Report Animal Concerns

Re-Evaluating Mouse Cage Changing Techniques: Use of Forceps vs. Gloved Hands


Image of blue laboratory gloves with small pair of silver forceps for cage changing

ULAM’s standard cage changing practices have required Animal Technicians to use forceps when transferring mice between cages for the past two decades. However, research1, 2, 3, 4 has shown that handling of animals with forceps is associated with a higher incidence of repetitive motion injuries in animal care and use personnel.

In an effort to help mitigate this ergonomic risk while still ensuring that overall animal health and safety are maintained at all times, ULAM re-evaluated our mouse cage changing techniques and reviewed the practices of peer institutions.

Our survey revealed that a majority of our peers offer an alternative to the use of forceps for transferring mice in between cages, and that the most commonly cited alternate method5 is the use of disinfected-gloved hands.

An internal study conducted within ULAM did not suggest that the use of gloved hands poses a cross-contamination risk to animals. There were no adverse effects on overall colony health and breeding performance identified during our study period. Additionally, husbandry guidelines for microisolator technique and changing gloves between investigators and rack sides will continue to be observed as measures to prevent contact between groups of animals.

**Note: Forceps will continue to be available in all rooms for mouse handling. These changes do NOT apply to cage changing in biocontainment rooms, which will continue to be forceps-only.**

As a result of this evaluation and the expected ergonomic benefits to our staff, ULAM will allow all Animal Technicians to choose between cage changing with forceps or gloved hands beginning April 30, 2018.

If your research requires the use of forceps for cage changing, please reach out to your ULAM Faculty Veterinarian to discuss the appropriate special procedures to be put in place before the April 30 implementation date.

For more information on alternative handling methods, or for details regarding our institutional study, please contact your ULAM Faculty Veterinarian. If you don’t know your faculty veterinarian, send an email to and your question will be routed appropriately.


  1. Fox JG, Anderson LC, Otto GM, Pritchett-Corning KR, Whary MT, American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine., ScienceDirect (Online service). 2015. Laboratory animal medicine, Third ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Academic Press. ↩︎
  2. Kerst J. 2003. An Ergonomics Process for the Care and Use of Research Animals. ILAR Journal 44:3-12. ↩︎
  3. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee for the Update of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals., Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (U.S.), National Academies Press (U.S.). Guide for the care and use of laboratory animals, pp. xxv, 220 p. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. ↩︎
  4. Wald PH, Stave GM. 2003. Occupational Medicine Programs for Animal Research Facilities. ILAR Journal 44:57-71. ↩︎
  5. Hedrich HJ. 2012. The laboratory mouse, Second edition / ed. Amsterdam: AP, Elsevier. ↩︎

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