What a difference a hole makes

15 07 2019

Our large enriched cages (typically more full of clutter than seen here) always had one major disadvantage: if a mouse didn’t want to be caught, she could run and hide in object after object, and in extremis finally getting her might involve emptying half the cage. Emma N always felt this was why these cages didn’t seem to reduce anxiety as they should: catching enriched mice to test them was often a far more stressful process than catching the standard-housed mice.

Aileen and Agustina have now cleverly fixed this problem by turning one of Emma’s ideas into reality: fixing a standard cage to each enriched one, and training mice to be caught there.

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I came in to drill the holes (satisfying debris: L), and then they sorted out the rest using old lab cages and tunnels from Mike Walker’s MSc days, each new extension neatly held in place by elastic and hooks (R).

Within just a few days, the enriched mice had learned to run in for treats, summoned by the rattling of the Cheerio jar. The small cage can then be “undocked”, the tunnel plugged up, and the now fairly confined mice caught with ease, quickly and calmly. Success!

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