UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Environmental Enrichment for Rats and Mice Housed in Laboratories: A Metareview Ratuski, Anna; Weary, Daniel M

Abstract

Environmental enrichment has been widely studied in rodents, but there is no consensus on what enrichment should look like or what it should achieve. Inconsistent use of the term “enrichment” creates challenges in drawing conclusions about the quality of an environment, which may slow housing improvements for laboratory animals. Many review articles have addressed environmental enrichment for laboratory rats and mice (Rattus norvegicus and Mus musculus). We conducted a metareview of 29 review articles to assess how enrichment has been defined and what are commonly described as its goals or requirements. Recommendations from each article were summarised to illustrate the conditions generally considered suitable for laboratory rodents. While there is no consensus on alternative terminology, many articles acknowledged that the blanket use of the terms “enriched” and “enrichment” should be avoided. Environmental enrichment was most often conceptualised as a method to increase natural behaviour and improve animal welfare. Authors also commonly outlined perceived risks and requirements of environmental enrichment. We discuss these perceptions, make suggestions for future research, and advocate for the adoption of more specific and value-neutral terminology.

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CC BY 4.0