Effects of Metabolic Cage Housing on Rat Behavior and Performance in the Social Interaction Test

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Alexandra L. Whittaker, Kerry A. Lymn, Gordon S. Howarth
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
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Although the metabolic cage is commonly used for housing nonhuman animals in the laboratory, it has been recognized as constituting a unique stressor. Such an environment would be expected to affect behavioral change in animals housed therein. However, few studies have specifically addressed the nature or magnitude of this change. The current study sought to characterize the behavioral time budget of rats in metabolic cage housing in comparison to that of individually housed animals in standard open-top cages. Rats in metabolic cages spent less time moving, manipulating enrichment, and carrying out rearing behaviors, and there was a corresponding shift toward inactivity. In an applied Social Interaction Test, behavioral scoring implied that metabolic cage housing had an anxiogenic effect. In conclusion, metabolic cage housing produces measurable effects on spontaneous and evoked behavior in rats in the laboratory. These behavioral changes may lead to a negative emotional state in these animals, which could have negative welfare consequences. Further research is needed to quantify the existence and magnitude of such an effect on rat well being.


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