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Conference abstract2008

Aspects on social interactions in laboratory rats

Spangenberg, Elin; Dahlborn, Kristina


Rats are social animals and today group housing of rats is recommended in the Appendix A. If a dominance order is developed in a group subordinate animals might experience social stress. With more individuals to interact with in a cage, the overall activity in the cage will probably increase. Depending on which individual rats we randomly distribute into the cages, differences in group dynamics and social activity can occur. In two studies the social interactions of male Sprague Dawley rats in different group sizes and cage types were evaluated through direct observations. Comparisons were made between groups of two, four an eight rats in standard cages adjusted to the group sizes, as well as between pairs in standard cages and groups of eight kept in four connected cages of the Scantainer NOVO system (NOV) or in the Enriched Rat Cage system (ERC). The aims were to assess the effect of social interactions on the home cage activity, detect dominance orders in the different group sizes and to study effects of the cage types on social interactions. Rats in groups of four and eight had more social interactions, both neutral meetings and aggressive interactions, than rats kept in pairs (p<0.05). A hierarchy was most easily detected in groups of eight. One group of eight rats had a higher level of social interactions than the other eight (p<0.01), indicating that individuals in the different groups create different group dynamics. There was a higher level of aggressive and submissive interactions in the NOV system than in the ERC system (p<0.05). This could be a result of the possibility to guard the passages between cages in the NOV system. The results will be discussed in relation to effects on animal welfare and on the research quality

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Scand-LAS and ICLAS Joint Meeting