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Aspen wood-wool is preferred as a resting place, but does not affect intracage fighting of male BALB/c and C57BL/6J mice

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Aspen wood-wool, provided as nesting material, was evaluated as a possible improvement of cage environment for 1O-14-week-old inbred male mice maintained in groups of six IBALB/c n = 72 and CS7BL/6J n = 36). The daily behaviour of mice was video recorded and their body weight, food consumption, weights of some organs and serum corticosterone concentrations were measured. Aggressive interactions between cage mates and against a strange intruder as well as the number of wounds on the back of the animals was monitored in order to evaluate the effect of nesting material on intermale aggression.

Nesting material did not affect the daily active/passive behaviour patterns of mice, although animals clearly preferred it as a resting place. BALB/c mice given nesting material showed less weight gain and smaller brown adipose tissue weights than animals without nesting material. The other characteristics measured were not affected by the presence of nesting material in either strain. The presence of nesting material had no effect on fighting in cages. CS7BL/6J mice were more aggressive than BALB/c mice according to the number of wounded animals in a cage. Wounded BALB/c mice had enlarged spleens and decreased epididymal adipose tissue weights.

In conclusion, the nesting material used in this study did not adversely affect the animals. On the other hand, the material was clearly preferred to conventional bedding as a resting place. These findings suggest that nesting material may improve the cage environment of laboratory mice. Furthermore, there was an indication of strain differences in aggressive behaviour. It could be suggested that C57BL/6J mice are less tolerant towards intruders and housing six mice per cage is not suitable for this strain.