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Behavioural effects of environmental enrichment for individually caged rabbits

By L. Lidfors

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Abstract

The behavioural effects of providing 60 male New Zealand laboratory rabbits with one of four objects in their individual cages as environmental enrichment were investigated. The rabbits were assigned to one of 5 treatments by a random procedure; hay in a water bottle, grass-cubes, two gnawing sticks, a box, or nothing (controls). One week after purchase they were given their object and behavioural observations began. These were made by instantaneous recordings at 2 min intervals for 1 h/day and over 16 days. Rabbits given hay interacted more with their object than those given grass-cubes, gnawing sticks or a box, they showed less abnormal behaviour, such as excessive fur-licking, sham chewing and bar-biting, than the control rabbits, and they lay still less often than the control rabbits. Rabbits given grass-cubes interacted more often with their object than those given gnawing sticks or a box, and they showed less abnormal behaviour than the control rabbits. Rabbits given gnawing sticks or a box interacted only rarely with their object, and they showed the same amount of abnormal behaviour as the control rabbits. Compared to control rabbits, weight gain was higher for rabbits given grass-cubes, but not for rabbits given hay, gnawing sticks or a box. It is concluded that hay was the most effective of the tested objects in reducing abnormal behaviour and giving the individually housed rabbits some alternative occupation.

Date 1997
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 52
Issue 1/2
Pages 157-169
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(96)01141-0
Language English
Author Address Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Hygiene, Section of Ethology, P.O.B. 345, S-532 24, Skara, Sweden.
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Tags
  1. Abnormal behavior
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal rights
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  6. Deviant behavior
  7. Enrichment
  8. Habitats
  9. Housing
  10. Laboratory and experimental animals
  11. Laboratory animal science
  12. Lagomorpha
  13. Leporidae
  14. Mammals
  15. Physical environment
  16. rabbits