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Animals in the Classroom - A Bright Idea Blog Post

Over the years, I have seen many different kinds animals in the classrooms I have visited. Primary classrooms usually have hamsters or guinea pigs. 

In MS/HS Science classrooms I have seen snakes, hissing cockroaches, mice, fish, frogs, lizards, turtles, and even tarantulas.

My Biology classroom pet was much more fluffy and interactive. I chose a rabbit and my son named him Dexter after the cartoon show "Dexter's Laboratory." Rabbits are very social and smart animals and make excellent pets. 

I bought him a large cage for when he needed to be away from the students and my husband and I made him a set of carpeted wooden stairs that led up to his cage. Under his stairway was his litter box. What?? Who didn't know that rabbits could be litter trained (feel free to admit it in the comments below!) Yes, rabbits are very smart and crave their human owners interaction. 

Now, I will admit that a couple of my students were not thrilled at first that I had a roaming rabbit in my classroom .... yes, I also said roaming!!  He was not locked up - it was very important to me that my students interacted with him, but they all (even those initially skiddish) warmed up to Dexter within a few days. 

Students volunteered to come in during their homeroom to feed him and play with him.... although none volunteered to clean out his litterbox every day! If a student was having a bad day, they would stop by and ask if they could pet and hang out with Dexter. I was truly amazed at the bond that I was seeing between my students and Dexter. It came to a point where I found that I could use Dexter as a calming agent in my classroom. I worked in an inner-city classroom while I had Dexter. Sometimes there were fights between students. When I noticed this occurring, I would immediately tell one of the students (usually the one most likely to outburst with a threat/or get physical) to go pet the bunny!  It worked so well, and quickly that I had other students stepping in when a classmate was becoming agitated in the classroom telling their classmate to "go pet the bunny."

Now, before all of you go out and buy bunnies for your classrooms - there are a few things to consider:
1. Get your administrations approval for any classroom pet.
2. Make sure that you have a personal budget set aside for pet needs: food, bedding, litter, toys, vet bills (bunnies need to be 'fixed').
3. Weekend and long weekend plans. I had a great custodial staff that stepped in on weekends to feed Dexter and change his litter. I will admit that I gave these wonderful people special treats to help me take care of him so that he did not have to leave his 'classroom home' on the weekends.
4. Have a sub/snow day plan - someone still needs to feed the classroom animals if school is closed or you are not there.
5. Have vacation and summer plans for your pet.
6. If you have a 'roaming' pet be sure to baby-proof your classroom. Bunnies love to chew through cords and anything left on the ground (including student's shoes and backpacks).

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  1. I TOTALLY want to do this! I don't know if y principal will allow it, but I would absolutely love a roaming pet. Crossing my fingers! You talked about Dexter in the past tense - has he passed on? Thanks for sharing!

  2. We have a hedgehog that I let roam around the room on Fridays. The class loves it and the are so respectful of him and his safety!
    The Schroeder Page

  3. Bunnies are the best classroom pets! My beloved Lola passed away earlier this year, but she brought so much joy to both me and my students. She was such a diva! If the students were getting too loud, she'd thump her back paws and the kids would immediately quiet down so as not to disturb her. She would toss her head, ears flopping, if you tried to give her a lettuce leaf when she'd rather have a blackberry (her favorite). I teach a special education class (ED) and the effect she had on my students was amazing. When she passed, I had former students from several years ago sending me their condolences. They still remembered her fondly. I miss my Lola, and I'm trying to convince my husband that we're ready for another bunny in the family. Unfortunately, he thinks the two cats and two dogs we have are pets enough right now. :(

    If anyone is considering a classroom pet and the cost is a consideration, there is a grant available to help defray the cost. Just go to for the details. They have grants that will help you get set up with a classroom pet and also yearly maintenance grants to help as well.

  4. I had a rabbit as a classroom pet and the kids loved her. But not all bunnies are social. My bunny, Keke, never liked to be picked up. It wasn't possible to leave her at school because the air conditioning was turned off at 5:00 every night and didn't come on at all on the weekends. When you wear a full time fur coat in Phoenix, AZ, you need the AC! So I took her to "visit" my classroom a couple days a week. She didn't really enjoy those visits because I learned that rabbits prefer to live in a space where they feel safe. She is much happier living in the corner of one of my rooms at home.

    So, if you're considering having a rabbit as a class pet make sure you do a lot of reading first. You will be making a commitment to take that rabbit into your life for the next 7 or 8 years.
    Debbie Crockett
    Crockett's Classroom

  5. Bunnies are wonderful but a very big commitment. They can have many problems with their teeth which grow in both directions and can become abscessed. They can also live between 8-12 years. Their digestive system is very sensitive and if they stop eating they can die quickly. Please research these pets thoroughly before you get one, they are precious with big personalities but are a lot of work if you take care of they correctly. They require fresh greens, vegetables and hay every day and I would not recommend passing them off to different families, this causes a lot of stress on the bunny. I brought my bunny home every weekend, holiday, and during the summer. Please, please do your research and talk to your local house rabbit society. They usually have many bunnies that have been given up and they recommend adopting two bunnies together because they are social and need a mate.

  6. Definitely sounds like a great idea! I remember we had guinea pigs and hamsters as classroom pets when I was younger.

  7. I never had a pet growing up in the classroom but my science teacher did bring in his chinchilla a couple of times. That was one of the most fun class days.

    Michelle F.

  8. I love the idea of kids having pets in the classrooms not a fan of hissing cockroaches though or any cockroaches for that matter but my son would love Dexter!

  9. I love this idea! I homeschool so we have pets but no rabbits as of yet. I'd love to add a rabbit as a pet. I can see how animals can help kids.

  10. This is a great idea! We never had classroom pets, but I can see how essential a good pet's presence would be in an inner city setting. No, I did not know a bunny could be litter trained!

  11. What a great idea! I would have loved to have one of these in my classroom growing up.

  12. Interesting. Maybe all classrooms should have roaming pets haha :)