By Stefanie Severin, HRA Junior Volunteer and Jess Anderson, Adoptions Outreach Coordinator
Have you ever thought about what it might be like to be a classroom pet? Envisioned yourself in a teeny tiny body, surrounded by lots of children? While it can be a positive experience to take care of an animal, and while some people don’t quite feel ready for a cat or a dog, it’s important to remember that nourishing another creature, no matter how small, requires careful research beforehand regarding appropriate enrichment and housing – while some enclosures might be cute or perfect for sitting on a desk, nobody would like to be stuck in the same tiny cage every, or swim around in a dull and too-small fish bowl! Before welcoming one of the following types of pets into your classroom or home, keep in mind some of these important facts.
These guys can be super social – at HRA, we’ll adopt two for the price of one! - remember that the recommended living space for 1 guinea pig is a minimum of 7.5 square feet. The recommended diet includes hay and a limited amount of fresh vegetables and fruit.
Fun Facts: A Guinea pig can run from when they’re 3 hours old and they can be litterbox trained!
The recommended living space for one turtle is a 30 to 55 gallon tank for turtles 8 inches and under, and a 75 to 125 gallon tank for turtles larger than 8 inches. The recommended diet for a turtle includes live insects, snails, small fish, worms, in addition to plant matter like dandelion leaves and lettuce.
Fun Fact: There are over 50 bones in the shell of a turtle. Small children should be careful – if improperly handled, turtles can secrete a bacteria called salmonella, which can make people sick!
The recommended living space for a hamster is a wire cage or aquarium at least 24 x 12 inches, and at least 12 inches tall. The recommended diet includes seeds, grains, and dried or fresh fruits and vegetables.
Fun Fact: A hamster’s teeth grow continuously, so they need something to gnaw on to wear down their teeth. They also LOVE space and exercise!
The recommended living space for betta fish is a tank about 2.5 gallons in size at the least - so no, they shouldn’t live in small fish bowls! Betta fish are omnivores, so their diet should be protein-rich, with occasionally some fiber and fruits or vegetables.
Fun Fact: Betta fish actually prefer to live in warm water at a pH of 6.5-7. They can even learn to do tricks, and can survive out of water for short periods of time (not recommended, though!).