Classroom pets?

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philosophyfox
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by philosophyfox » Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:51 am

Julie's method is the one I would support.
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by burninglight » Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:05 am

I don't think my OCD would allow me to leave pets in a classroom over night. I was doing a unit on animal testing and considered asking my head if the girls could come in, would also love to have a cage in my class so the girls could come in regularly. I decided against it though. I work in a behavioural school but have complete faith the the pupils would be nothing but friendly towards the rats. My issue was that my girls are very naughty. I'd be worried they'd get out some how and go on a chewing rampage round the school.

If I still had my big squishy boys I'd probably of made the request. However I agree that it would be best as pets coming in to school every now and again, going home at night etc.

I think it's a fantastic idea though, I have pictures of my pets up all over my class and it's always a topic of interest to pupils.

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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Alijane » Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:18 am

I agree with Jenna that there could be huge benefits in children having access to rats. I have taken my better behaved rats into school and the children have loved them. They have provoked really useful discussions around our relationship with animals and are particularly around animal testing. One of the children said to me that she used to think testing on animals other than rats was wrong. Having met the rats and realised how lovely and intelligent they are, she has thought again.

You do seem to have thought through many of the potential issues. My only concern - and it might be addressable - would be how you make sure that no-one is able to get to the rats and do them harm (even unintentionally). If you were in the classroom all the time, or if the classroom was locked when you were not in it, then I wouldn't worry. My concern would be when the classroom was open and children could get in and be there unobserved. I wouldn't be worried about your year 7 tutor group - they would be likely to see the rats as "theirs" and be protective of them. My worry would be other - possibly older - children, who might think it funny to get in and play with the rats, or worse. My experience, as a teacher for many years, was that otherwise lovely children could - under peer pressure - do things that you wouldn't expect them to do. It saddens me to say it, but I would fear for rats left on their own, if a whole school of children had access to them.

But if you can find a way of children meeting rats and learning what lovely creatures they are, then that is brilliant. I am an education researcher and I am thinking that you might do a little project ... with videos of the children interacting with the rats ... and interviews with the children ... :D

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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by myzoo » Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:40 am

:) Hi you sound like you are a knwlagable person who knows what the ratties would need i think with a bit of juggling they could make brilliant classroom pets animals are often very good at helping with behauviour in children they can be used as somthing for the kids to enjoy for good behaiviour or not allowed for bad behaiviour .i think its a good idea in the right circumstances ie if they had the correct enviroment as already stated by others. i think it would help the children to see the correct way to keep and respect these lovely animals and therefore educate others that they are not "vermin" and indeed clever animals.it will also help with them learning about enviroments and behaiviours. seeing the correct size cage correct diet correct way of handling ect would also have a benefit for any future ratties the children may choose to own .
i think as long as they are checked regulry,live in a clean fume free enviroment,large enough cage,correct handling i really dont see a peoblem with it yes rats do go down hill quickly i had one rattie who was fine during playtime at about 7pm by 1am he was dead to this day idont know the cause of the death but it can happen ive read it happen to a few people. so like i said with a bit of juggling ie taking them home on a evening which shouldnt be too much of a hassel if you decide to have a cage in both places :wink: it would also give you peace of mind instead of worrying that they was behiving during the night.
im not a expert but hope my opinion helps.
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Jemma » Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:54 am

It doesn’t do rats loads of good to go from really warm to cold in the same day regularly, though they cope with travel really well. There a bit like rabbits in this, and often it can trigger a bit of a reaction such as sneeziness or being under the weather a little. It’s something you want to watch more with very young or old rats, those that are a bit weak / poorly or naked / hairless / double rex rats. Travelling from one cage to another is something they would cope very well with, unless they were unwell. I regularly travel with my rats and as long as they are used to what they travel in (my rats love there carrier, it is there home away from home) then there very happy. I know of other (Julies rats in particular) that do this on a daily basis rather than just weekends.

In terms of cage you could get away with a smaller one, or give them a lot of time out of the cage at home and then a larger better equipped cage at school, though in reality with the time of day rats are active it would suit them better to have the bigger cage at home. Saying that rats do tend to adapt to there environment so they may well end up being more active during the school day when the world is so interesting around them. For a school cage I would look to one with around 1cm bar spacing or less, it should limit what can be poked through a lot easier, something like freddy for 2-4 rats or bigger would be great. If you want to really get the most out of the habitat / environment set up angle then something large and tall like a Maricharo Samo, or a freddy / jenny / similar tower would give you more space to mess around. There’s a lot of info and ideas on enrichment (which would be a lot of fun with the kids from a behavioural point of view) in the enrichment link in the FAQ section of the habitat forum, well worth a read. I do think having a cage in the classroom would be a better idea in terms of a science classroom, than Julies language classroom (I think that was what you taught lol), if nothing else to show kids how environment matters, but also there are a fair few more hazards around in a science lab than many classrooms.

You could do an awful lot on nutrition in terms of reviewing different type of food against the rats requirements and things like health impact and age. If you want to talk or learn about that I would recommend having a read of the scuttling gourmet issue 3 or spending a bit of time in the feeding section. It’s actually quite an easy one to equate to a human balanced diet too, I’ve done it with 6 year olds so a bit older should be able to do far better.

