Snipes, M. M., Wofford, K. A., Funk, A. L. et al. 2022. Modernization of wall guard railing for safe enrichment in feline housing facilities. Laboratory Animal Science Professional 10(5) (September/October), 50-51.
Creatively adapting older lab animal housing spaces to improve psychological well-being, welfare, and safety for animals is necessary to meet expectations for animal enrichment. Traditional lab animal facilities are designed to have functional, flexible, durable, and sanitizable housing spaces. Many aged features of these facilities, including wall guard railing, may need to be assessed to improve enrichment and safety for housed animals. In older facilities, guard railing may have been in place decades before recently enhanced enrichment efforts for lab species like cats, some of which include exercise, playtime, or housing outside of standard cages. A wall guard railing is a typical feature in animal housing rooms and corridors to protect walls from damage from repeated impacts of rolling caging and equipment. This type of railing can be found in some UGA University Research Animal Resources (URAR) facilities, and it is often used in laboratory settings because of the protective, bumper-like effects that it provides. Despite the advantages of these wall guards, the structure of the railing potentially poses a risk for injury for free-roaming (jumping) cats. Between the wall guard and wall, there is space that may serve as a safety hazard for lab animals, especially cats, that enjoy jumping and climbing. Therefore, we hypothesized that an acrylic platform installed on top of the wall guards would provide novel enrichment for cats in a safe manner. Further, the acrylic platform would serve not only to provide enrichment and improve safety in the housing space but also as a resting surface for cats while they are outside of their cages. Our satisfaction with the function and durability of the acrylic platform and its ability to provide safe enrichment for cats has been excellent.