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Happy hamsters? Enrichment induces positive judgement bias for mildly (but not truly) ambiguous cues to reward and punishment in Mesocricetus auratus

Recent developments in the study of animal cognition and emotion have resulted in the ‘judgement bias’ model of animal welfare. Judgement biases describe the way in which changes in affective state are characterized by changes in information processing. In humans, anxiety and depression are characterized by increased expectation of negative events and negative interpretation of ambiguous information. Positive wellbeing is associated with enhanced expectation of positive outcomes and more positive interpretation of ambiguous information.

Watson, H. A study into viable wooden enrichment objects for Syrian hamsters. Animal Technology and Welfare 19(1), 86-88.

Failing to provide hamsters with a method to wear down their teeth can lead to detrimental behaviour such as bar chewing, and health issues, for example, overgrown teeth and tooth loss. However, hamsters use their cheek pouches to store and carry movable items. This can cause health problems if wooden enrichment objects produce splinters which can become lodged in the cheek pouches. The aim of this study was to take a comparison of wooden products available on the market and determine a safe and effective object to be provided for hamster enrichment. Trial objects were: large aspen chew brick, medium aspen chew brick, and aspen balls.

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