I do think the fume point is a good one, again I’m also imagining the typical secondary school science classroom. I would say it was a reasonable precaution to move them into your prep room when anything giving off a gas or fumes is happening. As a science teacher I’m sure your aware of whats going to happen or could happen with the reactions involved though it’s worth noting that rats are often far more sensitive to fumes than humans and it would take less to hurt them. The COSHH datasheet should give you plenty of information on that though, if there’s an inhalation risk then I would move the rats, even in a well ventilated room which means it’s fine for humans. Simple experiments like heating up metal and the like are unlikely to cause any issues other than odd smells.

In terms of noise, if there are big bangs or explosions I would have the rats out, if it’s more normal run of the mill noises then they shouldn’t hurt as the rats get used to them. In the end you will probably end up with incredibly calm brave rats.

I must say if you do the suggestion of them being permanently based at your house and visiting school I actually wouldn’t class them as classroom pets as such, more your pets who visit your classroom

Other things to think about (i know I should shut up and let you do the hovering lol), how many rats would you want (I would recommend aiming for a minimum of 4 but getting 2 babies now and 2 in a years time), and what sex do you want (boys are generally calmer and easier for children to handle, but girls are more interesting to watch and less likely to get territorial due to hormones)
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Werehorse » Mon Jul 25, 2011 12:37 pm

I could pop them in the prep room during any chemistry experiments that might be a hazard. Most experiments we do in school aren't actually a worry on this front but there is the odd one or two that I will need to be aware of.

The advantage of a science lab is that I can keep the doors locked and keep the kids out, whereas across the school there is an open door policy which makes me very glad I don't have an ordinary classroom to be honest.

I have been teaching in a classroom with a degu this year and the children have behaved impecably around it... the worst they did was find the peanut stash and start feeding it peanuts through the bars.

I was thinking 2 girl ratties as the focus would be more on watching behaviour rather than the children handling them - I hadn't considered more than two... would the advantage of that be overlap so I wouldn't end up with a rattie on it's own?

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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by jane89 » Mon Jul 25, 2011 1:17 pm

if you could keep them at home and bring them in with you i think that would be a good compromise :) other than the worries others have expressed my main concern would be the temperature fluctuations in a school throughout the day/night if you did leave them there. my mums a teacher and has tried having 'class pets' (always insects or frogspawn and only on a temporary basis) before but gave up pretty quickly once it became clear that the animals where struggleing with the temp fluctuations as it went from boiling hot during the day, to barely above freezing overnight at some times of the year.
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Solar » Mon Jul 25, 2011 1:35 pm

Having rabbits myself and knowing lots about them I know they wouldn't be the first pet I'd recommend for a class pet. My first choices would be rats, degus and guineapigs. All can be active in the day and are easy and big enough for kids to handle.

From what I read, it doesn't seem like a problem and a couple of years ago there was the same question asked from a school teacher and I think a breeder on here got in contact with her and she had them as her school pets. Most rats love attention so with the op going to have them as their own pets I can't see a problem.

The main thing to do is source rats from good, ethical breeders so you get friendly, healthy rats for class pets. (not always the ones advertising in papers and especially not charging different prices for different varieties since they are raised exactly the same)

Petshop rats tend to be very skittish and prone to illnesses at a young age and takes time to get them to tame down, some may never be comfortable in a classroom environment. I've had rescues, petshops and from breeders and at least one from each group loved attention and loved going to shows and meeting kids, but my four boys from breeders have and are more calmer and happier about being passed around and handled by kids, even if they've not been handled often by them. Two were even manhandled by a group of kids on a day out and just got on with it, and some rescue rats that have been handled from a young age can be calm too, but unless they're adults there's no guarantee you they would all be happy with being in a classroom environment. I had a group of four boys who mostly every month went to a little local pet rat show from the age of 6 weeks, however it became clear that two of them really hated going, so I stopped taking them two.

I think as long as the classroom cage is big enough and stocked with lots of toys then that will teach kids that that's the size cage and toys rats should have. Rats usually are good with mixing with others and girls seem to be happier in groups of 3 or more and are fun to watch when they have a broader cage dynamic. Just remember getting three or four rats at the same time will lead to all of them getting old and ill at the same time, but it does help if you lose one, you've still got 2/3 left.

Where abouts do you live? If you email breeders@nfrs.org from the national fancy rat society http://www.nfrs.org/index.html they can send you a list of breeders.

