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The influences of standard laboratory cages on rodents and the validity of research data

By C. M. Sherwin

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Standard cages for laboratory animals are often small, minimalist and barren. Such cages can compromise animal welfare, indicating that there are welfare-based reasons for improving their designs. However, a second issue, that is, whether animals from standard laboratory housing and husbandry conditions provide valid research data, also indicates that cage designs and husbandry methods need to be improved. This paper reviews various influences of standard laboratory cage design and husbandry. These include their effects on the repeatability of studies, models of neurodegenerative disease, sensory development, physiology and behaviour, the effects of standard social housing and standard handling and the effects of maternal experience on the responses of offspring. These studies show that the development and responses of animals from standard laboratory housing and husbandry conditions are often unrepresentative and idiosyncratic, indicating that data are likely to have reduced external validity. An underlying question is whether animals from standard, barren laboratory cages are 'abnormal' and therefore might not provide valid baseline data. In terms of animal welfare, these studies indicate that standard laboratory housing may sometimes be associated both with reduced welfare and with reduced benefits gained from research. It is suggested that in a similar manner to the use of production measures when assessing cages for production animals, laboratory cages could be assessed in terms of their suitability to provide valid research data.

Date 2004
Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 13
Issue Supplement
Pages S9-S15
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
Language English
Author Address Centre for Behavioural Biology, Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford House, Bristol BS40 5DU, UK.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal experimentation
  3. Animal husbandry
  4. Animal models
  5. Animal physiology
  6. Animal research
  7. Animal rights
  8. Animal welfare
  9. Cages
  10. Diseases
  11. Farms
  12. Hamsters
  13. Laboratory and experimental animals
  14. Laboratory animal science
  15. Mammals
  16. Mice
  17. peer-reviewed
  18. Rats
  19. Reviews
  20. Rodents
  21. Stress
  1. peer-reviewed