Classroom pets?

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Classroom pets?

Post by Werehorse » Sun Jul 24, 2011 11:51 pm

Having been thoroughly told off for even considering a rabbit as a classroom pet on another forum I'm asking this question with some trepidation...

I would love to have a pair of rats as pets in my classroom. What do I need to consider to make it a success? The rats would not be left unsupervised with children at any time (I am a secondary science teacher and children are not allowed in my lab unattended) and I would ensure the rats recieved utmost care and attention.

My main concern is that I will struggle to find a reputable breeder willing to sell to me because the rats would be kept in a classroom. However, having kept rats as a child, I am keen to do some positive rat PR as well as the children learning about proper care of animals and having the change to observe animal behaviour and training... and I don't particularly want to get rats from a pet shop

Any thoughts?

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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Nemokid » Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:21 am

Sounds okay to me, but it would be nice if you could expand on exactly why you want them as classroom pets, and all that, if you'll be allowed a metal cage [thats big enough] in the class room ect, ect...
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by philosophyfox » Mon Jul 25, 2011 8:49 am

You'd need to take into consideration:
Who would take them home on a night?
What would happen on a weekend?
Who would have them on a holiday?

I'm not a fan of classroom pets, but with the school's permission I am open to teachers bringing in their own animals from time to time. This ensures the animals are well cared for with attention at home, and have a permanent home.
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Werehorse » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:04 am

Since the Head of Department was happy for me to consider a rabbit then there will be no problem fitting a couple of rats in... my lab is huge and I can easily fit a large, suitable cage in. It is important that the children see the animals being cared for properly.

Why? Classroom pets have been proven to improve motivation in the classroom for one thing - which in turn improves learning - and I am getting a form group next year so can use the rats to demonstrate proper animal care and introduce topics such as predjudice and ethics, as well as giving the children some responsibility for care and a couple of rattie mascots. With older children I can use the rats to help launch discussions on animal testing (!) (i.e. is it right to use these obviously intelligent animals for testing cosmetics? How about cancer drugs? - that kind of thing). My form or my year 7s can do a research project based around the rats. Plus observing animal behaviour using mammals is far more interesting that a woodlouce in a choice chamber.

As I have a massive soft spot for ratties having had them as a pet myself growing up I am keen to promote them as good pets rather than scary vermin.

But I am concerned that breeders might have misconceptions about the classroom environment and not be willing to sell to me.

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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Werehorse » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:05 am

The animals would be my responsibility and would come home with me for the holidays and weekends.

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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by philosophyfox » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:11 am

You seem to have already made your mind up.

The questions I asked were some of my concerns. I don't think a school is a good environment for animals, be they hamsters,rats rabbits or fish. As I said, bringing them in for visits ensures they are cared for the rest of the time without having to make weekend and holiday arrangements.

Rats need regular interaction with people, and need observing often to check for signs of illness. It's fine for people to bring their pets in,but I have reservations about keeping animals in schools.

Good breeders don't sell rats, they simply charge a small fee to help towards costs for raising their litters.
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Werehorse » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:22 am

And I answered your questions, so what's the problem?

How is charging a small fee to help with the cost of raising the litter different from selling them?

I am at school more waking hours (up to 10 hours a day usually) than I am in my own house so the rats would recieve more attention being with me and the children at school then they would get at home.

And if I have already made my mind up and your strongly disagree then you are more than welcome to try and change my mind using logical argument.

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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by philosophyfox » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:28 am

I didn't see your second post when I posted, re. you taking them home on weekends and holidays. My fear was that random children would take them in these time frames,something that never ended well with our science class hamsters.

If the rats are coming home with you every night after school, that would be the same as I mentioned about having your own pets that you bring in from time to time, which I already said would be fine.

However, it's the leaving them in school unattended each night I would have problems with. Rats go down hill with illness very quickly, it might take more time to spot illness in a busy classroom environment. Also if they are locked in a lab what would happen in the case of fire (arson) or if people broke in and decided to have some 'fun' with the rats?

Those are a few of my main concerns.

The difference between selling and asking a fee is that places like pet shops and back yard breeders will allow anyone to walk out with an animal as long as they pay for it. Good breeders vet potential owners and like to stay in touch, the fee is there to simply help cover some costs, by no means all.
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Werehorse » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:48 am

To answer your concerns...

Knowing my location and my school I have no concerns about people breaking in and or setting fire to the place. Plus a couple of other science teachers have pets (degus and hamsters) and have not had any issues even when they have accidently left their classrooms unlocked. I appreciate the concern about spotting illness but I am aware of the need to be observant and will check the rats thoroughly everyday. I fully intend to get to know them well so that spotting illness will be easier. I will also encourage members of my form to be observant as children are often more in tune with animals than adults and may spot things sooner.

