You can use the clay, just mix in equal parts coarse sand.
Make sure the cactus pad has scabbed over from where it was cut off of the mother plant, other wise, yes, it will rot.
I just cut off a dozen pads from an unruly cactus. To balance it out.
Have about 2 dozen fruits...
Oh, how sad! I'm so sorry, I know this hard to go through, having lost one of my own 4 legged kids back in November...
May God, Wakan Tanka, Buddha, Shiva, Allah, Yahweh, or Akal Murat,
give your lil one Peace...once again, I'm so sorry for your loss...
I love the pipe cleaner Idea. I was even thinking of a way to attach an Apple Air Tag, with velcro, or maybe a Harness. I have a large yard and my old roommates Sulcata was about 10" in diameter, He (PeeWee) could hide right in front of your face...another "Magician"
You might also mention how some species are threatened, due to habitat loss, & environmental concerns. Like the Turtles 🐢 down in Texas that got stranded in that cold snap that hit the state several months ago.
Wow, 🥰 you are lucky to have such a fantastic opportunity to do outreach on...