Cruden, J. 2013. Can regular access to floor pens affect caged rabbit behavior? American Association for Laboratory Animal Science [AALAS] Meeting Official Program, 615-616 (Abstract #PS43).

The main objective of the program of research, of which this study is part, is to evaluate the housing and environmental enrichment for laboratory rabbits. The aim is to determine whether modifications to basic housing will improve the wellbeing of laboratory rabbits. It was hypothesised that regular access to an enriched floor pen may affect the behavior of individually housed caged rabbits. This paper discusses an initial study comparing the behaviors of 8 individually cage-housed 2.5 kg (12 wk old) Hsdlf:NZW female rabbits. Rabbits were randomly assigned to 2 groups for the duration of the study (8 wk). All rabbits were handled throughout the study period. The first group of rabbits was given access to floor pens 3 times per week for the first 4 wk while the second group had no access. For the second 4 wk the access to pens was switched around. Rabbits were videoed in the home-cage for 6 h per day 3 times per week over an 8-wk period. The amount of times an animal performed a particular behavior or its body was in a particular position were counted and the resulting percentage daily counts were analyzed using ANOVA. Both groups had a significant reduction in the amount of time spent grooming when pen access was given (P < 0.0001 and = 0.0045). Group 1 showed a significant decrease in grooming (P = 0.0045) and their body positions were less alert when pen access was given (P = 0.0061) as was group 2 who showed a significant decrease in alertness (P ≤ 0.0001).

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