Behavioural Effects of the Shelter Design on Male Guinea Pigs
To improve the welfare of group-housed male guinea pigs during the acclimatization period, which is when social groups are formed, different designs of shelters were tested, one shelter having one entrance to a single compartment – a Box for group hiding – and the other having individual entrances to a compartment in the cage – a Garage for single hiding. Both were studied to evaluate whether they had any affect on the behavioral levels. Behavioural and weight data were collected during five of the seven days of the acclimatization period. Data were tested against the Mann-Whitney U and Variance Analysis test. Results demonstrated that males in cages with the garage spent more time inside the shelter (P =0.0004), while males in cages with the box spent more time resting (P =0.000), feeding (P =0.0043) and drinking (P =0.0022) on the open floor, and yet there was no difference in individual weight between treatments at the end of the study. Males in cages with garage experienced a more rapid establishment of the social hierarchy (P = 0.0024) by being involved with a lower number of social interactions. The conclusion from the present study is considered to show that males in cages with the garage were able to avoid unnecessarily high levels of stress and aggression caused by territorial defence while the hierarchy was established.