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Safety and Environmental Enrichment for Lab Animals

We may unwittingly introduce risk into the animals’ environment by our use of enrichment devices. Foraging may lead to aggression in some species. Competition for toys may elicit dominance behaviors. Items may fall on animals or be used as a weapon if not properly secured.

As with small children, enrichment devices with small pieces should be avoided to lessen the possibility of swallowing or choking. It is also possible that an animal could become wedged between an enrichment item and the enclosure or have a head or appendage stuck. Selecting the right sized enrichment is important for animal safety.

Non-food enrichment items need to be routinely inspected for damage and discarded as required. Items with sharp edges can cause injuries or become a harborage for bacteria. Ropes and cloth items can fray over time, possibly resulting in ingestion, strangulation or entrapment.

When selecting enrichment items, care should be taken to select those that can be easily sanitized. Items should be constructed to withstand the cage washer and common chemicals. Where ongoing sanitation is an issue, disposable enrichment items may be a better choice.

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