We have a pet in the classroom. She is a snake and her name is Viscountess Pudding Edwina, or Pudding for short. Pudding is a Rosy Boa. I would never have kept a snake before. But I met a friend who keeps many reptiles as pets and their great enthusiasm for them rubbed off on me. I was still a bit hesitant with the idea of a snake as a pet until we visited the Vivarium in Berkeley, which sells all things reptilian or amphibian.
At the Vivarium, I learned that the rosy boa only grows up to 3 feet so they fit my idea that pets need to be a bit cute. When we first got her she was a teeny tiny thing, or, as we say in Chinese, 小布丁點 (xiao bu ding dian), hence her name Pudding, which is the English translation of 布丁. Baba added the Edwina part. I love her name since it’s bilingual just like the two kids. I’m really big on having bilingual names.
It’s been a whole year since we’ve had Pudding. We purchased her with the Christmas and birthday money the kids have received since birth. So it’s technically the kids’ pet. You would think that would make the kids be a bit more responsible, but alas, not really. I still have to remind Thumper sometimes to feed the snake. But after about a year of feeding it alongside her father, she now has the whole routine down and can feed Pudding all by herself. And Astroboy, who was not interested with feeding, now wants to help as well.
Pudding requires one pinkie or fuzzy mouse a week, plus a bit of water every month or so. We had to buy a cage, thermometer, shavings, a warming lamp and heat pad. I think the whole startup cost was probably $300-$350, with Pudding the biggest cost. A bag of fuzzy costs $11 bucks and lasts you 2.5 months. And the shavings cost $5 and lasts 6 months to a year. All in all Pudding is a very low maintenance pet, both in time and money.
It’s utterly fascinating to watch Pudding feed. Here’s a video on youtube from someone:
I love having a snake for a first pet for several reasons.
- As I mentioned, low maintenance in time and money. I don’t like nagging the children to feed the pet daily. Once a week is good. And I wasn’t ready to another “child” in the house to take care of. Best thing, if you forget to feed her for a few days, it’s okay!
- No need to deal with poop as compared with dog/cat/chickens. We just scoop out the poop once every few weeks, when we remember.
- She’s not a big pet and doesn’t walk around the house, thereby requiring some vacuuming of hair or constant cleaning of something. I don’t have to worry about her eating random furnitures or things she shouldn’t eat.
- She can be handled by the children as long as they don’t abuse her. Other than cats and dogs, many Montessori pets cannot be handled much by kids. Thumper got nipped by Pudding once because she was playing with her while getting ready to be fed. It just surprised her and she learned not to do it again.
- She sheds her skin! The kids get to observe her. I didn’t realize how much they really learn from living with a pet until we went to the Academy of Sciences last semester and we sat through a presentation on snakes.
- Baba loves reptiles. Perfect! He definitely helps with the feeding and petting.
- It helps the children to like reptiles. A snake is usually something that teachers, children, and many adults say “ewwww” to. I really like how Thumper that isn’t afraid of touching them but at the same time has a healthy respect and knows that not all snakes are touchable.
Now that I know we can handle a pet and the issues I may run into (constant nagging), I’m ready for some chickens and cats/dogs.
So what’s a Montessori pet? In the Montessori classroom, you typically keep the 5 types of vertebrates as pets (birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and fish). Maybe invertebrates as well. So children really have hands-on experience caring for animals and observing them. In my ideal classroom I would like to have some chickens (bird), keep bees (invertebrates), and a dog or cat (mammal). Not sure about I want to keep an amphibian yet. And of course, most classrooms don’t have mammals as pets, though I’ve heard that some 3-6 classrooms do.