Each year, more than 120 million rodents are utilized for research purposes.
Laboratory rodents, like hooded PVGc rats and NOD, FVB, and BALB mice have traditionally been kept in small cages that constrain their natural behaviors such as nesting and burrowing. These housing conditions can lead to decreased physical fitness, impaired thermoregulation, and reduced welfare for the animals. This results in the development of abnormal stereotypic behaviors. Research indicates the stressful nature of conventional rat and mouse housing seems to have a negative impact on the health of rodents, raising doubts about the reliability and applicability of the data generated from research studies.
Moreover, rodents endure long-term consequences resulting from these laboratory housing conditions. Traditional rodent cages are small and offer minimal amenities, usually limited to food, water, and a granular flooring substrate like a corncob. In their natural habitat rodents engage in burrowing activities to create warm and secure nests for resting. Foraging for food stimulates cognitive, visual, and physical activity. Rodents often explore larger home ranges, which can span several cubic meters within buildings or encompass dozens to hundreds of square meters of field habitat. Rodents have a strong instinct to explore and investigate their surroundings.
A significant portion of research involving rodents remains unpublished, lacks replication, or exhibits limited translatability.
Conventional laboratory rodent cages often cause abnormal behavior, cognitive pessimism, impaired sleep quality, and reduced resilience to acute stressors. For instance, rodents housed in cramped or uninteresting enclosures can exhibit prolonged tachycardia (increased heart rate) following injections or other stress-inducing events. Conversely, rodent enclosures with complex enrichment result in better study data, larger organs, and inhibition of cancer growth to name a few benefits.
Current laboratory rat and mouse enrichment practices include making the rodent’s environment more complex through enrichment products. The Council of Europe has required the provision of shelter or nesting for laboratory rodents. The Canadian Council on Animal Care also published guidelines for laboratory mice care that includes adequate stimulation through enrichment. These and other published guidelines increasingly recognize the importance of providing laboratory animals with complex environmental enrichment.
Creating better enclosure conditions is easy with enrichment products. Here are a few proven techniques.
- Use nesting boxes to reduce fear, mortality, and improve social interaction.
- Add solid wood blocks for gnawing and reduction of destructive behavior.
- Frequent repositioning of feeding bowls
- Exercise wheels provide physical and cognitive enrichment.
- Rodent tubes and tunnels create interest and reduce stereotypes.
- Larger enclosures are preferred over smaller rodent cages.
Our Casablanca Small Animal Cage is suitable for mice and rats.
The cage has two shelf platforms and ladders for climbing. Chew-proof metal shelves and ladders ensure this cage will hold up under tough conditions. The 6.5″ deep base allows plenty of room for bedding and burrowing. Each cage is made with durable plastic and chew-proof welded steel.
Supplement loose bedding with our specialty Rodent Bedding material. Simply unroll a section and tear it off. Mice especially enjoy shredding and nesting in this material.
The Otto Cedar Forager has 1¼” drilled holes to stuff with treats or leave unfilled to create more paths for small rats or mice. The all-natural Cedar Forager provides a comforting space to explore.
For large rodents, the Guinea Pig Condo is the ideal exercise center. Made from polycarbonate, the condo has ramps, shelves, and plenty of air holes for ventilation.
If your facility requires autoclavable enrichment devices, consider the stainless-steel Minie Mouse Jogger Wheel or the Swinging Minie Jogger. Both exercise wheels are hand-built of sturdy stainless steel and can handle the rigors of laboratory experiments.
We have an entire catalog of rodent enrichment devices that will fit into your laboratory protocols. Rotating various enrichment products every month or so is a growing trend in laboratories relying on rodent-based experimentation. It keeps the animals engaged, lowers stress, and reduces stereotypic and aggressive behavior, not to mention better experimental outcomes.