Walters, S. L., Torres-Urbano, C. J., Chichester, L. et al. 2012. The impact of huts on physiological stress: A refinement in post-transport housing of male guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus). Laboratory Animals 46(3), 220-224.

The ideal animal model would contribute no confounding variables in experimental science. Variables affect experimental design resulting in increased animal use or repeated studies. We demonstrated a simple refinement which may reduce the number of animals used experimentally while simultaneously improving animal welfare. The objective of this study was to determine if the presence of a hut was an impact on physiological stress levels, as determined by faecal cortisol concentration, during a routine four-day acclimatization period of newly received male Hartley-Outbred guinea pigs. We hypothesized that those animals provided with huts would have decreased physiological stress compared with animals not provided with huts. We examined this effect within both paired and single-housed animals. A between-subjects one-way analysis of variance revealed that pair-housed animals with a hut had significantly lower faecal cortisol concentration than pair-housed animals without a hut and the presence and absence of a hut had no significant impact on faecal cortisol concentration in single-housed animals. These findings show that presence of a hut is beneficial in reducing physiological stress when pair housing male guinea pigs and does not appear to have an impact when single housing male guinea pigs. In addition, we have shown that faecal cortisol, and therefore physiological stress, is still increasing on study day 4 suggesting a longer acclimatization period is necessary. A simple refinement in housing environment and acclimatization time can both reduce the number of animals used experimentally and improve animal welfare.

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