|ressaure / Foter|
When compared to other rodent species, rats are particularly susceptible to isolation stress, especially as juveniles (up to 50 days of age). While housing in larger groups is often desirable, pair housing is sufficient to abolish the worst effects of isolation stress. Use of social contact substitutes such as mirrors has not been successful.
Social housing permits the display of highly-motivated social behaviors and helps moderate the effect of experimental or incidental stressors. When confronted with a novel or aversive event, paired animals experience significantly less distress as indicated by measures such as open field activity, ethanol intake and adrenal gland size.
As such, differences in social housing should be considered as a potential source of experimental confounds. Social housing is preferred as producing rats that display less severe physical and behavioral abnormalities and are less susceptible to stressors.
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