Animal handling describes how people respond to and interact with animals within their environment. Using proper animal handling techniques can reduce pain and distress (refinement) and therefore, increase animal welfare. Appropriate animal handling methods require training, skill, and behavioral knowledge of the species you are working with. Below are resources on animal handling that include training videos, guidelines, peer-reviewed publications, etc.


Provides a video, images, and peer-reviewed articles demonstrating the use of 3 fingers rather than 2 as a refinement to mouse scruffing. 

Rat Tickling

Rat tickling is a technique that mimics how rats playfully socialize with each other. Rat tickling reduces fearful reactions to humans and creates beneficial effects when rats are handled. 

Temple Grandin. Colorado State University. 

Reducing stress during livestock handling improves productivity and prevents physiological changes that could confound research results. 

National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research.

This NC3Rs page on the Handling and Restraint of laboratory animals has the latest guidance on handling and restraint.

NIH. Office of Animal Care and Use (OACU).

The training tools and multimedia resources provided on this website are intended to assist investigators in learning proper handling techniques and technical procedure methodology. 

Current Research -- Rat Tickling

Below is a selected bibliography of scholarly literature from 2015 to 2019 on rat tickling. 

Cloutier, S., LaFollette, M. R., Gaskill, B. N., Panksepp, J., & Newberry, R. C. (2018). Tickling, a technique for inducing positive affect when handling rats. Journal of Visualized Experiments, 2018(135). https://doi.org/10.3791/57190 
Cloutier, S., Wahl, K. L., Panksepp, J., & Newberry, R. C. (2015). Playful handling of laboratory rats is more beneficial when applied before than after routine injections. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 164, 81–90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2014.12.012 
Ishiyama, S., Kaufmann, L. V., & Brecht, M. (2019). Behavioral and Cortical Correlates of Self-Suppression, Anticipation, and Ambivalence in Rat Tickling. Current Biology, 29(19), 3153-3164.e3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.07.085 
LaFollette, Megan R., O’Haire, M. E., Cloutier, S., Blankenberger, W. B., & Gaskill, B. N. (2017). Rat tickling: A systematic review of applications, outcomes, and moderators. PloS One, 12(4), e0175320. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0175320 
LaFollette, M.R., Cloutier, S., Brady, C., Gaskill, B. N., & O’Haire, M. E. (2019). Laboratory animal welfare and human attitudes: A cross-sectional survey on heterospecific play or “rat tickling.” PLoS ONE, 14(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0220580 

Current Research -- Mouse Handling

Below is a selected bibliography of scholarly literature from 2017 to 2021 on mouse handling techniques. 

Doerning, C. M., Thurston, S. E., Villano, J. S., Kaska, C. L., Vozheiko, T. D., Soleimanpour, S. A., & Lofgren, J. L. (2018). Assessment of mouse handling techniques during cage changing. Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, 58(6), 767–773. https://doi.org/10.30802/AALAS-JAALAS-19-000015 

Gouveia, K., & Hurst, J. L. (2019). Improving the practicality of using non-aversive handling methods to reduce background stress and anxiety in laboratory mice. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 20305. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-56860-7 

Gouveia, K., & Hurst, J. L. (2017). Optimising reliability of mouse performance in behavioural testing: The major role of non-aversive handling. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 44999. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep44999 

Henderson, L. J., Dani, B., Serrano, E. M. N., Smulders, T. V., & Roughan, J. V. (2020). Benefits of tunnel handling persist after repeated restraint, injection and anaesthesia. Scientific Reports, 10(1), 14562. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-71476-y 

Hull, M.A., Reynolds, P.S., & Nunamaker, E.A. (2022). Effects of non-aversive versus tail-lift handling on breeding productivity in a C57BL/6J mouse colony. PLoS ONE, 17(1 January). https.//doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0263192 

Labitt, R. N., Oxford, E. M., Davis, A. K., Butler, S. D., & Daugherity, E. K. (2021). A Validated Smartphone-based Electrocardiogram Reveals Severe Bradyarrhythmias during Immobilizing Restraint in Mice of Both Sexes and Four Strains. Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science : JAALAS, 60(2), 201–212. https://doi.org/10.30802/AALAS-JAALAS-20-00006 

Leidinger, C., Herrmann, F., Thöne-Reineke, C., Baumgart, N., & Baumgart, J. (2017). Introducing clicker training as a cognitive enrichment for laboratory mice. Journal of Visualized Experiments, 2017(121). https://doi.org/10.3791/55415 

Nakamura, Y., & Suzuki, K. (2018). Tunnel use facilitates handling of ICR mice and decreases experimental variation. The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 80(6), 886–892. https://doi.org/10.1292/jvms.18-0044