Modifications to husbandry and housing conditions of laboratory rodents for improved well-being.

Document Type


Publication Date



Animal-Husbandry, Animal-Welfare, Animals-Laboratory, Housing-Animal, Mice, Rats

JAX Source

ILAR J 2005; 46(2):140-7.


For a change to be considered enriching, the change must enhance animal welfare and improve biological functioning of the animals. A review of the literature shows that a consensus on the definition of changes constituting "environmental enrichment" has yet to be reached. For this reason, the results of studies on the effects of rodent enrichment are inconsistent. In many cases, changes have not been shown to be real improvements. However, enrichment is increasingly appreciated as a way to improve the well-being of rodents, providing them with opportunities for species-specific behaviors that might be available to them in the wild. Frequently defined as "change to the environment," enrichment can be as complex as devices (frequently termed "toys") or as simple as the provision of tissues from which mice readily construct nests. Nest making is a learned behavior in rats, and laboratory rats do show preferences for chewable objects in their environment. Rather than attempting a comprehensive review of the entire literature on environmental enrichment and its effects on rodent physiology and behavior, this paper focuses on husbandry and housing alterations that may improve the welfare of laboratory rodents. The effects of beneficial changes in housing and husbandry on rodent well-being and on experimental variability--and thus cost--are discussed. Areas that require more research are suggested. Also suggested are possible inexpensive and effective enrichment schemes for laboratory mice that might include reducing the cage floor space per mouse combined with providing nesting material.

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