CZAAWE Resource Article

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