A new study has found that by simply handling mice in a gentle manner, they can be more cooperative during experiments in labs.
According to the study led by Jane Hurst of University of Liverpool, the common practice of holding mice through tail increases their anxiety and decreases the likelihood that they will voluntarily interact with experimenters, reports Nature.
The researchers placed male and female mice from three strains into one of three experimental groups.
Some mice were lifted by the base of the tail and held on a gloved hand or lab-coat sleeve.
A second group of mice crawled into an acrylic tunnel filled with a familiar scent.
In the third group, the handlers scooped mice up with gloved hands that loosely closed around the animals until the mice had adapted to the routine.
When the experimenters held a tunnel or hand in the front half of the cage for 1 minute, mice that were accustomed to these procedures spent more time sniffing, chewing and climbing on top of the tunnel or hand compared with those that had been grabbed by the tail.
And the mice entered an open, unprotected arm of a maze more frequently - a sign of reduced anxiety.
By contrast, tail grasping caused the mice to urinate and defecate more - behaviours that often signal distress.
The findings were published online in Nature Methods1.