Cardboard and rubber objects as means of environmental enrichment for rabbits
Keywords:rabbits, behaviour, Oryctolagus cuniculus, welfare
AbstractEnvironmental enrichment improves rabbit welfare in rabbitries. Various toys for cats and dogs are commercially available, which are made of materials that could be safely used for rabbits as well. The objectives of this study were to evaluate whether cardboard and rubber materials could be used for environmental enrichment for rabbits. The study involved 42 adult New Zealand white rabbits (20 females and 22 males), randomly assigned to seven treatment groups: “C”, without object (control); “RB”, a solid rubber ball; “FT”, a fillable teether filled with hay; “CH”, a cardboard hole; “CS”, a piece of a cat scratcher; “CSC”, a piece of a cat scratcher with catnip; “CF”, an articulated cardboard fish. The behaviour of the rabbits and the percentage of destruction of the objects were recorded for 28 d. The normal behaviours of locomotion, rearing, stretching, stereotypies and sitting were not influenced by the treatments. Lying down was observed more frequently than the full stretched out position for resting. The FT-treatment group presented most behaviours of interaction (biting and sniffing) (P<0.05) as compared to RB, CSC, and CF-treatment groups. All the objects showed some level of destruction; the mean rates of destruction for CH, CS, CSC and CF were up to 40%, whereas those for FT and RB were under 30%. Taken together, the results suggest that cardboard and rubber materials can be used as means of environmental enrichment for rabbits.
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