I get so many questions on the daily about my classroom pet, Winston. This post is dedicated to talking about what it’s like having a classroom pet and how to care for a guinea pig!
My first year teaching middle school I had many classroom pets. Roscoe the leopard gecko, Sheldon the mini red eared slider turtle, Sammy the salamander, two baby chicks that hatched in our classroom using an incubator, Proton and Neutron the goldfish, a baby duck, and Wanda the hedehog. None of these pets compared to Winston the guinea pig. I would go into Petsmart to get crickets for my reptiles and always walk past the cute little guinea pigs. I would dream of having one of my own. One day I applied for a Pet’s in the Classroom grant to get a guinea pig of my own (HIGHLY RECOMMEND applying for this LINK HERE) I had already fallen in love with one at the store and didn’t want to chance losing him, so I went ahead and got him. (Any New Girl fans out there? He was named after Winston Bishop!) Winston has truly been a joy to have in my classroom. We have been to 3 different schools together and every student in my class falls in love with him.
When he was a baby I never wanted to put him down so I would always wear a scarf and carry him around with me – all over the school and even while I was teaching. I think this is why he is so friendly today. Guineas needs LOTS of attention. They love to be talked to and loved on. Typically, guinea pigs need to be in groups. Shortly after I got Winston, I read that they needed to be with friends so I used my Pets in the Classroom Grant to get another one, Newton. Winston really DID NOT like sharing his space and was a bully. I felt awful for Newton so I gave him away to a friend. Winston is just one of a kind I guess!
What guinea pigs need:
- A habitat -DO NOT get one from a pet store! They are overpriced and not enough space for your piggy! I got mine from Amazon LINK HERE
- Bedding FAVORITE LINKED
- A house to hide in
- Water bottle
- Food (pellets)
- Timothy hay
- Fresh fruits and veggies- Winston’s favorites are strawberries, carrots, spinach, parsley, cilantro, blueberries, grapes, baby tomatoes, REALLY ANYTHING!!
I do not take Winston home in the evenings. I don’t like to take him out of his environment and confuse him. Most weekends he stays at school, because I am in my classroom at least once over the weekend where I can replenish his food and water and play with him. He has a home at my house for when I bring him home with me some weekends and over 3 day weekends. When he comes home with me he loves playing with my dog, Piper. They give each other kisses and Piper likes to try to make him play, but Winston doesn’t like to run. I take him outside in the grass to enjoy the sunshine, he likes to swim laps in the bathtub, and watch tv I my lap.
My advisory class (homeroom) is responsible for cleaning winston’s cage and making sure he has food and water. I usually end up feeding him first thing in the morning. My students love taking care of Winston and they all check him on him throughout the day!
I have “Take Winston Home Applications” where students can “apply” to bring him home over breaks. See picture. I read the applications turned in and choose the best one (and I make sure the student is someone that I trust.)
I get asked a lot about students having allergies to guinea pigs. Throughout my four years of having him, I have had two students that are highly allergic to guinea pig dander. We established that they would stay away from him, obviously not touch him, and I made sure their seat was on the other side of the room. I never had any problems with a student having an allergic reaction. This is something that I have always been worried about happening, but thus far have not had any problems.
My first year teaching middle school I got Winston. I asked my principal if it was okay, but there were a lot of teachers with classroom pets at my school so I kind of knew that I was able to. I then moved to the high school where I just let that principal know that I had a classroom pet and he was cool with him. My current school I did the same and there were no problems. I know some schools in certain states that are very strict about having classroom pets. I would just explain to your administration that having a classroom pet encourages classroom unity, responsibility, and having one in your classroom could be an opportunity for a student that they may never get.
I hope that this answers your questions! If you think of anything else send me an email! Having a classroom pet is such a treat and I can’t imagine my classroom without one!