IF (note the "if" please) I was to leave them at school they would be left for 14 hours as opposed to 8 hours while I was sleeping and if a rat was showing any signs of illness at 6pm I could take them home to monitor the situation but it's not like I can rock up at the vets at 9pm anyway really so it would just be home care at that point. I know they can go downhill quite rapidly but I've always took that to mean a couple of days or a day rather than a couple of hours.

Again, to clarify, I am being hypothetical not disregarding advice.

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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by batty_rat » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:54 am

philosophyfox wrote:I didn't see your second post when I posted, re. you taking them home on weekends and holidays. My fear was that random children would take them in these time frames,something that never ended well with our science class hamsters.

If the rats are coming home with you every night after school, that would be the same as I mentioned about having your own pets that you bring in from time to time, which I already said would be fine.

However, it's the leaving them in school unattended each night I would have problems with. Rats go down hill with illness very quickly, it might take more time to spot illness in a busy classroom environment. Also if they are locked in a lab what would happen in the case of fire (arson) or if people broke in and decided to have some 'fun' with the rats?

Those are a few of my main concerns.

The difference between selling and asking a fee is that places like pet shops and back yard breeders will allow anyone to walk out with an animal as long as they pay for it. Good breeders vet potential owners and like to stay in touch, the fee is there to simply help cover some costs, by no means all.
I agree with philosophy on this one.

Also you have to make sure nobody pokes things in the cage thinking the rats will like to eat it. As I'm sure being in a lab there might be a few things lying around which wouldn't be suitable to eat at all as they may have chemicals on them etc.

Also if the rats do get ill you will have to pay for their treatment which can be very expensive.

I take it you will be considering these rats as your pets as you will claim full responsibillity for them? I'd personally discourage kids in the class taking them home for the holidays etc (I already know you said you would, just incase a kid tries to convince you to let them take it home) as they will probably not realise when it's ill etc.

Also, I am a bit wary of letting secondary school children/teenagers handle pets in a school. I know most will view the rats as 'cool' or whatever and treat them with respect, what about those who won't? I know from my experince of secondary school some of the kids in my class whould have hurt the rats or wound them up if we had rats in our class room. They would have definatley picked it up by the tail and kept it hanging and generally caused it alot of distress/potential harm.

Have you also thought about where you will obtain the rats? And also are you going to keep them at home for a while so they get used to human company/hands and gain condifence (before taking them to the school), and assess their temperment, becuase you don't really want a nervous rat being handled when there's lots of rowdy kids laughing and all trying to stroke it, cos it may bite out of fear, and that will just cause all sorts of complications if a parent find out their kid has been bitten by a rat in the school...

I'm not having a go at all, as I know advice can sometimes come across as you've not though about this or that and blah blah yadda yadda :lol: We will give you all the advice you'll need to help you make an informed desicion :)

ETA: just seen your post above while trying to post mine. rats can go downhill VERY fast. Within a couple of hours to being a fit and healthy and happy rat showing no signs of illness at all. Very recently there was a case of someone free ranging their rat, who was happy and healthy and she then found him 10 mins later dead after having a cuddle session with him. Also rats are prey animals and hide pain/illness EXTREMELY well until it is at it's worst stage and too late to treat.

Also you will have to let your form know about the signs off illness to look out for because when they have respiratory illness they snuffle like a cold sort of noise and most people think (who don't know about rat illness) that the rat is talking to them...
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Jemma » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:58 am

It’s something that needs careful thinking about but in my eye’s could be very valuable to the rats and children if managed properly. Some questions I think you need to think about are;

Would the rats live in the classroom or split there time between living in your house and the classroom? – I would recommend that these rats be yours first, so have a cage at your house and live there, and just visit the classroom to another cage there to spend school days there, this would actually give them a real highlight to their day and be a lovely environment for them.

What would you do if the rats were poorly or elderly and no longer up to the busy school day? – again if they lived with you this would be fairly easy as they just wouldn’t come into school that day, if you had lets say 2-3 pairs at different ages this could work well as you could leave those rats not physically up to it at home and take those that will benefit from it to school.

Who would be responsible for the cleaning out, feeding, etc and how would you prevent children from putting rubbish like sweets etc in the cage?

How would you control the children’s access to the rats (e.g. locked cage, small bar spacings) as there will always be times when you have to leave the classroom or your not in for some reason.

Would you or the school pay the vet bills?

How many rats do you intend to have and what kind of cage would you keep them in?

Do you have the schools clearance to have these in the classroom, bearing in mind there is a risk of fingers being bitten, even with well socialised happy rats (mistaken for food etc)?

What access to the rats (in terms of handling etc) would the children have and how would you control it?

Those are a fair few for starters lol, there are probably more to think about too. I would say don’t give up on the idea, to me rats are an excellent pet to interact with children, if it’s controlled in the right way. Part of the reason I have pet rats now is because when my mum was at school her teacher had 2 rats in the classroom (the rest can be blamed on bluepeter). I can see a lot of opportunities for the rats to be part of the learning experience too, in terms of disusing nutrition, genetic inheritance, health issues, behaviour, reproduction and so on. I know I am tempted to contact my local secondary and see if they would appreciate some visits with the rats as part of there teaching, I have done it in primary schools in the past too.

