Giral, M., Armengol, C., Gavaldà, A. 2022. Physiologic effects of housing rats in metabolic cages. Comparative Medicine 72(5), 298–305.

Currently, metabolic cages (MC) are the only way to achieve serial sampling of urine and feces in rodents. However, the use of this caging creates a dramatic change from an animal’s usual microenvironment. Here we sought to examine the effect of MC on physiologic parameters that are stress-responsive in rats. We surgically implanted 8 male Wistar rats (weight, 150 to 175 g) with telemetric transmitters and allowed them to recover for at least 2 wk. At the beginning of the study, the rats were moved to conventional open-top cages, and telemetry recording was initiated. After 24 h, the rats were moved to MC or to another conventional cage and the recording continued for another 24 h. Finally, the rats were returned to their home cages, and telemetry recording was performed for a final 24 h. After 10 days, this process was then repeated, with MC and conventional assignments switched. During the 78-h monitoring period, we recorded heart rate, arterial blood pressure, locomotor activity, body weight, and food and water consumption. Heart rate and arterial blood pressure showed transient but significant changes. Locomotor activity during the dark phase was greatly decreased in MC compared with conventional cages, perhaps due to space constraints. In addition, when the rats were housed in MC, they showed a small but significant weight loss. Food consumption did not differ between housing environments, but water consumption was lower when rats were in MC. In conclusion, the housing of rats in MC for 24 h can elicit mild and reversible cardiovascular changes. This finding is consistent with European Directive 2010/63/EU, which considers short-term (less than 24 h) restraint in MC a procedure of mild severity.

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