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Policy: Environmental Enrichment for Rabbits, Rodents, and Ferrets (IACUC)

Policy: Environmental Enrichment for Rabbits, Rodents, and Ferrets (IACUC)


All rabbits, ferrets, and rodents will be housed in groups whenever possible. Males of these species may need to be singly housed to prevent fighting. Rodents housed individually should be provided enrichment that promotes species-specific behavior, such as supplemental nesting material or chewable objects. Rabbits and guinea pigs housed individually without additional enrichment structures in their cage should be provided with either an object that can be chewed or manipulated and is replenished (or sanitized) on a weekly basis or with supplemental bedding such as straw. Ferrets housed individually should have structures for burrowing and climbing, such as PVC tubes, that are sanitized weekly.


Animal well-being is essential to the quality of research and species-specific behaviors can minimize experimental variation. Animals require an environment that permits them to grow, mature, and maintain good health. Enrichment materials are an important part of the physical environment.


It is recognized that scientific results in some disciplines, such as behavioral, toxicological, and nutritional research, may be confounded by additional bedding or cage structures. Also, while enrichment may aid positive developmental and physiological changes, it may also have negative effects on behavior and reproduction (Benefiel, Dong, and Greenough; 2005) that can adversely influence some types of research.
Investigators who believe that enrichment materials may confound their research objectives must provide scientific justification for excluding them from the housing environment. This justification must be reviewed by the veterinary staff and the IACUC.


Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (Guide), NRC, 2011. 

Benefiel, Dong, and Greenough. 2005. Mandatory “Enriched” Housing of Laboratory Animals: The Need for Evidence-Based Evaluation. ILAR Journal 46(2):95-105.


Approved: 6/7/99
Updated: 1/8/2097



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