I agree with the temperature flux, but I donno, my school was always freezing cold in winter and boiling hot in summer. :/
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Hanlou » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:22 pm

Have to agree with some of the points raised. I think it's wrong to consider leaving them overnight - anything could happen. Not just illness but accidents - which can and do happen! Rats are naughty lol! :wink:

(As an aside; rabbits would certainly not be suitable for classrooms, fully agree on that score having two myself! Also regarding the degu - I hope it's not on its own? Degus are very sociable! They need large cages with a large wheel (not saying it hasn't but I hope it is in a suitable environment) and shouldn't have peanuts at all! Herby things, occasional bite-size shredded wheats are far more suitable. Peanuts aren't and shouldn't be a part of a degus' diet at all. :( )
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by RCTlisa » Tue Jul 26, 2011 9:10 am

I don't have issues supporting things like this and I know a few breeders who have given rats to be a "classroom pet". I personally would allow it if the rats were going home each work night so they weren't left on school premises overnight. (I require a few other things too but each case is discussed individually).
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by hlcasey » Tue Jul 26, 2011 9:27 am

I have lots of rats (who live at home with me) who frequently visit my year 3 (and in previous year 4) classes with me. Over the last three years various pet rats have visited the classroom during day hours. However, some rats cope better with the noise and children than others, I am always happy to "test the waters" with the rats as if they do not cope with the class they can go and spend the day in the office, over the years some like Topsy, Rhea, Nugget and Delilah have been frequent visitors and loved the attention and busyness of the class but others such as Dolly, Splodge and Miya disliked their first visit so they didn't visit again. The bonus is I can choose what days to take the rats in so I avoid hot and cold days and go for moderate tempreture days. Never had a problem with my rats travelling as when I was at uni they travelled back and forth every weekend.

Over the last three years I have explored a range of topics based on animal testing, animal rights, animal care etc with my classes and they are well aware of what great pets rats make but also what the require in terms of space, diet, companionship etc. Most of the children in the class often stop by to say hello to the rats (and there is 360 students in our school!) After school some even bring their parents in to visit and just the other day some Year 6 children asked me if Jasmine had recovered from her recent surgeries. I am lucky because if the rats need post op care they can come into work with me and sit in the quiet corner of the office and I can check on them regularily :)

However, I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving them in school overnight ever and rarley take them in two days running (unless of post op care). The tempreture fluctuates too much, lord knows what cleaners the cleaners use in the classroom (they don't clean my room when my rats are in at my request). Who knows who might stumble across them and they can get sick very quickly. In the last month alone we have had here an abscess, a sprained front paw, a PT, an open wound and a torn toenail, some of which have required hospital cages for easy treatment/restricted movement. Most of these where apparent in the morning following an evening of activity and then required morning or evening vet trips (by my lovely partner!). Those would be my main concerns.
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Werehorse » Tue Jul 26, 2011 9:46 am

What kind of things do breeders require then?

The degu doesn't belong to me it is just in a classroom I teach in, all I know is that it has a big cage with a wheel and it's really old (about 8 years) and has outlived it's companion. I don't know the whys and wherefores of the companion being replaced or the peanuts... it hasn't died yet though and it eats peanuts regularly.

Based on my experience (I had a succession of 10 pet rats when I was younger, with overlap obviously) I didn't experience any rattie sickness at all, they all lived a decent length of time and died of old age so I'm surprised that they can be so sickly. Mine were all pet shop rats as well!

I'm lucky if my cleaner decides to mop the floor, never mind using any chemicals, and I'm usually still at school when she comes in anyway. I know who goes in and out fo my classroom after school, I lock it when I leave (usually after the cleaner has been in) and then the caretaker comes up and checks the windows are closed and checks all the labs are locked. Elsewhere in the department there are cockroaches, hamsters, the degu, tropical fish and snakes and none of these have ever been tampered with/lost/stolen so I'm not worried about many of the things people on this thread seem to be concerned about regards leaving them overnight. However I accept that the temperature may fluctuate quite a bit and that illness may manifest itself later on so will take those into consideration.

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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by toyah » Tue Jul 26, 2011 10:06 am

Leaving them overnight is an interesting one. I say goodnight to the rats about 11pm-midnight, and although I sometimes pop in there of a morning to check everyone's OK, often they're on their own until I get home at 5pm from work.

I think it's probably worth contacting a local breeder and asking what they think, it sounds like you've spent plenty of time thinking the situation through anyway.
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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Hanlou » Tue Jul 26, 2011 6:39 pm

Something else I thought of...... if you keep the rats in the classroom overnight - when will they get free ranged?? Rats *need* time out of their cage to exercise and to mentally stimulate them. It wouldn't be fair to keep them in a cage 24/7 no matter how big it was. As am sure you are aware of having kept rats before.

Whereas if they came home with you each evening (and I think the idea of having a group at home and taking a couple of them at a time so that they get a 'break' from being classroom pets is a really good idea) you could free range them at home thus ensuring they get the best life possible.

I do think that when they are very young and when they get older / have health issues being classroom pets might be harder on them. As hlcasey says; you will probably find that some rats just wouldn't like it full stop where others would perhaps thrive on the attention. Our girls are from an excellent breeder but still took two or three weeks to settle and calm down a bit.

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Re: Classroom pets?

Post by Muddiwarx » Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:15 pm

Hanlou wrote: As hlcasey says; you will probably find that some rats just wouldn't like it full stop where others would perhaps thrive on the attention.

This is certainly the case - some absolutely love to go to work and some just can't be bothered, some don't like the extra attention and some are too "boring" LOL

I can never predict who will love it and who won't and am often surprised!
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