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Lab Anim. 1993 Oct;27(4):330-41.

The effects of group housing on the research use of the laboratory rabbit.

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Centralized Biological Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802.


This project evaluated the influence of group housing on common aspects of research use of female laboratory rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Eight rabbits housed individually in conventional cages were compared to a second group of 8 housed as a social group in a proportionately larger enclosure. The group housing method provided increased opportunities for exercise, social contact, and a more novel environment. As a function of housing style, the 2 experimental groups were compared on humoral and delayed hypersensitivity response, feed intake, growth rate, and selected physiological parameters that are considered to reflect stress in most species. Single and group housed rabbits did not significantly differ in physiological and immunological measurements, indicating that the practical research performance (immune response, stress level, growth rates etc.) of these rabbits was not significantly affected by group housing compared with the more traditional single housing. Analysis of group social behaviour indicated that the rabbits preferred small social groups, had preferences for microenvironments within the enclosure, and exhibited behaviours that are not possible when housed singly. Group housing appeared to be a successful method for enriching the environment of female rabbits and aspects of it should be considered in the approach to housing rabbits used in research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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