The so called forced swim test is an experiment use to test the effectiveness of anti depressant drugs. A container that the rodent can’t escape from is filled with water and then scientists measure their “escape related mobility behavior,” according to the Journal of Visualized Experiments.
They dose the rodents before the tests usually with an injection of antidepressant. Once placed into the water the scientists start measuring two minutes after because supposedly “potential effects of the treatment can be obscured during the first two minutes.” This makes the terrified mice or rats scramble to find a way out by both clawing at the side of the tank and diving down to try and find and escape.
Eventually most of the animals give up and just float there calmly this is called “behavioral despair” an expression that the animal has given up all hope of escape. The idea of the test is that the longer they struggle the more effective the anti depressant drug being tested is because supposedly their giving up is a sign of depression despite numerous scientific papers that studied this test and showed that this was not a viable test.
The majority of scientists agree that this floating behavior that involves minimal movements from the rat or mouse is interpreted as and adaptation to the new environment and not a giving in to the situation with a lack of hope. “It seems that the forced swimming test does not satisfy ‘psychic’ symptoms [of depression], since the rat does not appear to be desperate or to feel helpless,” the study notes.
Pfizer joins many other pharmaceutical giants AbbVie, DSM Nutritional Products, Roche, and Johnson and Johnson in discontinuing this barbaric test.
Rats and mice despite persisting myths are not dirty and are far less likely than dogs or cats to transmit parasites and other disease. They are as fussy if not more so than cats about their meticulous grooming habits and make great pets. They even squeak with joy when tickled! If you’re considering one of these cute rodents as pets please save one from a rescue organization in your area just like you would for a dog or a cat.