Sands, C., Evans, C., Buckmaster, C. A. 2017. The grooming sleeve: Encouraging conspecific-like behavior and strengthening the human-animal bond. Laboratory Animal Science Professional 5(2) (June), 52-53.
The act of grooming has been found to greatly decrease stress, heart rate, and cortisol levels in nonhuman primates; this decrease in stress and cortisol is seen in the animal being groomed, as well as the groomer. While pair or group housing of nonhuman primates is optimal for their wellbeing, circumstances surrounding certain research paradigms and incompatibilities between conspecifics may dictate that some monkeys be singly housed in research settings. In these instances, we provide extra species-relevant environmental enrichment, as well as visual contact with other nonhuman primates, but these still lack a critical component of their behavioral repertoire, social grooming. To fill this behavioral void, we developed a grooming sleeve that allows singly housed animals to groom their caregivers directly and safely, promoting the social contact and bonding. The grooming sleeve is made from faux hair that is similar in texture and appearance to that of rhesus macaques’ hair and is secured to the caregiver’s arm with Velcro. The use of this grooming sleeve is described.