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Animal Testing Book Extract: Final Version

Moncek et al. (2004) compared the stress response of male Wistar rats kept under various conditions to gentle 1-minute handling sessions. One set of rats was kept in groups of three or four in barren cages, while the other subjects were taken from groups of ten animals living in cages that were five times larger and enriched with various toys, tunnels, swings, and running wheels. The enriched rats from large groups showed a significantly lower ACTH, corticosterone and adrenaline response to handling than the unenriched rats from small groups. It is not clear whether the stress buffering effect was due to the larger number of group members, the larger space available to each subject, the enrichment, or (as is presumably the case) a combination of these factors.

Belz et al. (2003) studied jugular vein-cannulated, individually housed female Sprague-Dawley rats who lived in 1100 cm2 cages that were either barren or enriched with rubber toys for gnawing and squares of compressed cotton fiber for shredding. While living space was the same for all animals, those in enriched cages were not only easier to handle but also showed a significantly lower endocrine [adrenocorticotropin] stress response to intraperitoneal injection. This effect could not be verified in male rats. Sharp et al. (2005) assessed cardiovascular stress responses to common handling procedures in SH rats bearing radiotelemetry transmitters, who were individually housed in 930 cm2 cages that were barren or enriched with a simulated burrow, a feeding gadget, and a shredding-and-nesting item. While blood pressure was not affected by enrichment, heart rate responses to subcutaneous injection and tail vein injection were significantly lower in enriched versus unenriched rats, indicating that enrichment had a stress buffering effect during these common procedures. This effect could not be replicated in Sprague-Dawley rats.