In your role as an educator, you want to make sure that the students get a wealth of experiences and lessons that are both valuable and enjoyable, and classroom pets like guinea pigs, or small animals from the pet store are the perfect way to accomplish that!
Having a chinchilla as a classroom pet can be a great option if you want to introduce a more unique pet, but there are a number of things to take into consideration before doing so.
Benefits Of Having A Chinchilla As A Classroom Pet
Let’s start with the benefits of having such a unique pet as a chinchilla in your classroom. Despite the fact that their care is more complex than that of some small pets, once you get the hang of it they can be quite low maintenance and simple to care for compared to other classroom pets.
Chinchillas can be an ideal classroom pet because of the number of educational advantages a few students can receive from having such an extraordinary animal in the classroom. In fact, we’ve made an infographic for you to have in your classroom with fun facts about a chinchilla.
As a final bonus, you do not need to pull the chinchilla out of its cage when exercising it, as this can be done within the chinchilla's cage with a few items put in, like a chinchilla wheel.
How Friendly Are Chinchillas?
One of the biggest considerations when it comes to class pets is the degree to which the animal is friendly toward the students.
While it is true that each chinchilla is different from a guinea pig or other pets, when properly socialized from a young age on, chinchillas can be very friendly and social animals.
However, it should be taken into consideration that chinchillas are most comfortable remaining in their cage and don’t typically like to be held, so it is strongly discouraged to pass them from student to student.
Are Chinchillas Well-Behaved?
There is no doubt that chinchillas are well-behaved in most normal situations, but it depends greatly on how well they are cared for. If the chinchilla feels threatened, he or she may become more aggressive.
Chinchillas can also become aggressive or act out if they suffer from illness or injury, or if they've had bad experiences with their previous owners in the past.
It is important to know that chinchillas can exhibit aggression in a variety of ways, such as spraying urine, barking, lunging at whatever they perceive to be a threat, and chattering their teeth.
Are Chinchillas Good With Large Groups?
When you are keeping a chinchilla around large groups of people, one of the major concerns you will need to pay attention to is the noise level, as chinchillas can be extremely sensitive to loud sounds due to their large ears.
It is therefore incredibly important to ensure that your classroom remains at a low noise level in order to prevent your chinchilla from being frightened or stressed out by the noise in your classroom if you choose to keep it as a classroom pet.
Also, one thing to keep an eye on is how many kids gather around the chinchilla's cage at one time, as a chinchilla may feel intimidated if so many people are in their space all at once.
Having said that, if you adopt a baby chinchilla, it will more easily be able to adjust to an environment like this growing up in it.
How Many Chinchillas Do You Need?
In general, chinchillas do tend to thrive in an environment where they are able to interact with other chinchillas. However, there is nothing wrong with just having one chinchilla, as long as they get proper interaction and it's more low maintenance this way.
If you decide to get multiple chinchillas, you can either follow this guide on bonding them or keep them in separate cages.
It’s extremely important to note that you cannot keep male and female chinchillas in the same cage together, mostly because of the chance of the female becoming pregnant as they will sometimes require more specialized care.
How To Make Your Classroom Chinchilla-Friendly
There are a few steps you can take to ensure that your classroom will be a perfect environment for a chinchilla to thrive in.
The temperature needs of a chinchilla are quite different from those of other pets. Chinchillas require temperatures between 64º and 70º degrees Fahrenheit, as any higher or lower will result in severe body temperature swings that could be fatal.
As mentioned above, chinchillas are fairly sensitive to loud noises. While they will be able to handle the general chatter of a classroom, it’s important to make sure that your students don’t get too loud and frighten the chinchilla.
It’s incredibly important that there are no strong smells in your classroom if you have chinchillas, as their respiratory systems are incredibly sensitive to strong scents like common perfumes, air fresheners, and candles.
How To Take Care Of A Chinchilla
When you introduce chinchillas to the classroom, it is essential that you are familiar with the basics of chinchilla care. As a general rule, care is divided into four main pillars: diet, hygiene, health, and housing.
