Routine handling of laboratory rodents - such as picking mice up by the tail, giving injections, etc. - can compromise animal welfare, reproducibility, and research data. Fortunately, these negative effects can be reduced or eliminated through are effective handling techniques that improve and refine laboratory rodent welfare.
Tunnel Handling for Mice
Strong evidence supports using tunnel handling or cupping rather than traditional tail handling in mice. Tunnel handling simply involves guiding mice into a tunnel to pick them up.
For extensive information on tunnel handling please visit NC3R's How to Pick-up A Mouse Hub. Their resources include a video tutorial, webinar, how-to videos, poster, practical guide to implementation, and frequently asked questions.
Although some are concerned with increased time and perceived incompatibility with routine procedures, recent research shows that only brief tunnel handling during cage change is sufficient even when mice are subsequently restrained or given subcutaneous injections (Gouveia & Hurst, 2019).
Strong evidence also supports using rat tickling to habituate rats to handling and improve their welfare (LaFollette et al, 2017). Rat tickling mimics aspects of juvenile rat play.
Although some are also concerned that rat tickling will take too much time, recent research shows that only 15 s of tickling for 3 days can be effective (LaFollette et al., 2019).
Training to Cooperate with Procedures
A group at RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) also have unique and effective methods for training rodents to cooperate with procedures. Their team focuses on initial handling using gentle techniques and food reinforcements to cooperate with transport, blood sampling, and oral gavage with minimal or even no restraint.
Learn more about their techniques including seeing videos in this blog post from NC3Rs IAT Symposium.