In terms of sourcing rats, it is hard, I personally think as long as the rats are your pets first and foremost and you have controlled the kids access to them enough then you have a good chance of finding a breeder who will work with you, but you may need to talk to several and spend some time discussing your set up and plans, even invite them into your school to show how things go. Many breeders are very concerned about the homes there babies end up in and like to be reassured, they also generally want good contact with you about the babies through there lives, reporting on health and temperament and such, this is something else I think would be good to get children involved in. There is also the option of rescue rats, many of these are lovely well socialised animals who just need a loving home. Again you will have to reassure the rescues about your plans and how you intend to care for the rats, though the follow up may be less important.
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Werehorse » Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:21 am

Lots of questions to answer and I don't really have time right now. So just a few quick responses...

The rats would be my responsibility - the buck (lol) would stop with me, my pets, my vets bills etc etc I would be responsible for cleaning but I would also assemble some rat helpers in my form who could take on some tasks under my supervision. If the rats were not coping then I would remove them from school to be my pets at home, where they would have less attention but a quieter life. Access to the rats would be carefully controlled to the point where I am thinking about mini padlocks on cage doors and I would position them in the classroom carefully so that I can keep an eye on them at all times. I do not leave a classroom when chemicals etc are being used and they are not left lying around ever. If I was not in for some reason I could arrange for them to be moved out of the classroom into a prep room (no child access at all, by law!) and this would be easy to do if I had a class I didn't trust enough as well.

Essentially noone would be touching them without my permission and if they did they would regret it very quickly.

Oh and I have permission to have them in school and the necessary health and safety documentation as well.

And if any children I teach had an allergic reaction or anything the rats could again either go in the prep room for those lessons or stay at home for those days (or for the year if it was really severe!). I hadn't thought of having a cage at home and a cage at work - doh! - that would be a good idea and make bringing ratties to and from much easier.

Are rats as sensitive to temperature change as rabbits? Or would they cope with a cage in the workshop (where I have more space) rather than in the house (where there is less space)?

Right I really need to vaccuum!!

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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Jird » Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:31 am

Werehorse wrote:IF (note the "if" please) I was to leave them at school they would be left for 14 hours as opposed to 8 hours while I was sleeping and if a rat was showing any signs of illness at 6pm I could take them home to monitor the situation but it's not like I can rock up at the vets at 9pm anyway really so it would just be home care at that point.
Just to say, rats do have an unfortunate knack for going from perfectly healthy to seriously ill in a matter of hours, and if this happens they must see a vet promptly whatever the time of day. All vets provide out of hours cover or can direct you to another local practice who does, and if one of your ratties collapsed with pneumonia or got in a scuffle and had someone poke out their eye you really would need to be prepared to take them straight there, whether it happened at 9pm on a Wednesday or 2am on a Sunday!

Edit: just a thought, but how would rats cope with living in a laboratory environment? They do have extremely sensitive lungs, and if yours is a chemistry lab the weird fumes and smoke probably wouldn't do them much good. It's not really a concern if you only do physics/biology in there though I guess :)
Last edited by Jird on Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Bazu » Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:33 am

One thing that stands out for me is that you say you'll be keeping them in a lab - is that as in a chemistry lab, or is it used moreso as a generic room? I remember my time at school (about 10yrs ago, granted), and chemistry lessons often entailed things burning or banging and fumes and the like being present in the air. They weren't enough to cause us any harm (the extraction cabinet was always used for that sort of test), but rat lungs are much more sensitive than ours, so I'd be concerned in that regard.

As with the others; not a nag, just something I think is worth consideration :)

(For what it's worth, I think classroom pets are a great idea if all their needs can be met; I know they'd have brightened up my days!)
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Muddiwarx » Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:46 am

I am a teacher and I regularly take rats into school - most days I have a couple of rats (and a dog) in my room ....

I bring in my own rats from home - not always the same ones although I have a few who are just ideally suited for the role - they have a large carrier to be in when it's sleepy time, but will regularly settle down in or on a pencil case for a snooze :)

These are MY OWN PETS who visit the classroom - I have never had issues with allergies and no biters ... but no one is allowed to touch or harrass them when they are in the carrier as they might nom fingers through the bars as they are greedy .... they would not bit under normal circumstances.

Never had any negative reactions too them and parents are often disappointed that they are not available to meet at parents evenings :) And I always keep breeders lists handy as I am often asked about where to get "nice" rats from :)

I would never ever ever leave them in school overnight though - they are my family!!!

I do also sometimes take rabbits in and once had a problem because one naughty bun who shall remain un named ate through the strap of a TA's handbag!
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