Developing potent non-opioid pain medications is an integral part of the battle to conquer both chronic pain and the current opioid crisis. Although most screening approaches use in vitro surrogate targets, in vivo screening of analgesic candidates is a necessary pre-clinical step in drug discovery. Here, we report the design of a new automated behavioral testing apparatus based on the principle of a thermal place preference test (TPPT). This new design can detect, quantify, and differentiate behavioral responses to cold stimuli between sham and chronic constriction injury (CCI) rodents with up to 12 animals tested simultaneously. At an optimized temperature pair of 12.5°C vs 30.0°C (± 0.5℃), the TPPT design has captured the antinociceptive effects of morphine and pregabalin on CCI rats in individual 10-min tests. Moreover, it can differentiate analgesic effects by morphine or pregabalin from anxiolytic effects by diazepam. The results, along with the relatively low cost to construct the apparatus and moderately high throughput, make our TPPT design applicable for behavioral studies of chronic pain in rodents and for high-throughput in vivo screening of the next generation of pain medications.