General Question

MissCupid's avatar

What is the best animal for a class pet?

Asked by MissCupid (370points) July 18th, 2010

I’m getting a class pet this September and I’m not sure what to get. My class voted for a hamster, which was my personal choice too, but I’m wondering if there’s anything more unusual that is easy to look after, can be handled by children but lives longer? Also, how long do hamsters live for?

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67 Answers

anartist's avatar

It would have to be something that can accept living in a cage. Rats are smart. Could your class enjoy a white rat or are rats too unappealing?
A friend who taught at a girl’s school used to bring his bird in. Birds could be fun and a parrot or mynah bird even more so.
And parrots live a really long time.
Hamsters are really dumb. I don’t think they would be fun.
Cute little geckos, newts, and turtles could be interesting. Turtles can live a while and can be handled by children. A red-eared slider turtle, a common pet, can live 40 years or more if they receive good care.

ragingloli's avatar

Something that takes effort to take care of, so the kids actually learn something.
Like a Boa Constrictor, that feeds on hamsters.

KatawaGrey's avatar

When I was in first grade, my class had a pair of chinchillas. We had the most fun with those guys. They’re big, but not too big and they are the cutest little guys you will ever see. Of course, when you’re five-years-old, they’re actually pretty damn huge.

One of the classes down the hall from us had a hedgehog and he was a lovely pet as well.

anartist's avatar

@ragingloli feeding the boa constrictor might upset the kids because hamsters are cuter than boa constrictors. And they are not the sort of snake kids can drape around their necks. But they do live a long time.

Kayak8's avatar

I would skip the turtles what with salmonella and all. When I was a kid we had an iguana for a class pet (thrilled the boys Waaaaay more than most of the girls). Today with every other kid coming down with asthma or peanut allergies, I am amazed you are even allowed to have class pets anymore. I would opt for a 30 gal or so freshwater aquarium and include aquatic plants (not the plastic stuff). It gives a chance to talk about eco-systems and how all the parts work together as a whole, etc. Guppies are pretty hardy and durable and the kids could do the research before you added each new fish.

Nullo's avatar

My 4th grade class had a leopard gecko named Gandalf, which was pretty neat until you got around to feeding him his live crickets.

jrpowell's avatar

We have guinea pigs. They are super easy to care for. They are cute and friendly. And their bites don’t hurt. And they are delicious.

A guinea pig is like a big hamster minus the nervousness. I have had both, I would go with the guinea pig.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

My second grade class had a hedgehog, and that was great!

anartist's avatar

@johnpowell you raise them to eat or for pets?

Ame_Evil's avatar

I would suggest mice or rats. Perhaps mice as they are more cute, smaller and cleaner.

Reasoning is as someone said above is that they are smart. You can stick them in mazes and shiz and play with them :D.

But as you had a vote, I would say you should go with democracy and get the hamster.

jrpowell's avatar

@anartist :: As pets. I was making a bad joke. But they are food in Peru.

anartist's avatar

@johnpowell I have known families who raised rabbits and treated them somewhat as pets and also ate them. And a childhood friend was given an Easter peep she named Ricky, but when Ricky grew up he became dinner.

GeorgeGee's avatar

I would avoid hamsters. They’re cute, but they occasionally bite when handled and hamster bites can be VERY serious, requiring a trip to the emergency room and Cipro shots. I’d avoid rats for the same reason. The ER doctor told me the same types of bacteria live in the mouths of both rats and hamsters.
Guinea pigs are much less likely to bite, but personally I’d prefer a fish tank in which there is a bit of a diverse ecosystem, snails, catfish, seaweed, so forth. It’s a great opportunity to introduce ecological concepts.

knitfroggy's avatar

My sisters class had a hedgehog one year. It was cute and unusual. All the kids loved it. The teacher let one of the kids adopt it at the end of the school year. My sister begged and begged but my mom said no. I kind of wanted it too!

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janbb's avatar

I would go for guinea pigs too. We had them for several years before working up to a dog. Cute, easy to care for, a little more durable than hamsters. It’s really fun to feed them lettuce and watch them chomp away on it.

