Learn why & how to use non-aversive handling to pick up mice.
Ease of Handling
Strong evidence indicates that it is beneficial to animal welfare & scientific to picking up mice with non-aversive handling (i.e., tunnel handling or cupping) rather than by the tail. Picking mice up by the tail – even for only 2s at cage change – causes negative effects.
Tunnel handling simply involves guiding mice into a tunnel to pick them up. They can then be tipped out backward and scruffed for procedures, as needed. The benefits of tunnel handling remain even if mice are then given injections, have blood drawn, or undergo gas anesthesia. Cupping involves picking mice up with cupped hands, it does not require any new equipment, but does require a bit more training of mice.
Thank you to NC3Rs for this video on tunnel handling. To see more videos visit: https://www.nc3rs.org.uk/video-clips.
Animal Welfare & the 3Rs
There have been 19 publications supporting the benefits of on-aversive handling improving welfare & scientific quality including:
For extensive details on the evidence base for non-aversive handling including a printable table of each study’s key findings & methods see NC3Rs mouse handling research summary.
Will this take longer for husbandry & procedures?
What if I have to then restrain mice by the tail or perform aversive procedures?
The benefits of non-aversive persist even after standard procedures such as:
Do I need home cage tunnels?
Home cage tunnels are not necessary to gain benefits from tunnel handling. However, they are beneficial as they provide enrichment, decrease training time as the mice are already familiar with the tunnel, and support biosecurity. Note: to prevent cage leaks from home cage tunnels be sure to place the tunnel parallel along the edge of the cage.
Where can I purchase tunnels?
You can get tunnels from vendors such as Datesand, Braintree, IPS, LBS, SerLab, etc. or from independent providers.
What size and material of tunnels should I get?
Tunnels should be appropriate for the size of the cage. Not sure where to start? At some institutions, 3.5 inch square tunnels work great as they can’t get improperly wedged in the cages and can provide an area for a breeding dam to pull up her pups in case of a flood.
If you already use cardboard tunnels those can work. However, if getting new tunnels, clear plastic is recommended to allow for mouse visualization for health inspection in the tunnel and make it easy to slide the mouse out backwards.
What about biosecurity?
Tunnel handling has successfully been used in BSL2 and BSL3 laboratories and immune-compromised mice.
Are there strain & sex differences?
Thus far non-aversive handling has been beneficial for all strains tested and both sexes (though males of some strains may take a bit longer to train). Strains tested thus far include BALB/c, CD1s, C57BL/6, DBA/2, and ICGN. These methods were actually developed for handling wild-caught mice
For answers to more frequently asked questions check out the FAQ page on the NC3Rs website: https://www.nc3rs.org.uk/mouse-handling-faqs
Please see further training videos on the NC3Rs website for HOW to use non-aversive handling or cupping: https://www.nc3rs.org.uk/video-clips.
For more details & tips see NC3Rs tips for implementation.
For even more extensive information on non-aversive handling of mice, please visit NC3Rs’ How To Pick-Up A Mouse Hub. Their resources include video tutorials, webinar, how-to videos, poster, a practical guide to implementation, a summary of the evidence base, and answers to frequently asked questions.