The use of a novel operant test to determine the strength of preference for flooring in laboratory rats.


A previous study showed that laboratory rats preferred to dwell on a solid floor rather than a grid one, particularly when resting (Manser et al. 1995). The strengths of this preference was investigated in an operant trial using a novel test apparatus, which consisted of a grid-floored cage and a solid-floored cage, joined via a central box containing a barrier whose weight was adjustable. Trials in which rats had to lift the barrier in order to explore the whole apparatus were alternated with those in which the rats were confined on the grid floor and then had to lift the barrier in order to reach the solid floor. The latter trials were carried out at the beginning of the light period when the rats were seeking a resting place. In both trials, the weight of the barrier was progressively increased for each rat, until a maximum weight was found which it would lift either to explore its environment (weight A) or to reach the solid floor (weight B). No significant differences were found between weights A and B, showing that rats would work as hard to reach a solid floor to rest on as they would to explore a novel environment. The apparatus used could with some modifications, be appropriate for use in other operant studies in laboratory rats.