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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Ferret therapy for ill children
Ferrets are being taken into hospitals
Ferrets are helping ill youngsters to recover in hospital, a vets conference heard.

Stonebridge, a blind male, and Robyn, a white albino female, have toured scores of hospitals.

Children play with the ferrets, which are good companions according to their owner, Dr June McNicholas, a lecturer in health psychology at the University of Warwick.

She demonstrated ferret therapy at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association's annual congress in Birmingham on Friday.

I think animals, not just necessarily ferrets, can bring an enormous psychological benefit to children

Dr June McNicholas

Dr McNicholas said she had been taking Stonebridge, eight, and Robyn, six, to hospitals and schools in the West Midlands for about six years.

She said: "In hospital, children can be very severely traumatised by illnesses and injuries even though they're told not to worry, it rarely registers.

"Having Stonebridge and Robyn playing with them gives the children an opening gambit to ask questions about illnesses.

"For example, when the ferrets have had operations, they can see the stitches on them and feel more confident about what it means to have stitches themselves."

Dr McNicholas said the antics of Stonebridge also helped blind youngsters come to terms with their condition and show them they could still enjoy life.

She added: "They are a pair of comical characters.

"I think animals, not just necessarily ferrets, can bring an enormous psychological benefit to children."

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See also:

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