities to model good behavior and demonstrate how we show respect for all animals. Furthermore, having classroom pets can be an effective way to boost mental health – studies show that animals can help relieve anxiety and stress symptoms – meaning that your classroom will be happier by their presence.

In broader terms, having a classroom pet can also introduce the concept of responsibility – each child in your class may have a different task, such as changing the water or cleaning the cage. Working together as a team is also important – because the shared incentive of caring for your classroom pet is the ultimate end goal.

However, it’s also important to emphasize to your students that these pets are not toys – they are living creatures and have as much right to their personal space as we do. So be mindful of your class’s age and the pets you may choose. Very young children can’t always understand care and consideration, so smaller pets that can be looked at but not touched are often better choices. In addition, having a classroom pet is a great tool to teach self-regulation – we’re sure that none of your class would want to harm their pets and would adjust their behavior accordingly.

What animals can you have in a classroom?

So you may have your mind made up about having a classroom pet – awesome! But now you need to consider which animal is right for you. Due to the logistics of space constraints, you’ll need a reasonably small pet that can be kept enclosed; we wouldn’t want the classroom pet on the loose! And ideally, the animal you choose needs to be pretty low-maintenance – you’ve got enough to contend with without adding the need to be an amateur zoologist onto your “to do” list. Of course, we don’t want anything dangerous – especially animals that can bite your students. And it needs to be an animal that is happy in an enclosure of a smaller size – we don’t want to limit their freedom and impact their well-being.

With all of that being said, the range of animals you can have is still pretty wide-reaching. Therefore, this blog lists our top ten best classroom pets. With pros and cons for each pet included, we hope this list can help you to get a better handle on what classroom pet is “purr-fect” for you.

  1. Fish

One of the most versatile classroom pets is having one (or several) fish – after all, we’re pretty sure that plenty of classrooms have seen a goldfish or two over the years! Fish are super low-maintenance and don’t require any handling, so they’re ideal pets for students with sensory issues or young students who aren’t developed enough to hold small animals. However, the old-fashioned goldfish bowl won’t be adequate for the space fish need, so you’ll have to have ample room for a proper fish tank. Certain fish also need to be cared for differently, so be mindful of the breed of fish you choose.

Pros: Aquariums can be calming and soothing for children, and fish are low-maintenance pets.

Cons: Adequate space for an aquarium/good-sized tank is needed.

  1. Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are some of the most social pets you could have for your class, boosted by their gentle, calm nature. So handling the guinea pigs would be perfect for teaching your students the importance of carefulness and delicate consideration of living creatures. Guinea pigs need clean, spacious habitats, so routine cage cleaning is essential here (and be mindful to avoid plastic or wire mesh since guinea pigs chew everything!).

Pros: Gentle, social animals that are child-friendly.

Cons: Adequate-sized cage which needs to be kept very clean.

  1. Rabbits

Rabbits can make excellent pets, as, much like guinea pigs, they are gentle, social creatures. However, there are some considerations to take into account. Rabbits generally are active during dusk and dawn – meaning that they’ll spend most of your school day sleeping, which your students will need to be considerate of. Rabbits also need adequate space to exercise in, so be mindful of this and make sure you keep your diet consistent.

Pros: Gentle, social animals that can be handled and petted.

Cons: Need adequate exercise space and to exercise for 2-3 hours a day.

  1. Hamsters

Hamsters can be super entertaining for your children, especially if they have a cage supporting their exploration and exercise in their hamster wheel. However, hamsters aren’t the most friendly creatures and might not be suitable to be handled by younger children. That being said, hamsters are low-maintenance and spotless animals, meaning that if you’re looking for a pet that can be looked at (but not touched), they are perfect.

Pros: Low-maintenance animals that are easy to care for.

Cons: Not social or suitable to be handled by children – also typically follow nocturnal patterns.

  1. Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons may sound fearsome, but these curious creatures are very gentle, meaning they are perfect to be handled (carefully) by your students. Bearded dragons require a heated tank due to their desert-dwelling origins, so be mindful of having the right environment for your pet. However, they are low maintenance and easy to handle, making them one of the best classroom pets.

Pros: Very gentle creatures that are low-maintenance pets.

Cons: You will need a heated tank year-round, even in the summer.

  1. Tortoises or Turtles

Both tortoises and turtles are docile and sweet-natured, making them a significant calming influence on your students. As such, tortoises and turtles can make excellent pets, but it’s essential to understand that they require special care. Loud classrooms are not ideal – these animals need calm and quiet environments, so be mindful of that – young children are not the class to go for here. Also, tortoises and turtles need plenty of space to roam and exercise, and you’ll need a tank fitted with unique heated lights.

Pros: Docile and sweet-natured animals that are a calming influence.

Cons: Require extra-special care and (sometimes costly) special tanks and heated lights.

  1. Frogs

Frogs make fantastic pets for the classroom because they’re super low maintenance – indeed, frogs can be left unattended for days. The African clawed frog, for example, only needs feeding 2 to 3 times a week, making them super convenient to fit into your classroom schedule. What’s more, frogs are hypoallergenic – meaning allergy-prone children can still experience having a pet. However, it’s essential to remember that frogs are primarily nocturnal and work best as display pets due to the salmonella they can carry on their skin.

Pros: Low maintenance and convenient for allergy-prone children.

Cons: Mostly nocturnal and can carry salmonella on their skin.

  1. Butterfly

Okay, so a butterfly technically isn’t a pet – or at least a pet you can keep for very long. But one pro of hatching butterflies in your class is to teach your students about the life cycles of animals and insects. With a handy butterfly kit, your students can see the life stages of a caterpillar evolving into a butterfly in real time – and when you’re finished, you can let the butterflies loose. The only con is that this “pet” does not hang around for long, meaning you have a limited window of enjoyment for your students.

Pros: Teaches children about how life cycles work.

Cons: Butterflies have to be set loose when they’re ready.

  1. Snails

Snails are one of the most accessible classroom pets to have – not least because you’ll probably find a bunch of them in your school garden! You’ll need a glass tank or container filled with soil, and you’re good to go. Moreover, snails can eat vegetable peelings or leftover scraps of vegetables, meaning their diet is cost-effective. The only downside? Snails aren’t the most exciting pet in the world!

Pros: Low maintenance and low cost to care for.

Cons: There are more exciting classroom pets that children will enjoy.

  1. Gecko

Another reptile that’s super easy to care for is the leopard gecko. These animals are small and super-docile, making them great for classroom pets. But be mindful that leopard geckos are crepuscular – meaning they primarily operate at dusk and dawn and will sleep during the day. They’re also pretty shy about interaction, meaning they might hide away from your students, making them better to be looked at rather than touched.

Pros: Small, docile, and very easy to care for.

Cons: Crepuscular and shy animals.

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