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The effects of enhancing cage complexity on the behaviour and welfare of laboratory rats

By Usama Abou-Ismail, Oliver Burman, Christine Nicol and Michael Mendl


This experiment was carried out to investigate the long-term effects of enhancing cage complexity on\ud behavioural measures of welfare in laboratory rats.Wehoused 72 rats in groups of four in either ‘enriched’\ud or ‘unenriched’ cages for six weeks. Scan and focal animal sampling were conducted in both the light\ud and dark phase of the second, fourth and sixth weeks. Results revealed that rats in the ‘enriched’ cages\ud showed longer durations of sleep behaviour, and low levels of agonistic behaviour compared to rats in\ud the ‘unenriched’ cages. Results importantly demonstrated that the behavioural changes observed in the\ud enriched environment were due to the presence of the enrichments themselves in the cages (indirect\ud effects) and not due merely to rats interacting with the enrichment items in their environment. Thus,\ud enhancing the complexity of conventional laboratory cages can promote behaviour such as longer bouts\ud of sleep that is likely to be indicative of good welfare, and diminish levels of behaviour such as aggression\ud that is likely to lead to poor welfare

Topics: C120 Behavioural Biology, D328 Animal Welfare
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2010
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