Mouse handling resources

Research has shown that picking up laboratory mice by the tail induces aversion and high anxiety in these animals, and generally should be avoided. Instead, wherever possible, mice should be picked up by non-aversive methods such as tunnel handling and cupping, which promote positive responses to human contact. Not only will this improve animal welfare, but also potentially the science the animals are used for, because mice handled by tunnel and cupping methods show improved performance in behavioural tests compared to traditional tail handling.

The research underpinning these refined mouse handling methods was carried out by Professor Jane Hurst and Dr Kelly Gouveia at the University of Liverpool, and funded by the NC3Rs and BBSRC. It won the NC3Rs 3Rs Prize in 2010. Mr John Waters, the NACWO who helped support the research, won the IAT Andrew Blake Tribute Award in 2017.The findings are beginning to be replicated in other laboratories.

The NC3Rs has worked with Professor Hurst and her team to develop a series of resources to help raise awareness about the non-aversive handling methods, to train handlers in their use, and to encourage widespread uptake. These include posters for display in animal facilities, a video tutorial providing practical instruction on the refined techniques, and FAQs to address some of the common misconceptions about their use. 

Benefits of the tunnel and cup handling methods:

  • Mice are much less anxious than those picked up the traditional tail handling method
  • You can still restrain mice manually by the tail base or scruff when needed
  • Mice show more reliable behavioural and physiological responses
  • They only need brief experience of tunnel handling to habituate
  • Once skilled you can pick up mice by tunnel or cup handling just as quickly as by the tail


View our video tutorial on the refined mouse handling methods.
Read answers to frequently asked questions about tunnel and cup handling.
Request copies of our mouse handling poster for display in your facility.
Hear from some of those who have switched to the refined techniques.
Read the underpinning research and related papers.
Tips and strategies for rolling out the refined handling methods in your facility.
Download short video clips for use in in-house training.