Lousy house, grouchy mouse: Assessing the effects of standard barren housing on laboratory mouse sociability and attractiveness
Compared to mice from environmentally enriched (EE) enclosures, mice housed in the small, relatively barren cages ubiquitous in research facilities (standard housing) show signs of poor welfare such as increased stereotypic and depressive behaviours and agonism. Previous research in humans and rats suggests that these behavioural changes can lead to reduced sociability, attractiveness as a social partner, or both. I thus sought to determine the effects of housing on sociability and attractiveness in female mice using a modified sociability and social preference test and a novel familiarisation paradigm. My results indicated that standard housed (SH) mice were not generally less sociable or attractive than those from enriched housing. However, mice who received more agonism in their home cages strongly preferred to spend their time near EE mice (the less agonistic housing type), suggesting that agonism between female cagemates, while not usually injurious, is aversive to the recipient.