Dijon University Hospital lets the children pet, groom and feed the animals, giving them a new role as care-givers in a turn-around from being just patients.
Participants range from babies to 18-year-olds.
Animal contact improves their morale and helps them regain some of the joys of youth, and siblings and family can also take part.
Children with cancer often have compromised immune systems so the animals are specially selected and live in hygienically-controlled conditions, supervised by a vet.
The Côte-d’Or hospital programme, called zoothérapie, or animal mediation, started with a few rabbits in 2010 and now involves 500 patients a year.
The animals come from the association Ani’nomade and its assistant director, Pauline Karlshaus, said: “We run our Coup d’Patte sessions in the hospital twice a week and they are always moments of intense joy.”
Ani’nomade was founded by Claire Mongeot to make animal therapy available to people with travel problems.
It now has more than 90 animals, although not all work with hospital patients.
The association also has a teaching farm, La Cabane, in Plombières-lès-Dijon, to offer animal mediation sessions for relaxation and well-being.
Now Ani’Nomade is looking to expand its premises and needs help with renovations until December 1.
Anyone who has building or decorating experience can contact the association via aninomade.fr.