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Strategies for Social Housing of Rabbits (Recording)

Strategies for Social Housing of Rabbits (Recording)

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WEB-022A: The literature describing both a preference for and the benefits of social housing New Zealand White (NZW) rabbits is extensive. These rabbits spend a significant percentage of their resting time lying in close physical contact with one another and work for access to social contact nearly as hard as they do for food. The benefits of social housing include increased ability to cope with new stressors, increased physical fitness, and greater expression of natural behaviors. The 8th edition of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals states that single housing of a social species should be the exception to housing standards. Accordingly, we have developed a process of pair housing our colony NZW rabbits. Adult non-related females in addition to related male and related female weanlings have been effectively paired using our pair housing process. Through our experience with over 400 rabbits, we developed a behavioral ethogram categorizing expected behaviors during social interactions of successful pairs, including submissive and dominance behaviors as well as aggressive behaviors observed in unsuccessful pairs. In this way, we have developed a process for intervening with various treatments when these behaviors are observed. Previous studies have found that adequate environmental enrichment may reduce anxiety and stress reactivity; therefore, we developed an environmental enrichment program that facilitated greater success in pair housing by decreasing aggressive behaviors that arise around the age of sexual maturity (12 - 17 weeks).

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify expected social behaviors during paired rabbit interactions, including dominance and submissive behaviors.
  2. Identify behaviors predictive of pair failure.
  3. Integrate methods of intervention, such as enrichment and targeted monitoring, to increase probability of a successful pairing and pair maintenance.
  4. Describe a pairing process for adult females to apply within their animal care program.

Audience: Veterinarians, veterinary technicians, animal health technicians, and senior animal care technicians.

AALAS CEUs: You can apply for up to 1.5 CEUs for the Technician Certification Registry or CMAR recertification. Please use the forms on the AALAS website or online CEU submission.

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Presenter: Jennifer Lofgren, DVM, MS, DACLAM

Dr. Lofgren is a Clinical Assistant Professor with the Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. Additionally, she is the faculty lead for the Enrichment and Social Housing Committee and serves as the University's...

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