IT TURNS out long yellow teeth, hairless tails and squat furry bodies are a good substitute for mum or dad.
Rats in the nursery would usually be a good reason to call in a pest exterminator but at Isabella Plains Childcare and Education Centre the long-tailed vermin are actually part of the program.
Two Rattus rattus named Dora and Curly are part of an innovative therapy scheme used to help children with separation anxiety, behaviour and stress.
[email protected] chief executive Lynne Harwood said the centre initially received $2000 of funding from the ACT government for the program.
Ms Harwood said the centre had 42 children and all of them interacted with the animals.
”The grant was for health outreach projects and was quite broad in scope, so our manager researched the benefits of ‘rats as therapy’ and believed it would be the perfect addition to our existing quality service. It’s been an amazing success.”
Manager of the Isabella Plains centre Tess Ryan said one child became upset – crying and pulling his mother – when it came time for drop off.
”Distractions with toys, music, walking around the yard [failed]. James was very hard to settle and spent most mornings crying on and off,” Ms Ryan said.
But taking the little boy straight inside to handle the rats stopped the morning meltdown.
”James calmed down straight away … every morning after that experience, James wants to go and visit the rats. It has become a coping mechanism for him now and a way for James to be able to say goodbye to mum.”
The children named the animals Dora after Dora the Explorer and Curly because the second rat has wavy fur.
The rats cost $18.50 each with the majority of the funding spent on separate cages to stop them breeding.
This article first appeared on ‘Canberra Times’ on 22 December 2013.