One potential problem is that they are very fecund. We got one young one and I came home from work a few months lter to find an alive and a dead baby in the cage. Then Mom and son turned out to have young….Eventually, we bought two cages.

Coloma's avatar

I vote for a pet rat.

They are gentle, smart and affectonate and love attention, being held, taken out to play.

East to care for and they love all sorts of extra foods like fruits and nuts and just about anything, so if you run out of food it is a non-issue for a few days.

Just be careful of little hands that smell like peanut butter. lol

We had pet rats when my daughter was little and I loved them…very fun little pets.

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SkulpTor's avatar

A bunny or a hawk. Hawks are way cool!

Spider's avatar

I apologize in advance for not having a suggestion; I never had a class pet (or children), so I have no idea. I just wanted to mention for the sake of anyone in the U.S. considering getting a hedgehog, they are illegal in some states.

Good luck in your decision!

tinyfaery's avatar

Whatever animal you won’t mind caring for on vacations and when/if one of the kids hurts it and you have to take it away.

I ended up with 2 mice when one of my wife’s students was mad a threw one of them across the table. I still have one of them, 3 years later.

Coloma's avatar


A Hawk? lolol

Oh yeah, that’s a great choice, if you want a lot of scalped and blinded little tykes running aorund. hahaha

cazzie's avatar

Worms. But not in the classroom. The kids can raise worms in a shed. Feed them garbage, sell the soil they make AND sell them as bait. Great way to learn about ecology. They don’t have to be taken home during vacation, they just need to be fed some coffee grounds and veggie scraps. They can use the money to fund trips to zoos and museums.

tinyfaery's avatar

Ooh, worms. Cuddly.

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GeorgeGee's avatar

Thanks @cazzie for the unusual suggestion of worms. That reminds me that I’ve seen some great displays of some more unusual critters including silkworms and leaf-cutter ants. Honestly kids won’t learn much from having YET ANOTHER SLEEPY TURTLE in their classroom, but watching a colony of ants can change their lives.

cazzie's avatar

@GeorgeGee Your welcome. I was thinking about an ant farm too, but when I thought about worms, I thought about Darwin, asexual reproduction and then I remembered about earning money from it and then it becomes all sorts of lessons.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Frog eggs, then tadpoles, then frogs. Cool transformation, but let the frogs go back into the wild. (Spring project though)

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gorillapaws's avatar

We had a small Corn Snake as a class pet in 3rd grade. It taught me not to fear all snakes, and holding one is a pretty incredible experience. They are very soft/smooth. They’re in the constrictor family (but are FAR too tiny to be a threat to children) so no venom, and are quite docile—known for their calm temperament. I actually learned a lot thinking back on it now.

The Chinchilla recommendation was also a good one. They’re actually very smart and have personalities much the same way dogs/cats etc. do.

Scooby's avatar

OK then! :-/ maybe not a block of wood as I suggested earlier ( modded )great choice though….!!

How about an Ant farm?

A guy I knew years ago had one, he built interconnecting glass tanks with different habitats :-/
They were connected with clear tubing so you could see the Ants moving around…. He may still have them?? :-/

Trance24's avatar

@anartist I was totally going to suggest a rat! I used to have them as a kid they are wonderful pets!

Any who yea as anartist said rats are great class pets trust me. I have had four in my life time and I got my first one when I was in about 4th or 5th grade I even remember bringing it into school one year and everyone enjoyed it. They are very smart non aggressive animals, especially females in my experience. They are well trained and kids love them. I would however not suggest a hamster I have had horrible luck with them, depending on the breed they are known to bite, and trust me those bites hurt. They are also not as interactive.

