Tickling, a technique for inducing positive affect when handling rats

Handling small animals such as rats can lead to several adverse effects. These include the fear of humans, resistance to handling, increased injury risk for both the animals and the hands of their handlers, decreased animal welfare, and less valid research data. To minimize negative effects on experimental results and human-animal relationships, research animals are often habituated to being handled. However, the methods of habituation are highly variable and often of limited effectiveness. More potently, it is possible for humans to mimic aspects of the animals’ playful rough-and-tumble behavior during handling. When applied to laboratory rats in a systematic manner, this playful handling, referred to as tickling, consistently gives rise to positive behavioral responses. This article provides a detailed description of a standardized rat tickling technique. This method can contribute to future investigations into positive affective states in animals, make it easier to handle rats for common husbandry activities such as cage changing or medical/research procedures such as injection, and be implemented as a source of social enrichment. It is concluded that this method can be used to efficiently and practicably reduce rats’ fearfulness of humans and improve their welfare, as well as reliably model positive affective states. © 2018, Journal of Visualized Experiments. All rights reserved.

Handling small animals such as rats can lead to several adverse effects. These include the fear of humans, resistance to handling, increased injury risk for both the animals and the hands of their handlers, decreased animal welfare, and less valid research data. To minimize negative effects on experimental results and human-animal relationships, research animals are often habituated to being handled. However, the methods of habituation are highly variable and often of limited effectiveness. More potently, it is possible for humans to mimic aspects of the animals’ playful rough-and-tumble behavior during handling. When applied to laboratory rats in a systematic manner, this playful handling, referred to as tickling, consistently gives rise to positive behavioral responses. This article provides a detailed description of a standardized rat tickling technique. This method can contribute to future investigations into positive affective states in animals, make it easier to handle rats for common husbandry activities such as cage changing or medical/research procedures such as injection, and be implemented as a source of social enrichment. It is concluded that this method can be used to efficiently and practicably reduce rats’ fearfulness of humans and improve their welfare, as well as reliably model positive affective states. © 2018, Journal of Visualized Experiments. All rights reserved.

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