Williams, W. R. 2021. Edible nail polish as a novel enrichment strategy for single-housed nonhuman primates. Laboratory Animal Science Professional 9(2) (March/April), 50-51.
At the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, NHPs may need to be singly housed for research purposes or veterinary care, and it can be challenging to keep them optimally enriched. This sometimes results in destructive behaviors, for example picking at sutures and compromising wound healing. As a part of a research mentorship program with a local STEM high school, two students devised a plan to help address this problem. Their idea was to apply edible nail polish to serve as a distractor for single-housed NHPs receiving sutures or wound repair. After optimizing the recipe type and nail polish consistency, all animals that were sedated for injury treatment or routine health exams over a 6-mo period received edible nail polish made from a combination of household kitchen ingredients. After testing many recipes, it became clear that viscosity and sweetness were positively correlated with the length of time polish remained applied to the nails. In addition, when polish was applied to animals with injuries, they subjectively appeared to pay more attention to the nail polish than the sutures, which has implications for greater utility with injured animals.