MissCupid's avatar

Wow! A lot of suggestions! Well, hedgehogs are endangered in the UK and are illegal as pets so that’s out. Plus, I want a pet that the children can take home at the weekends in turns – which means fish are a trouble because walking home with a tank is hard! Splish splash!
I personally love the idea of reptiles but the tank and heating system (as it’s freezing in the UK) is going to be hard to maintain and to take home.
I love the idea of a Chinchilla but they’re quite expensive in the UK…
Guinea pigs seem better than hamsters… I am quite surprised at the amount of hamster hatred – are they that bad? :S

janbb's avatar

We got hanmsters for our kids for Christmas one year and they all died of “wet tail” disease by Twelfth Night. I remember going back to the store with the last dead one and telling my son he was “just sleeping” in his box. Funny is a Pythonesque way, but pretty sad otherwise.

cazzie's avatar

@janbb Pining for the fields, was he? hahahaha

downtide's avatar

As hamsters are mostly nocturnal, and kids are not, I don’t think a hamster would be a good choice. They can also be a bit nasty.

Rats are a little better (you will need to keep two or more of the same gender together as they are highly sociable and don’t do well on their own). However they need a lot of handling if they are to remain tame – you don’t want class pets that the kids can’t handle for fear of being bitten.

Another consideration might be a dwarf rabbit or a guinea pig. Younger children are sometimes more confident handling an animal that’s a little bigger.

Coloma's avatar

I still vote for Rats!

Yes, Hamsters are evil. lol

flo's avatar

How about a rabbit?

earthduzt's avatar

Saltwater fish tank, can be a great investment for the class and future classes. With the right setup you could make a living reef. A nano cube tank would be awesome in a classroom and you can add a variety of creatures (inverts, fish, coral) and see how they interact with each other. Your own ecosystem in the classroom.

boffin's avatar

A cat…

Something along the lines of a Maine Coon.

Can stand the abuse of all of the kids and is relatively self sufficient. Not needing any attention on weekends. Longer recesses might need a cat sitter.

Providing that none of the kids are allergic.
Could be a great experience. Get a rescue kitty from a local shelter.
Teach the kids responsibility as to feeding and litter box duty.

janbb's avatar

You kind of need an animal that can stay in a cage in a classroom, I would think.

zophu's avatar

My fifth grade class had a pet parrot. It was great even though he sometimes had to go into the closet because he made noise.

SkulpTor's avatar

@Coloma I am just talking about a hawk not an Eagle!! A Kestrel would be kinda cute.

GeorgeGee's avatar

Ok, one more, and this is a weird one, but I just remembered that one year long ago there was a class tarantula. Ok, they’re not cuddly, but they’re really interesting and very tolerant of neglect, much more so than a hamster. If I had a nickel for every hamster that died of thirst when folks went home for the weekend without refilling its water…. Anyway, that’s not a big issue with tarantulas. And you can feed them the baby mice from um, that other class pet experiment.

Trance24's avatar

@downtide My rats always got along fine being the only rat in the house, and all of them lived a full life.

Handling them is an important part in keeping them though, but in general a rat is a very non-aggressive pet. And being in a classroom with a bunch of kids who will be playing and taking care of it all the time. They really are great pets and you can train them to do tricks which is even better.

MissCupid's avatar

@downtide I think you’re right…
@earthduzt the kids wouldn’t be able to take it home at the weekends – it’d be too big and heavy! Plus – a pain to clean out..
@boffin There’s no way we’d be allowed a cat. We’d get nothing done and it’d be wandering around the school getting trodden on and it’d be illegal if it got in the kitchen. We’d be shut down!
@SkulpTor No birds… don’t agree with birds in cages, and the kids wouldn’t be able to handle it… plus 30 kids are loud enough for me, without squawking!
@GeorgeGee NO FRIKKIN’ WAY! I am a HUGE arachnophobic…ain’t happening.
@Trance24 I’m intrigued by the rat situation… might investigate…

Anyone got more experience with Chinchillas?

gorillapaws's avatar

@MissCupid My sister came into possession of a Chinchilla after it’s former owners weren’t able to take care of it. She had it for a short while, until she found a new home for it with the office manager of my father’s practice. We’re always hearing stories about how wonderful the little guy is, how he has a personality, and the games he plays etc.

