Despite their gregarious nature, rabbits used for research are often housed individually due to concerns about aggression and disease transmission. However, conventional laboratory cages restrict movement, and rabbits housed singly in these cages often perform abnormal behaviors, an indication of compromised welfare. Pairing rabbits in double-sized cages could potentially improve welfare by providing both increased space and social stimulation.
Rabbits are usually singly housed in laboratories, but a new emphasis on providing social housing for social species has prompted exploration of alternative housing for this species. However, a paucity of literature on the social behavior of rabbits in captivity has prevented scientific-based recommendations for appropriate housing. This study involved a descriptive analysis of the social behavior of rabbit bucks in the laboratory in 3 different housing situations: in groups in pens, in pairs in cages, and singly in cages. Based on study observations and the natural history of wild rabbits, bucks engage in affiliative social behaviors, but current caging may not allow for the expression of species-typical behaviors, thereby resulting in continued aggression.