Leming, J. T., Jensen, E., Plate, G. 2010. From dog kennels to rabbit housing: Complete cage makeover encompasses behavioral enrichment for laboratory rabbits. American Association for Laboratory Animal Science [AALAS] Meeting Official Program, 659 (Abstract #PS14).
A major objective of our behavioral management committee was to improve rabbit housing in our large academic research institution. As our dog population decreased, we were left with several rooms of empty stainless steel kennel runs. With minor modifications, we converted fourteen 4 × 8 ft suspended-floor dog kennels into rabbit group housing units. Our plan was conceived with input from veterinarians, investigative staff, animal facility staff, and our behavioral management committee. Our goal was to provide rabbits with a safe and secure environment where they could hop, climb to any of several different levels, stand up on their rear legs (sentinel pose), stretch, and mingle with acceptable conspecifics. We were able to reach the goal with little expense by using parts from old rabbit cages, rodent cages, and primate accessories to outfit the new runs. We will discuss step-by-step instructions on how the conversion took place, introduction and observation of new tenants, use of litter pans, and changes in sanitization procedures. After 6 mo of using the new caging, we have observed both behavioral and physical changes in the rabbits. They are less timid and easier to handle. Their rear legs are stronger and many have learned to use litter pans. We have seen no foot problems associated with the new housing. The plan has been so successful that even rabbits requiring single housing are now kept in the new accommodations whenever possible.