The Benefits of Rat Tickling

The Benefits of Rat Tickling
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    -Since I've been a little kid I've loved animals and oddly enough I never really
    thought about it until I got where I was today. Looking
    back I always really liked rodents. A lot of the research that's done in my lab
    has to do with animal welfare and trying to figure out how to provide for the
    needs of captive animals. We got into rat tickling in order to improve the welfare
    of laboratory rats and the reason that it's called tickling is because the
    motion that you do with your fingers is very similar to a human. There are two
    main aspects that we're trying to mimic of rat rough-and-tumble play and the
    first one is the dorsal contact which you use your fingers to lightly touch
    the back of the rats neck. And then the second aspect is the pin, where one rat
    will jump on top of the other rats and pin it to the ground and they kind of go
    back and forth with this and so we try to mimic with our hands these two
    aspects.
    -We often get comments that well I really don't like tickling, or you know
    I've always hated being tickled, but let me assure you that rat tickling is not
    the same as human tickling. It's much more like wrestling with your dog or a
    small child that's laughing. It's not very similar at all really to tickling
    an adult human.
    -So when rats are tickled they give off
    these ultrasonic vocalizations which we as humans can't actually hear, and so we
    use a bat detector in order to bring that down to a level that's audible to
    us as humans in order to hear these positive vocalizations. They do these
    vocalizations when they're playing, when they eat really tasty treats, so it's
    really exciting for us to have this indicator of positive welfare for rats.
    -We often get the question of "Can I tickle other laboratory species?" the
    short answer is "no." Please don't tickle your mice. They will probably bite you
    because they don't play the same rats.
    -By increasing this human animal
    interaction, the the animals are more likely to want to interact with us so
    we're reducing fear, we're reducing stress, and when it comes to utilizing
    these animals in a scientific aspect it's probably going to make them better
    models for the research that any scientist is going to be doing. We want
    to give them the highest quality of life possible and this is one way to actually
    give them a positive interaction, positive experience when working with
    humans that is very unique and it's it's a really exciting way to interact with
    the animals and do it in such a positive fun way.
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