I have guinea pigs in my classroom. I kept them in the room
during the week and brought them home on weekends last year,
but then found out that the night custodian was not being
kind to the guinea pigs. Rather than call him on it, I just
started bringing them home every night. A lot of teachers
called me crazy, but I really don't mind - my piggies ride
in their own carrier back and forth to school - they are
excellent car riders and seem to enjoy their daily trip.
I know that if I am out, they will not be left alone in the
classroom; I don't have to worry about arriving at school
and finding a dead pig, if the heat gets turned off in the
winter for whatever reason, I won't have to worry about my
It takes dedication to do this, however. You have to spend
the money on two cage setups rather than just one.
Maintaining two setups is twice as expensive, considering
the cost of bedding. You have to think about the animals'
welfare -- I don't go out with other teachers to happy hour
on Fridays (even when I feel like I really could use it!)
because I don't want to leave the guinea pigs in the car. I
also have to warm up my car every day in the winter before
bringing the pigs to the car, because they are very
sensitive to the cold.
Plus, because I am an adult and do not have a lot of time to
devote to entertaining one pig at home, I got two guinea
pigs. They are herd animals and really need a companion.
This means twice the expense, AND twice the cage size needed.
The classroom pet is primarily - and SHOULD be - the
teacher's pet. If you don't want the guinea pigs to be YOUR
pets, you should not get them for your class. Never, ever
send the animal home with a student for a weekend or
holiday -- you never know what the animal will be subjected
to on its "vacation." Be prepared to give the animals
regular attention during your time away from school. If My
pigs aren't handled during the summer, they will be skittish
come the new school year, so I take them out daily for
exercise and handling even when I am away from school. I
also have to 'talk' to them every day, give them their run
around time and their fresh veggies daily. They LOVE people
and really need that human contact. Mine scream for it if
they don't get it.
Be prepared for unexpected expenses. I write to parents
letting them know that donations would be gladly
appreciated, although I limit donation 'requests' to
aceptable fresh fruits and veggies (I send home a list), and
donations of litter. I provide the guinea pigs' food, and
do not accept donations because their diet should be
consistent - they shouldn't get whatever brand of food
Johnnie happened to bring in this week for them. I do not
depend on nor expect donations (and truthfully, I rarely get
them - parents may send in a lot of donations when the pets
first come to school in September, but then they forget).
Above all, veterinary care for guinea pigs is expensive.
And you never know when you may need it. This fall, my
guinea pigs were exposed to bedding that was infected with
mites. They both became infected, and needed to go to the
vet for ivermectin injections. When guinea pigs get sick,
they go downhill fast. One of my pigs was dehydrated; she
had been scratching herself constantly, had not been eating,
and had several large sores on her body. So, she needed
additional medication as well. They both needed to be
rechecked a week later. It wound up costing almost $300.
My pets, my expense. Do not expect parents to 'donate'
veterinary care, and do not say "Well, its a class pet, so I
am not going to spend the money on vet care" -- you make the
decision to bring an animal into your classroom, you are
assuming financial responsibility for the animal, including
any unforeseen medical expsenses. (And if you, by some
unfortunate circumstance, get a PREGNANT guinea pig, it is
your moral duty to find GOOD homes for those babies - not
just passing them off on anyone willing to take one, but
making sure that they will be well cared for and not abused
Pets in the classroom are, at best, frowned upon, and at
worst, disallowed entirely. It is sad, because, while it is
a big committment on the teacher's part, it can be a
wonderful asset to your classroom environment. My pigs have
taught my students so much about care and compassion for
other creatures; they have sparked lively discussions, and
have added a lot of comic relief as well. Plus, nothing
beats getting to stroke a cuddly creature while reading a
good book in the reading corner. But if you do bring a
live, furry animal into your classroom, by all means - DONT
ruin it for future pet-oriented teachers. Be responsible.
Keep the cage clean and ODOR FREE. I change my pigs' cage
once a week. (Guinea pigs are SMELLY - the smaller the cage,
the smellier they are, so you have to stay on top of the
cleaning) I also make sure that their area is swept daily,
so the custodian does not have extra work due to my pigs. Do
not allow students to play with or handle animals without
your constant supervision - one bite to a child who put his
finger in the cage despite being constantly told not to -
and your principal's policy on pets will most likely rapidly
change. Bathe and groom your pet frequently, keep them
clean and disease free, their nails trimmed, and be sure to
seat children AWAY from the animals' primary living area -
the less chance you give for a child to have an allergy
attack the better. By maintaining the pet in a responsible
way, you might hopefully show those doubters that pets CAN
be integrated into classroom life without causing the
problems that have gotten them banned from so many schools.
On 8/17/07, NEWBIE wrote:
> OK. I'm a new teacher in the mid-Atlantic. We have
> middling cold winters and some snow days. I also just
> heard something from our principal about having a 'three
> day contingency plan' for those times when something
> happens and you are out for three days straight.
> That said, I really want to have pets in my room. I teach
> 4-5 special ed resource room and find that for some kids
> at this age coming to special ed is no longer 'cool' and
> they are reluctant to come. Thus, the inclusion of guinea
> pigs (my choice for a pet) would make the room fun and
> exciting rather than just ordinary (my principal has no
> problem with the pets but there are no other ones in the
> Has anybody had experience with having had guinea pigs as
> classroom pets? We had them as home pets and loved them,
> but both died. I already have all the equipment and only
> need new pigs, bedding and food, etc.
> If you have pets what do YOU do in your room for either
> the times when you might be out sick or closed due to
> weather? I'm guessing that the heat goes back pretty much
> all the way on Fridays so either I'll take them home or
> have student volunteers do it; same with holidays that are