Selected OHAIRE Publications - Rat Tickling

Systematic Review

LaFollette, M. R., O’Haire, M. E., Cloutier, S., Blankenberger, W. B., & Gaskill, B. N. (2017). Rat tickling: A systematic review of applications, outcomes, and moderators. PloS One12(4), e0175320.

Summary: A systematic literature review of rat tickling. This publication reviews 32 published articles about tickling and evaluates current methods, outcomes, and moderators. It concludes that rat tickling is a promising method for improving rat welfare and investigating positive affect. However, the establishment of tickling best practices is still necessary.

Click to read the full paper (PDF)

Effects on Pet Store Rats

LaFollette, M. R., O’Haire, M. E., Cloutier, S., & Gaskill, B. N. (2018). A happier rat pack: The impacts of tickling pet store rats on human-animal interactions and rat welfare. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 203, 92-102.

Summary: In this paper, pet store rats were either treated normally or tickled plus divided into high or low callers. Results showed that tickling pet store rats improved ease of restraint and decreases inactivity & hiding behaviors. Furthermore, low-calling tickled rats showed more fear and anxiety in approach tests. Overall, this paper provides some support that tickling pet store rats can improve human-animal interactions.

Click to read the full paper (PDF)

Effects on Pet Store People

LaFollette, M. R., Cloutier, S., Gaskill, B. N., & O’Haire, M. E., (2018). Rat tickling in pet stores: Effects on employees, customers, and new owners. Anthrozoös, 31(4), 495-513.

Summary: This publication details the effects of rat tickling on humans in pet stores. Overall employee affect was not effect during the first 4 days of tickling although when selling rats positive affect was higher selling control rats. Customers were more likely to select high-calling tickled and control rats as happier. Furthermore, both owners and customers were interested in behavioral reasons for adopting particular rats. Future research is warranted to investigate the effects of more frequent or longer-term tickling.

Click to read the full paper (PDF)

Refining Rat Tickling: Dosage

LaFollette, M. R., O’Haire, M. E., Cloutier, S., & Gaskill, B. N. (2018). Practical rat tickling: Determining an efficient and effective dosage of heterospecific play. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 208, 82-91.

Summary:In this study, rats were tickled for various frequencies (1, 3, or 5 days) and durations (15, 30, or 60 seconds). Across all outcome measures, tickling duration had no effects. Conversely, tickling for 3 days improved positive vocalizations, play, and inactivity compared to only 1 day. Therefore, overall the results suggest that the most efficient and effective rat tickling dosage is 15 seconds for 3 days.

Click to read the full paper (PDF)

Laboratory Animal Welfare & Human Attitudes: Rat Tickling

LaFollette, M. R.,Cloutier, S., Brady, C., Gaskill, B. N., & O’Haire, M. E. (2019). Laboratory animal welfare and human attitudes: A cross-sectional survey on heterospecific play or “rat tickling.” PLOS One, 14(8), e0220580.

Summary: In this cross-sectional study, laboratory animal personnel were surveyed about their current implementation of and beliefs about rat tickling. Results showed that current rat tickling implementation is low. Level of rat tickling was strongly associated with attitudes, social norms, and perceived behavioral control. There is potential to increase rat tickling by improving attitudes, decreasing time required, providing education, and overall improving behavioral control.

Click to read the full paper (PDF)

Back to main publication page

Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, 625 Harrison Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-7607

© 2020 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by PVM Web Communications

If you have trouble accessing this page because of a disability, please contact PVM Web Communications at