Animal housing conditions

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​​​​​​​​A. Background & Definitions

Animals are expected to be housed in enclosures (cages, pens, corrals…) that comply with legal requirements (when existing), and that in any case allow animals to perform natural behaviors. For this last reason, they are to be provided with stimuli, structures and resources that facilitate the expression of species-appropriate behaviors. This is called environmental enrichment. Also, social species are expected to be socially housed except for clearly defined justification. There are different rodent caging systems used, including traditional open cages and individually ventilated caging (IVC), used to offer different levels of biosafety (protection from animals) or biosecurity (animal protection). ​

​B. Guidance & Expectations

The following topics must be defined and documented:

  • Standards used when deciding dimensions and characteristics of caging/enclosure (e.g. implementing legislation, Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, other).
  • Description of caging/enclosure (dimensions, open, IVC, flooring, etc.)
  • Animal numbers by type of caging/enclosure
  • Environmental enrichment
  • Justified cases for single housing of social species relating to experimental procedures (e.g. metabolic caging, post-surgery), veterinary intervention or social incompatibility


  • Select the caging system according to biosafety/biosecurity criteria depending on study needs.
  • Coordinate the environmental enrichment with the specialized personnel in the parent organisation (veterinarian, facility manager, caretakers, oversight body) to ensure effective implementation and that it does not interfere with study objectives.
  • Apply environmental enrichment in a consistent manner, as variations may impact outcome of studies.
  • To coordinate environmental enrichment with resources for thermoregulation (see section # 4)

C. Resources

Template to describe information related to animal care and use (all items covered by Section 3.4.1) - 3.4.1 Animal care and use.docx

ARRIVE guidelines 2019 for reporting animal research

Online and other available guidance:

  • Annex III of Directive 2010/63/EU. [1]
  • Appendix A of European Convention ETS 123.[2]
  • Chapter 3 of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, NRC 2011 [3]
  • Refinement of rodent research through environmental enrichment and systematic randomization. [4]
  • Environmental Enrichment of Laboratory Rodents: The Answer Depends on the Question. Comp Med. 2011 Aug; 61(4): 314–321 [5]
  • FELASA standardization of enrichment. [6]
  • Environmental enrichment for laboratory rodents. ILAR journal / National Research Council, Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources 46(2):148-61 [7]
  • ​Housing and Husbandry [8]

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