The biggest downsides that I can think of as a class pet would be the need to chinchilla-proof the classroom (You have to cover up all the wires, and things they might be tempted to chew on), the fact that they’re nocturnal (I’m not sure if classroom noise would be a problem for them), and the fact that the cages they live in are usually pretty large.

They are neat pets though.

ragingloli's avatar

How about an Iriomote Yamaneko?

GeorgeGee's avatar

Yeah, before you run out and get a rat, you should read up on the diseases they can harbor:

Coloma's avatar


Domestic pet rats kept in healthy environments don’t spread disease. We’re not talking sewer rats as class pets. lol

GeorgeGee's avatar

Sorry, but you’re wrong @Coloma. Among the diseases “clean” domestic rats can convey is Rat Bite Fever, here’s a reference:
Pet rats can also carry Leptosporosis, especially if you like to place their cage outside for a little fresh air and grass nibbling. How does “multi-organ failure” sound to you?
I’m quite experienced in handling animals, and I ran a farm for many years. The only time I had to go to an emergency room for Cipro shots to save my life was after a DOMESTIC rodent bite.

Coloma's avatar

@GeorgeGee .

It sounds like the bite became infected like any puncture wound can.

I had a similar experience with a domestic cat bite, but I still have cats.

I too have had tons of animal experience/exposure and I also live on a ranch property of 5 acres.

I am not disputing the possibility but don’t think that your unfortunete experience should create a bias for pet rats.

Any animal bite can become infected.

Your experience was not pleasant but I think more of a rarity than a commonality.

cazzie's avatar

Sorry… I’m still for ants or worms. (Sticking up for those with no backbone)

Nullo's avatar

@ragingloli Listing all of the people who would come for your blood would take too long.

Trance24's avatar

@MissCupid I had two chinchillas, they were brothers and were very soft and cute. They require some attention though as they are similar to rabbits in that they are skittish, so need plenty of attention and love. Also they require a decent size cage, one where it would be difficult to take the cage home for the weekend. Other then that they can be very lovable pets.

Trance24's avatar

Oh also you will need special dust made for chinchillas for their dust baths, and a little dust bath enclosure. See more here and here. And see more about why they do this here. There are also tons of more sites about chinchillas and how to care for them.

MissCupid's avatar

Hmmmm… They do sound quite cool.
I’m now considering chipmunks though… Any thoughts?

GeorgeGee's avatar

Chipmunks are wild animals that nobody has any business keeping in captivity. Buy an Alivin and the Chipmunks movie if you find the draw irresistible.

Coloma's avatar


MissCupid is British, and perhaps their Chipmonks are kept as domesticated small pets.

I think it is important to ASK before jumping to conclusions.

Maybe the British species of Chipmonks are very different and/or domesticated beyond what you are thinking of.

downtide's avatar

I have seen chipmunks kept as pets but they were in a massive outdoor “aviary”-type cage, eight feet high and about five feet square, and they were running and jumping around all over this cage. I don’t think an ordinary hamster-type cage would be suitable for chipmunks.

And there are no native British chipmunks. I think they were probably imported from America (or at least their ancestors were).

Nullo's avatar

Get a small snake.

happy123's avatar

i think a parrot would be awesome:D you can teach it so many tricks and it would be awesome to teach the parrot the national anthem:D

Coloma's avatar

An Anaconda.

Could be a good babysitter, keep a tight squeeze on the kiddies. lol

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MissCupid's avatar

Just in case anyone who helped with this question is curious – I ended up getting 3 degus. They’re amazing! Hadn’t heard of them before :)

jessylee's avatar

I have worked with a lot of animals for meny years. To be honest hamsters are not a good choice. they live for anout 3–6 years but are known to bite. How old are you students? If they are older Chinchillas are very sweet and loveing animals. They can live for up to 20 years, but they do have sensitive ribs. So if you have little kids that will squeeze them it might not be a good choice. You will have to work with them about 30min a day to get them use to human touch. Another choice is reptiles they take very little work. Bearded dragons live for a long time and eat crickets about 2x a week and tolarate holding and kids well just make sure you set them up with the right lights.

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