Refinement of Gerbil Housing and Husbandry
Original Authors: Eva Wailblinger and Barbara Konig
This journal article discusses the behavioral abnormalities observed in Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus) when kept under standard laboratory housing conditions. The authors aimed to understand the causes of these abnormalities and propose housing and husbandry solutions to prevent their development. The two primary stereotypic behaviors observed were digging in the corners of the cage and chewing on the cage-top bars. The researchers focused on understanding the reasons behind these behaviors and finding ways to address the gerbils’ behavioral needs.
The article highlights the importance of environmental enrichment and proper housing to provide gerbils with the necessary stimuli for normal behavior regulation. The absence of certain environmental and social stimuli in laboratory cages can lead to the development of abnormal behaviors such as stereotypies. Stereotypies are repetitive, invariant, and locally fixed behavior patterns that lack an obvious goal or function.
The researchers conducted experiments to investigate the causes of these stereotypic behaviors and proposed solutions to prevent their development. For instance, they found that the lack of a burrow in the laboratory cage led to stereotypic digging behavior. To address this, they designed an integrated artificial burrow system that significantly reduced the incidence of stereotypic digging.
Additionally, the authors emphasized the importance of not separating juvenile gerbils from their parents prematurely. Separation before the birth of younger siblings was associated with an increase in bar chewing behavior. They suggested that delaying separation until after the birth of younger siblings could help prevent the development of bar chewing.
Overall, the study underscores the significance of refining gerbil housing and husbandry practices in laboratory settings to improve the animals’ welfare and reduce the occurrence of abnormal behaviors.
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