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Influence of cage enrichment on aggressive behaviour and physiological parameters in male mice.

Van Loo, P.L.P., Kruitwagen, C., Koolhaas, J.M., Van de Weerd, H.A., Van Zutphen, L.F.M. and Baumans, V.

Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 76(1), 65-81 (2002).

From welfare perspective group housing of mice is preferred over individual housing. Group housing of male laboratory mice, however, often leads to problems due to excessive aggressive behaviour. In our search for management and housing modifications to decrease aggression in group-housed male laboratory mice, we have tested the effect of two types of environmental enrichment-nesting material and shelter-on aggressive behaviour after cage cleaning and after a 1 h isolation period. Severity of wounds, urinary corticosterone levels, body weight, food and water intake and several post-mortem parameters were also monitored. The results indicated that type of enrichment strongly affected both aggressive behaviour and physiological parameters. Overall, nesting material reduced aggressive behaviour, while a shelter increased aggressive behaviour compared to control housing. This effect was also reflected in the number of wounds counted. Furthermore, during shelter housing mice gained less body weight, drank less and showed higher corticosterone levels, while in housing conditions with nesting material, mice ate less. We conclude that providing male mice with nesting material reduces aggression between male mice, and may, thus, be promoted as being beneficial to their physical health and psychological well-being.