In laboratories, mice are housed at 20–24°C, which is below their lower critical temperature (≈30°C). This increased thermal stress has the potential to alter scientific outcomes. Nesting material should allow for improved behavioral thermoregulation and thus alleviate this thermal stress. Nesting behavior should change with temperature and material, and the choice between nesting or thermotaxis (movement in response to temperature) should also depend on the balance of these factors, such that mice titrate nesting material against temperature. Naïve CD-1, BALB/c, and C57BL/6 mice (36 male and 36 female/strain in groups of 3) were housed in a set of 2 connected cages, each maintained at a different temperature using a water bath. One cage in each set was 20°C (Nesting cage; NC) while the other was one of 6 temperatures (Temperature cage; TC: 20, 23, 26, 29, 32, or 35°C). The NC contained one of 6 nesting provisions (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10g), changed daily. Food intake and nest scores were measured in both cages. As the difference in temperature between paired cages increased, feed consumption in NC increased. Nesting provision altered differences in nest scores between the 2 paired temperatures. Nest scores in NC increased with increasing provision. In addition, temperature pairings altered the difference in nest scores with the smallest difference between locations at 26°C and 29°C. Mice transferred material from NC to TC but the likelihood of transfer decreased with increasing provision. Overall, mice of different strains and sexes prefer temperatures between 26–29°C and the shift from thermotaxis to nest building is seen between 6 and 10 g of material. Our results suggest that under normal laboratory temperatures, mice should be provided with no less than 6 grams of nesting material, but up to 10 grams may be needed to alleviate thermal distress under typical temperatures.


This is the publisher pdf of Gaskill BN, Gordon CJ, Pajor EA, Lucas JR, Davis JK, et al. (2012) Heat or Insulation: Behavioral Titration of Mouse Preference for Warmth or Access to a Nest. PLoS ONE 7(3): e32799. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032799 and is available at: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032799.

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