Environmental enrichment of New Zealand white rabbits living in laboratory cages
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Environmental enrichment diminishes abnormal behaviors in laboratory animals such as rodents, lagomorphs, dogs, cats, and nonhuman primates. Thirteen male single housed New Zealand White rabbits were offered three different toys and the time spent chewing on the toys instead of on the cage was evaluated. Every toy was offered to each rabbit for two separate one week periods. Each rabbit was monitored fifteen minutes four times a week to total one hour of observation every week, including one hour baseline data before toys were offered and two hours observation per rabbit per toy. Having a toy available had a significant effect on the behavior of NZW rabbits. Rabbits with toys spent significantly more time chewing than rabbits did without toys. They did not develop a preference between the offered toys and did not show stereotypies. This study highlights the importance of environmental enrichment to improve the welfare of laboratory animals.