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Should rats and all small animals NEVER be considered for classroom pets?

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Hello everyone!
I am a kindergarten through 8th grade science teacher, and I am considering getting a couple of rats as pets. Now I make the distinction of ME getting the rats as pets because I find the treatment of many classroom pets abhorrent. I strongly believe that any pet that spends part of its time in the classroom must have their needs and wants taken care of first, and the lessons and students wants- should be considered secondary. So I am considering getting 2 new male rats as pets, with the added bonus of my school paying for them and being able to take them to work with me.

I have been researching the best cages, bedding, handling, feeding, etc. in regards to proper rat care and believe I will be able to set the basics up properly. However, I still have a few questions, and I am hoping you guys will be able to help.

First, the rats will have to come home with me on the weekends, as I will be unable to come to campus to see them. I plan on having tiered cages for my rats, one at my home and the other in my classroom. Both will be wire cages, away from ventilation and direct sunlight. These will be the rats' two many territories and they will NEVER be allowed to go home with students. (Just-how can an anyone do that?) Having this requirement actually makes me feel relieved as I am incredibly anxious about leaving them on school without any monitoring or entertainment at night. Which is where my first question comes in- Would it be better for the rats to travel with me to and from work daily, or to stay on campus and only come home on the weekends? I am concerned about their routine and the stress travel induces. On one hand I feel like establishing a daily routine would be good for the rats and I would be able to look after them better, on the other hand I am worried about traveling with them frequently and the stress that travel induces in all animals.

Second, at my home I have cats and at my school I have students. Although I can provide private space for the rats in both locations, I am worried about them scenting the cats and the stress that would induce. And I would like to eventually bring them into the main living space where there are cats. Also, although my class sizes are small, and we use ASL to communicate so in some regards with class is quieter, I am worried about the activity in the classroom constantly disrupting their sleep cycles. I would only ever let students who are physically, and cognitively capable of handling the rats do so, when the rats choose to. If the only person my rats wanted to be near their entire life is me, then the students will just have to watch them from inside their cage. I know rats are adaptable and love interaction with people, but all together would this be too much stress for them?

Third, I know rats who have bonded with their human tend to handle change better. So I wonder how to handle transitioning into the classroom. I could keep them at home in their cages for a couple weeks, introducing them to their travel cage as I do so. But how long do you think it would take before it would be, acceptable to travel with them and introduce them to their classroom environment? On one hand I feel like establishing the routine early would be good for them as then having two territories and travel would be a normal routine. Even if they haven't fully bonded with me yet. Although this would also potentially require me 'forcing' them into the travel cage and back and forth. On the other hand it may be less stressful to slowly introduce them to me, the travel cage, and then their second home. I also worry about the transition of constantly staying in 1 home during the summer, and then uprooting that yearly.

Fourtly, I am concerned about air irritants. All of the persons in my household vape indoors. I would absolutely never blow the smoke directly at them, but would being in the same room, or even the same house still be dangerous for them? Also I have a diffuser in my classroom, even if it is at the other side of the classroom, would that be dangerous for them?

Essentially, I am worried that even if I were to provide safe cages, food, and cleanliness, and I was their main person to bond with and be a constant in their life, would I be subjecting these animals to a life of love and adventure, or a shitty life where they are constantly stressed and fearful?

Thank you for reading my novel. What do you think? Should rats and all small animals NEVER be considered for classroom pets? Or is there a way that they can live fulfilling lives while spending part of their time in a classroom? Is there anything else you find concerning that I should be considering? Thanks again!
 

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Many rays travel with their owners, I think if they're raised that way - it just becomes a part of their lives.
I have a cat - it doesn't seem to bother my rats.
If it were me, I would want the rats to be bonded with and comfortable with me, before introducing them to a couple dozen kids. Also, keep in mind - rats have their own personality - so they all aren't going to react the same way. You could end up with one rat that loves the dual environment and one that simply can't handle it. And there's really no way to tell when you get them.

No one in my household smokes or vapes - but I'm sure someone here can answer that.
 

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Tesla, Ruby, Cloud, and Poe
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Rats are definitely individuals with their own personalities. Some would probably be fine with the alternating scenery; others would not. I think if you form a close bond with them, and take care of their needs (including outside of the cage time) they should generally be happy. The fact that you are concerned for their welfare is probably enough to prove that you could take good care of them and anticipate their needs and desires.

No one has a perfect home; vaping probably isn't going to be a problem as I have a smoker at home and the rats don't seem to be affected. As long as you aren't blowing smoke in their faces and they have adequate ventilation, they should be fine.
 

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It's hard to provide rats a stress-free life in a classroom, but I guess it's possible.

If you say yes to most of these questions, then you probably shouldn't keep rats as classroom pets:

Is your classroom very noisy sometimes?
Would any of your students try to handle the rats without being taught how to properly handle them?
Do you have the time and room to let the rats out of the cage and free-range them each day, or every other day? (for at least 45 minutes)
Do you have room to put an adequately-sized cage in your classroom? (I would say a single critter nation at least)
Do fire alarms, and loudspeaker announcements happen a lot?
Would you be able to pay for vet bills?
Do you have time to socialize with the rats every day?

Then, answering the questions I can:

I think traveling with rats is definitely okay, as long as you do it right. However, traveling with rats does stress them out, so you'll need to consider the length of the trip and everything you're going to do to get them home.
Then, about the cats, normally if someone has rats and wants to get cats I would tell them that's a bad idea. Really, cats and rats just shouldn't mix. You could have both in the same house though, if you keep the rats on a different floor than the cats, in a room with a closed door. You should not let them in the same room, it's just too much stress for the rats, and risky.

Personally, I would get pet rats and keep them at your house, if you want rats. If you want a classroom pet I would consider a reptile like a turtle, or fish. Rodents and furry pets are really more suited to living in a calmer environment like your house, alternating between a house and a classroom would be pretty stressful :)
 

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Moving rats stresses them out, mine get stressed just going 10 mins up the road to the vet, its noisy and scary for rats theyre very sensitive to different smells and vibrations

you can't trust the students or people in general really, someone may get them out, drop them, do stupid things thinking its funny

I would avoid. the classrooom environment is noisy, full of strangers and probably terrifying to rats
 

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I have rats that are great travelling and who sit chilled out on the way to the vet, then I have others who stress big time and freeze up. It's so rat to rat.
If you do end up doing this and give them classroom space I'd suggest some insulated hides that would be good to retreat into when noises happen. Plush caves, or cubes, or thick plastic hides can all be washed and feel very secure to little rattos. Maybe even a dig box they can crawl into with some good substrate in it. Also keep weather in mind for your area. Getting my guys ready to travel in summer with the car AC is easy, but winter without a remote starter means it's a half hour of prep to get them in a warm car.
 
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