Measuring rabbit corticosterone levels help scientists determine proper shelter size and exercise levels for pets. Photo by Pixabay

Fragrant flowers, a warming breeze, and adorable rabbits hopping through the garden – Spring is in the air! To celebrate, we’re highlighting a recent study that revisits care standards for some of our favorite furry friends. With over 1% of households (approx. 1.5 million) in the United States keeping rabbits as pets, not only are they symbols of the season but also cherished members of many families. However, standards of rabbit care, especially around housing and enclosures, are not well studied. Last year, Dr. Nicola Rooney and colleagues in Ireland and the United Kingdom provided some clarity with their study focusing on rabbit corticosterone levels as a critical stress indicator in pet rabbits. 

Diving into the Heart of Rabbit Welfare 

The study addresses a critical gap in understanding pet rabbit housing and exercise needs. By employing the DetectX® Corticosterone Multi-Format ELISA Kit (K014-H) from Arbor Assays, the research team meticulously quantified the stress responses of rabbits subjected to varying hutch sizes and degrees of exercise freedom. Their work provided new insights into optimal care practices. 

Rabbits experiencing restricted exercise demonstrated a significant increase in locomotor activity once granted access to larger spaces (p = 0.035). This behavioral surge suggests an instinctual need for movement and stimulation within their daily cycle. 

Furthermore, the fecal analysis revealed an interaction between hutch size and exercise opportunity on rabbit corticosterone levels, a well-known stress biomarker. Elevated levels were observed in rabbits housed in constrained conditions with limited run access (p = 0.047). These results emphasize the physiological and psychological stress inflicted by spatial and behavioral restrictions. 

Shaping Future Rabbit Care Guidelines 

These insights advocate for a reimagined approach to rabbit housing — particularly one that aligns more closely with the animals’ intrinsic behavioral and physiological needs. The study calls for guidelines prioritizing ample space and appropriate exercise periods, fostering environments where pet rabbits can thrive. 

Catalyzing Advances in Animal Welfare with Arbor Assays 

Arbor Assays’ DetectX® Corticosterone Multi-Format ELISA Kit is a precise and reliable tool for stress response studies across species and sample types. By facilitating such critical welfare studies, Arbor Assays is proud to have a role in enhancing our comprehension of and compassion for the animals under our care. Read about our easy-to-use kits and the latest news at the links below:   

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