Behaviour of golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) kept in four different cage sizes
Cages for laboratory and pet hamsters are usually small. Using video recordings, the behaviour of sixty female golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus), housed individually in four different cage sizes, was compared in order to draw conclusions about their welfare. The cage sizes were 1,800 cm2, 2,500 cm2, 5,000 cm2, and 10,000 cm2. Enrichment items and litter depth were standardised and all cages were equipped with a running-wheel (30 cm diameter). Stereotypic wire-gnawing, usage of the provided space, weight gain, and reactions to mild husbandry stressors were used as welfare indicators. Stereotypic wire-gnawing was observed in all cage sizes, but hamsters in small cages gnawed significantly longer and more frequently. There were no significant differences in running-wheel activity. In small cages hamsters made use of the roof of their wooden shelters as an additional platform more often than in big cages, which could suggest that they needed more space. Therefore, the welfare of pet golden hamsters in cages with a minimal ground floor area of 10,000 cm2 seemed to be enhanced compared with smaller cages.
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