The effect of the functional attributes of objects within the caged environment on interaction time in laboratory rats
Williams, C. M., Hanmer, L. A. and Riddell, P. M. (2009) The effect of the functional attributes of objects within the caged environment on interaction time in laboratory rats. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 120 (3-4). pp. 208-215. ISSN 0168-1591
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2009.06.004
Determining rat preferences for, and behaviour towards, environmental enrichment objects allows us to provide evidence-based information about how the caged environment may be enriched. In recent years there have been many studies investigating the preferences of laboratory rodents for a wide variety of environmental enrichment objects and materials. While these have provided important information regarding the animals' perception of the items, very few studies have attempted to systematically investigate the precise attributes that constitute a preferred object and the behaviour that these objects afford. We have designed a research program to systematically study rats' motivation to interact with enrichment objects. Here we present the results from two experiments which examined the time rats spent with objects that only differed in size. This showed that rats spent longer with large objects rather than small ones, even though objects were presented individually. We also investigated the rats' behaviour with the objects in an open field and found that rats spent longer climbing on top of the large object. This behaviour continued when the large objects were laid on their sides instead of placed upright in the arena, suggesting that the rats were not simply climbing on the objects to investigate the top of the arena and thus an escape route, but instead were genuinely motivated to climb. This suggests that rat welfare could be enhanced by the addition to their cages of objects that permit climbing. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.