Cage Material and Food Hopper as Determinants in Rat Preference Tests

  • Hanna-Marja Voipio Laboratory Animal Centre, University of Oulu
  • A-M Määttä National Laboratory Animal Center, University of Kuopio
  • H Honkanen Laboratory Animal Centre, University of Oulu
  • R Haapakoski Laboratory Animal Centre, University of Oulu
  • M Heikkilä National Laboratory Animal Center, University of Kuopio
  • K Mauranen Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Kuopio
  • S Mering National Laboratory Animal Center, University of Kuopio
  • T Nevalainen National Laboratory Animal Center, University of Kuopio and Department of Basic Veterinary Sciences, University of Helsinki, and Department of Comparative Medicine, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, The Pennsylvania State University

Abstract

Polycarbonate and stainless steel are commonly used cage materials for laboratory rodents. The aim of this  study was to assess within-cage preference of rats for cage material, when the effect of illumination was  eliminated. Altogether 64 male rats were used in two different facilities. The cages were made of either  stainless steel with a polycarbonate false inner half with or without a false food hopper (Kuopio) or transparent  or non-transparent polycarbonate with a steel false inner half (Oulu). A video camera with time lapse  recording of one second per min was used and the positions of the rats were recorded. Once each week  recording started at 16.00 and ended at 01.30, and each cage was recorded when the rats were aged four,  five, six, seven and eight weeks. The results were processed separately for each facility and for day and  night. Statistical analysis was carried out with repeated measures ANOVA. In cages with a stainless steel  body and a polycarbonate false half, the rats chose always the cage half with the food hopper, irrespective  of the cage material. Thus, the food hopper is more important to rats than the material of the cage; but when  the rats were allowed to choose between those two materials, both with a hopper, they favoured steel. In  cages with a polycarbonate body and a steel false inner half, the combination of food hopper with low illumination  was favoured during light time. In conclusion, this study shows that rats, when given a choice,  prefer low illumination and cage material may be of less importance. 

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