I was trained on the protocol and started testing a cohort of rats. There didn’t seem to be any problems, but when I unblinded the groups, everything was a mess.
At first I assumed the weirdness was all my fault.
Turns out, stress & pain interact. So if animals are stressed, they can look like they’re in pain when doing behavioral testing. So what stresses out rats? A lot of things:
Now my rats get lots of cuddles and treats before testing so they’re not afraid of me. Any non-behavioral work is done by someone else (our “good cop/bad cop” protocol)
Now they also get time in the testing cages before any testing (and treats!) so the test cages aren’t scary.
Pheromones make everything wonky, y’all
We used to single house post-op, because we were worried they would fight. Now they all have a cuddle buddy after one day of recovery.
I painted the side of the testing cages black, so now they can’t see each other