Rat tickling workshop

Tickling: a playful handling technique for rats



Handling of laboratory rats and other common husbandry and experimental procedures can be a source of stress leading to the development of aversive responses to handling or human presence that are suggestive of emotional distress. Aversive handling of animals can lead to a fearful relationship with humans, making handling difficult, and increasing the risk of injury for both handler and animal, thus affecting human and animal welfare. Recent research has provided evidence that tickling, a handling technique which mimics rat rough-and-tumble play behavior, is effective at reducing fear of humans when rats are handled for common husbandry activities and medical and research procedures such as injection. It has also been shown that tickling is perceived as positive by rats, improves the human-rat relationship and rat welfare. In order to effectively mimic the behavioural components of rat rough-and-tumble play and induce positive affect, the handler must learn how to properly interact with the rat.

The goal of the workshop is to provide a detailed description of the technique, close-up demonstration, and hands-on experience for participants to effectively acquire and apply the technique.

The workshop will take place at the Atlantic Veterinary College, UPEI on Monday July 30th between 14:00 and 17:00 h.

The first 20 people interested will be accepted. There is no charge for the workshop. Those accepted will be required to bring earphones and a timer.  A phone could serve that purpose.

Description of workshop activities:

The workshop will have 3 components:

  1. Presentation describing the procedure and how to assess its effectiveness and demonstration (45 min)
  2. Hands-on session where participants will try the technique (60 min)
  3. Question and answer period to address questions and concerns the participants may have after experiencing the procedure (15 min)

The 3 components will be mixed as follow:

  1. Introduction of the procedure (history of its development and application, description of the movements)
  2. Practice with stuffed animals
  3. Description of the movements in details and Do’s and Don’t
  4. Practice with live animals
  5. Moderators of tickling
  6. Practice, questions and comments.

The workshop will be conducted by:

  • Sylvie Cloutier, PhD
    • Associate Director of Assessment
    • Canadian Council on Animal Care
  • Brianna Gaskill, PhD
    • Assistant Professor
    • Purdue University
  • Megan LaFollette
    • Graduate Research Assistant
    • Purdue University

Those interested are asked to contact Luis Bate at bate@upei.ca who will provide further details on how to participate in the workshop.