To group or not to group? Good practice for housing male laboratory mice

Sarah Kappel*, Penny Hawkins, Michael Mendl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

133 Citations (Scopus)
553 Downloads (Pure)


It is widely recommended to group-house male laboratory mice because they are ‘social animals’, but male mice do not naturally share territories and aggression can be a serious welfare problem. Even without aggression, not all animals within a group will be in a state of positive welfare. Rather, many male mice may be negatively affected by the stress of repeated social defeat and subordination, raising concerns about welfare and also research validity. However, individual housing may not be an appropriate solution, given the welfare implications associated with no social contact. An essential question is whether it is in the best welfare interests of male mice to be group- or singly housed. This review explores the likely impacts—positive and negative—of both housing conditions, presents results of a survey of current practice and awareness of mouse behavior, and includes recommendations for good practice and future research. We conclude that whether group- or single-housing is better (or less worse) in any situation is highly context-dependent according to several factors including strain, age, social position, life experiences, and housing and husbandry protocols. It is important to recognise this and evaluate what is preferable from animal welfare and ethical perspectives in each case.

Original languageEnglish
Article number88
Number of pages25
Issue number12
Early online date24 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Special Issue: Animal Management in the 21st Century


  • Animal husbandry
  • Animal management
  • Animal welfare
  • Group housing
  • Male mice
  • Mouse aggression
  • Mouse husbandry
  • Mouse welfare
  • Refinement
  • Single housing
  • Social organisation


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