A chinchilla's diet should primarily consist of a mix of pressed pellet chinchilla food and Timothy Hay - this provides all of the nutrients a chinchilla needs from day to day, so supplements in the form of treats are rarely necessary.
If you decide to give your chinchilla treats, choose safe, low moisture, and low sugar items - and limit how often they receive these treats. We recommend treats no more than 1-2 times per week.
Hygiene is not only referring to the hygiene of your chinchilla's cage. Chinchillas require dust baths 2-4 times a week, closer to 4 dust baths if you live in a humid climate, and 2 dust baths if you’re located in a cooler or dryer climate.
Despite the fact that we have a larger cage cleaning guide here, a good rule of thumb is to sweep up your cage every day, wash fleece or replace your chinchilla's bedding once a week, and do a deep clean once a month.
Chinchillas are relatively healthy animals, but there are a few things you need to look out for. Namely, malocclusions, ringworm, and bloat.
Malocclusions are misalignments of the teeth. While this can be corrected in humans, it’s much harder to correct in chinchillas and can often have severe ramifications. The best to prevent this is to have plenty of safe items for your chinchilla to chew on, such as apple sticks or pumice stones.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that is incredibly contagious, while it’s treatable with blu-kote and an antifungal powder in your chinchilla's dust bath, prevention is key. If any of your students have ringworm, it’s recommended to disinfect your chinchilla's cage more frequently until the infection has cleared up and throw away wood toys that can still hold the spores.
Lastly, bloat is a serious condition where gas builds up in a chinchilla's stomach and causes extreme discomfort since they have no way to expel these gasses. Bloat can be prevented by not letting your chinchilla get into items they cannot eat, edible or otherwise.
Chinchillas need plenty of space to run around and play in. The minimum cage requirements should be at least 24” tall, and 30” wide for one chinchilla.
Additionally, you should make sure that the shelves of the cage are made from galvanized steel, or if they need to be made from plastic, then they should be covered with fleece to prevent your chinchilla from chewing them up.
Can Kids Give Chinchillas Treats?
There is no doubt that this is one of the trickier questions when it comes to keeping chinchillas as class pets, since many young children may want to give the class pet as much love as possible, and that often comes in the form of treats.
If a chinchilla is younger than 6 months old, then treats should never be given to them under any circumstances. As he or she grows older, chinchilla-safe treats can be given on occasion.
In order to ensure the safety of the chinchillas, it is important to explain to the students what treats are safe to feed them and to keep a selection of treats that they can feed to them while being under adult supervision.
Can You Leave a Chinchilla Alone In The Classroom?
It is possible to leave a chinchilla in the classroom overnight, and in most cases, that’s what would be recommended as the stress of constant car rides could be detrimental to your chinchilla.
While it is theoretically possible to leave your chinchilla in the classroom during the weekends, it’s highly discouraged for many reasons - namely, the lack of control over the classroom's temperature when you’re not there for one day or two.
You also run the risk of injury if you leave your chinchilla in a classroom on weekends since no one will be there to check on them or assist them.
Should You Let Students Take a Chinchilla Home From School?
So you may be thinking about letting the class pet go home with children on the weekends - there are a few reasons we can’t recommend that.
One of the biggest reasons is that not all families will know what chinchillas need in order to survive and thrive; while you can provide families with proper supplies and a sheet outlining the steps necessary to take care of their chinchillas such as temperature, you can't always guarantee those steps will be followed.
Housing is another important consideration - chinchillas need plenty of room to run around and many families cannot fit a properly sized cage in their car or home - and we do not recommend keeping your chinchilla in a carrier case for a long time.
A chinchilla can provide students with an extremely valuable learning experience, but it can also be an extremely large commitment that some educators may not be able to meet for a variety of reasons.
If you’re thinking of getting a chinchilla as a class pet, It’s important to take all of these considerations into mind. Furthermore, check with your administration if chinchillas have been approved as class pets, as some schools and districts may not allow them.
Have Questions About Chinchillas As Classroom Pets or Chinchillas?
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Author Bio: Morgan Mulac