Environmental enrichment

Two beliefs underpin the philosophy applied to the care of research animals:

  • that "hands on" contact is important for both the animals and their carers; and
  • that the provision of sufficent space and texture in the environment gives animals some control.

Following these beliefs will ensure both a happy and healthy subject, as well as accurate and valid experimental results.

Ideas for environmental enrichment presented below can easily be implemented with low-cost options such as discarded construction materials, disused equipment, second hand sports balls and equipment and any other materials that can be safetly enjoyed by the animals.

Ethics application tips

  • Nesting, bedding, in-cage shelter are not considered to be enrivonmental enrichment. These items are considered to be basic husbandry requirements.
  • Environmental enrichment items should be described in detail - consider incorporating a digital photograph in your application.

Rats and mice

  • White shredded paper
  • Paper towel and toilet paper rolls
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Small branches for chewing (rats)
  • Treats: fruit, vegetables, bread, seed
  • Group housing in polypropylene caging
  • Ramps and ladders with platforms
  • Exercise wheel
  • Plastic resting pads, plastic or PVC tubing for wire bottom
  • Cages 50 mm stationary rings suspended from the cage lid (mice
  • Fibre tubing (mice)
  • Tubes attached with springs to cage tops (mice)

Rabbits and guinea pigs

  • Paper towel rolls
  • PVC tubing to chew or toss
  • Clean twigs or branches to chew
  • Treats: fruit, vegetables, seed
  • Group housing
  • Visual contact with other rabbits
  • Handling by staff and volunteers
  • Sound from radio
  • Straw
  • Shower curtain rings attached to cage door
  • Tunnels made from large peices of plastic piping


  • Social groups of 6-8 cats – should be desexed or all female, entire males tend to fight
  • Human contact
  • Vertical use of space as well as horizontal ie. shelving, walkways attached to the sides of eclosures, 'jump' tray
  • Ramps to access higher floor levels
  • Tree logs for scratching and climbing up - tea-tree is good (they can rip it to shreds!)
  • If environment needs to be totally disenfectable, plastic garden chairs are very good for cats to climb on, and sleep on
  • Access to sunbathing areas - this also be inside through a window
  • Toys suspended by string/wore from roof eg scrunched up paper
  • Scrunched up aluminium foil balls
  • Ping pong balls, hollow balls with bells in, 'toy' mice and rats
  • Scratching poles particularly hessian type, if not, carpeted with long looped carpet so can pull with claws and also rip to shreds
  • Food: long strips of gravy meat for chewing, hiding dry food in places throughout the enclosure so they have to search for it, special treats occasionally
  • Areas for hiding eg cardboard boxes, paper supermarket bags
  • Warm soft bedding, also like shredded paper to sleep in
  • Soft radio music for background
  • Warm areas to sleep in eg in winter, heating pads, hot water bottles
  • Some cats enjoy cat-nip and if in inside enclosures a pot of plant grass


  • Shavings for bedding
  • Perches and dowling covered wih rubber hose
  • Nesting boxes
  • PVC or polypropylene resting pads
  • Group housing
  • Scratch grain mixed ino shavings
  • Little boxes for dust bathing
  • Mirrors
  • Visual contact with other chickens


  • Old rubber boots, loose or suspended
  • Knotted cloth and rope tied to gate
  • Shaving for bedding
  • Balls
  • Hay flakes for rooting, scratching and eating
  • Empty jugs, loose or suspended
  • Feed bags filled with styrofoam chips and sown up bedding for tossing or rooting
  • Pieces of chain suspended from the cages
  • Tyres, loose or suspended
  • Bristle end of broom tied to wall for scratching
  • Sound from radio
  • Visual and olfactory contact with other pigs


  • Water bath
  • Rock for resting