Pets in the Classroom: Lessons in Empathy and Responsibility

By Sam Jones | Published on 2022-12-13

As children, many of us longed for a furry friend to call our own, but in some classrooms, the dream of owning a pet becomes a reality. As a teacher, introducing a classroom pet opens up new opportunities for students that go beyond simple companionship. The addition of a pet can also teach children valuable life lessons in empathy, responsibility, and even science. In this article, we will explore the benefits of having pets in the classroom and how they can positively impact students both academically and emotionally.

This image shows a young student in a classroom, smiling and holding a small puppy in her arms. The puppy is looking up at the student with a content expression, and the student is looking down at the puppy with a look of joy and

The Benefits of Having Pets in the Classroom

Having pets in the classroom can offer a multitude of benefits for both students and educators alike. One of the most significant advantages of learning with classroom pets is the potential to foster empathy and emotional intelligence in young learners. By caring for and nurturing classroom pets, students can develop a deeper appreciation for the needs and feelings of others, including both animals and humans. In addition to promoting empathy, having pets in the classroom can also teach students valuable skills in responsibility and accountability. Assisting with the daily care and maintenance of the pets can help students become more accountable and reliable, while also cultivating a sense of ownership over their learning environment. Caretakers must adhere to a regular schedule of feeding, cleaning and exercising the pets, providing them with a sense of routine and structure that can also reinforce skills such as time management and discipline.

How Pets can Teach Empathy to Children

Having pets in the classroom can be a powerful tool for teaching empathy to children. When children have the opportunity to take care of a pet, they learn to understand the needs and feelings of another living being. They develop a sense of responsibility and learn to take care of someone other than themselves. In doing so, they learn to put themselves in the shoes (or paws) of another being and develop the ability to empathize with them. Furthermore, pets can teach children about different personalities and behaviors, just like people. They can observe how one pet may be shy and afraid, while another is outgoing and playful. By noticing these differences and understanding a pet’s unique personality, children can also start to appreciate and accept the differences in the people around them. This can lead to a more tolerant and compassionate overall attitude towards others. Pets also provide opportunities for children to practice their social skills. For example, when a pet is introduced into the classroom, children may have to work together to determine who will be responsible for which tasks, such as feeding, cleaning, and walking. This can lead to communication and problem-solving skills, as they negotiate and compromise with one another. Ultimately, having pets in the classroom can create a nurturing and supportive environment where children can learn valuable life skills, including empathy and responsibility, that will stay with them for a lifetime.

The Role of Pets in Building Responsibility Among Kids

The role of pets in building responsibility among kids cannot be overstated. Taking care of a pet requires a consistent routine of feeding, cleaning, and exercising. When children have a pet in the classroom, they learn the importance of routine and taking care of another living creature. This helps them to develop a sense of responsibility that can carry over into other areas of their lives, such as completing homework on time or doing chores at home. Moreover, pets in the classroom can also teach children about accountability. They become responsible for the pet's wellbeing and learn to take responsibility for their actions, such as forgetting to feed the pet or not cleaning its cage properly. Through the daily care of a pet, children learn that their actions have consequences, and they become more aware of how their behavior affects others. This helps them to become more accountable for their actions and to develop a sense of integrity that can carry them into adulthood.

Benefits of Classroom Pets for Children with Special Needs

Children with special needs often face unique challenges in the classroom. A classroom pet can provide a calming influence and reduce stress and anxiety for these children. Many children with special needs also struggle with social skills and may find it difficult to connect with their peers. A classroom pet can serve as a social facilitator, providing a common interest and topic of conversation between students. Pets can also offer therapeutic benefits for children with special needs, particularly those with autism spectrum disorder. Interacting with a pet can help children with autism to develop their social and emotional skills. Additionally, the routine of caring for a classroom pet can provide structure and predictability, which can be beneficial for children with special needs who may have difficulties with transitions and changes to their routine. In short, classroom pets can help foster positive and rewarding experiences for children with special needs, helping them to feel more at ease in the classroom and improving their overall well-being.

How Classroom Pets Can Help Students Build Stronger Relationships with Teachers

Classroom pets can help students build stronger relationships with their teachers. When kids take responsibility for the care of a classroom pet, they learn trust and accountability, not just with the pet but also with their teachers. Teachers can use pets as a vehicle to build relationships with students by allowing students to help with pet care or by talking to students about what they are doing to keep the pet healthy and happy. This reinforces the bond between students and their teachers and shows that the teacher cares about the well-being of their furry friend. Moreover, classroom pets can serve as a common interest between teachers and students. Children love talking about their pets, and having a classroom pet can be a topic of discussion between students and teachers. Teachers can use pets to establish common ground with children by sharing their own pet stories or asking students to share theirs. This can lead to more personal and meaningful relationships between teachers and students and help spark natural conversations that can lead to an even deeper understanding of one another's lives.

Tips for Choosing the Right Classroom Pet

Choosing the right classroom pet can make all the difference in the success of having animals in the classroom. It's important to consider the needs and characteristics of the animal before making a decision. First, consider the size of the pet and the space available in your classroom. Large animals like dogs may not be suitable for small classrooms, whereas smaller animals like guinea pigs or hamsters may be a better fit. Secondly, consider the age of your students. Younger children may do better with low-maintenance pets like fish or turtles, while older students may be more capable of caring for higher maintenance pets like rabbits or birds. Additionally, certain animals may not be suitable for allergy-prone students or those with sensory processing issues. Lastly, consider the level of interaction students will have with the pet. Some animals may be more social and enjoy being handled and played with, while others may prefer to be observed from a distance. It's important to choose a pet that will fit well with your classroom and provide a positive experience for both the students and the animal.

How Classroom Pets Can Improve Academic Performance.

Section 7: How Classroom Pets Can Improve Academic Performance Pets in the classroom have been shown to have significant benefits in terms of academic performance among students. Research has found that the presence of a classroom pet can lead to increased focus and improved grades among students. This can be attributed to the fact that interactions with pets can help reduce stress levels and increase feelings of relaxation and calmness, leading to better performance in school. Furthermore, pets in the classroom can also be used as tools for teaching various subjects, such as biology and psychology, as students can observe and learn about the behavior and anatomy of animals. The responsibility of caring for a pet can also teach important life skills, such as time management and problem-solving, which can positively impact academic performance. Overall, incorporating pets into the classroom can provide a unique and engaging learning experience that can improve academic achievement and foster a deeper appreciation for the natural world.


In conclusion, having pets in the classroom can provide invaluable learning opportunities for students in terms of developing empathy and responsibility. As we've discussed, the presence of animals can teach children important life skills such as caretaking, relationship building, and emotional regulation. Not only can pets be a source of comfort and companionship, but they can also challenge students to think beyond their own needs and desires and to consider the needs of others. With proper care, animals can be a positive and enriching addition to any classroom. Let's continue to encourage teachers and schools to embrace the benefits of incorporating pets and animals into the learning environment.