Effect of multilevel laboratory rat caging system on the well-being of the singly-housed sprague dawley rat

R. R. Wheeler, M. P. Swan, D. L. Hickman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Current regulations emphasize that good husbandry practices allow animals to engage in species appropriate postural adjustments without touching the enclosure walls. This study evaluated the well-being of rats housed in a commercially available multilevel rat caging system, with or without access to the upper level of the caging. The evaluation methodologies included assessment of behavioral observations in the home cage, physiological assessment of metabolism and immune function, and determination of the affective state using a spatial cognitive bias assay. The study determined that rats that were provided access to the full multilevel cage during testing after initial restriction to the lower level of the cage demonstrated behavioral changes consistent with a positive affective state, while those with no changes to their housing situation had no significant differences in their affective states. Rats that were consistently housed with access restricted to the lower level of the cage exhibited a tendency to increased neutrophil:lymphocyte ratios as compared with those provided with access to all levels of the multilevel cage. There were no differences in body weight demonstrated between the experimental groups. Overall use of the cage space, as documented through analysis of behavioral observations in the home cage, demonstrated no significant differences in preferred location in the cage during the light or dark cycles, though rats with access to both levels of the cage were significantly more active during the light cycle. The results of this study suggest that the use of a multilevel caging system may improve the well-being of rats used in research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-19
Number of pages10
JournalLaboratory Animals
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported through internal funding provided by the School of Medicine at Indiana University in Indianapolis. The rack and caging system was loaned to the institution by Tecniplast and subsequently purchased by the institution.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2014.


  • Affective state
  • Animal well-being
  • Environmental enrichment
  • Rats
  • Refinement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Veterinary (all)


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