CLASSROOM GUINEA PIGS
Guinea Pigs and Classrooms
Becky (a long time teacher) shared some of her thoughts on Guinea Lynx Forums concerning guinea pigs and classrooms. Many rescues feel pets do not belong in the classroom. Rescuers may find Becky's sample letter helpful in educating teachers who contact them about adopting a classroom pet.
Dear (actual name of teacher),
Read also All Creatures Rescue & Sanctuary's article:
Is a guinea pig right for my classroom? -
A primer for teachers
I can tell by the fact that you contacted a rescue that you are aware of the serious overpopulation of guinea pigs in our area. Good for you for being so socially aware and willing to help in this situation, not just by wanting to rescue two guinea pigs, but by educating your students about proper pet care and integrating these companions into a loving environment. And good for you for realizing the pet store industry contributes to the overpopulation problem by selling pets and supporting the breeding mills.
Let me tell you about our experience with some other caring teachers who have had guinea pigs as classroom pets. None of these teachers have pets now for many good reasons:
I'm sure you see more and more children with allergies and asthma these days. Many people do not know that if a child is allergic to a cat or dog, thereís a high possibility they will be allergic to a guinea pig as well.
Since guinea pigs live from five-eight years, it is highly likely that, during that time, you'll have more than one child with allergies. One teacher experienced a child who had to be brought to the doctors due to a severe reaction. Even the childís parents were surprised.
Since guinea pigs are classified as "exotics," there are few vets in the area that competently treat these guys. Also, since it is a specialty area, the costs for treating them is quite enormous. They are prone to abscesses, bladder stones and various tumors. All of these situations require expensive, extensive diagnostics and surgery at a cost anywhere from $300-$800 and extensive post-surgical care that cannot be carried out in the classroom.
In addition, many guinea pigs develop serious dental problems. As I'm sure you know, their teeth are continually growing. If problems develop, the guinea pig will require specialized care or risk starving to death.
Guinea pigs, to thrive and have the best possible situation, require a great deal of space. (This link will take you to a site specifically about guinea pig cages.) The only bedding that will not cause problems with allergies is a product called Care Fresh, (quite expensive -- average price for a week of bedding would be $30). This bedding needs to be changed weekly. One teacher actually had to transport the soiled bedding home because the custodian refused to deal with the heavy trash cans.
Our teachers also have told us space is an issue in many classrooms. A proper-sized cage would take up an enormous amount of space.
Hay, good quality pellets and fresh vegetables will average approximately $25 a week. Thatís a big hunk out of a poorly-paid teacherís salary!
Because of the experiences of other teachers, as well as the belief that the best possible environment for these rather fragile creatures is as a family pet, it is our policy not to adopt our guinea pigs as classroom pets. We do, however, have many educational outreach programs.
(List your programs.)
Again, I applaud your efforts and appreciate your thinking of a rescue first. I'd like to extend a personal invitation to you to spend a day here with us helping out our rescue. It can be great fun, and you'll get to see our operation in action! I welcome your comments and input about pets in the classroom. We always are striving for new ways to expand our message of proper guinea pig care and can't think of a better source than our classroom teachers.