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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 that is replenished or sanitized on a weekly basis or with supplemental bedding such as straw. Ferrets housed individually should have structures, such as PVC tubes for hiding and climbing, that are sanitized weekly.


Animal well-being is essential to the quality of research in which they are used. Animals require an environment that permits them to grow, mature, and maintain good health and species-specific behaviors while minimizing variation. Enrichment materials should be part of the physical environment.


It is recognized that scientific goals in some disciplines, such as behavioral, toxicological, and nutritional research, may be confounded by additional bedding or cage structures. Also, while enrichment may cause positive developmental and physiological changes, is may also have negative effects on behavior and reproduction (Benefiel, Dong, and Greenough; 2005), with adverse influences on 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. Exceptions to this policy must be reviewed and approved by the Division of Animal Resources veterinary staff and referred to the Institutional Animal Care and Use committee for review and action.


Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (Guide), 8th Edition, 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
Revised: 1/12/2010
Updated: 7/9/13

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