Med. Weter. 75

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STANISŁAW ŁAPIŃSKI, SYLWIA PAŁKA, DANUTA WROŃSKA, IWONA GUJA, ANDRZEJ ZOŃ, PIOTR NIEDBAŁA, SVETLANA N. SERGINA
Effect of cage enrichment on the welfare of farmed foxes
The aim of the study was to use behavioural and cortisol tests to determine whether cage enrichment (observation shelves, wooden sticks for gnawing) improves the welfare of farmed foxes (Vulpes vulpes). The paper discusses welfare criteria such as "expression of other behaviours", "good human–animal relationships" and "positive emotional state". The study covered 60 young foxes. After weaning, the animals were placed in standard cages, two individuals per cage. The foxes were divided into three groups. In the control group, no additional cage enrichment was provided. Group I was provided with observation shelves; group II was provided with wooden gnawing sticks. During the experiment the foxes underwent repeated tests: empathic test, feeding test and salivary cortisol test. The data obtained were analysed statistically (ANOVA, Tukey’s test, correlation), taking into account the following variables: the impact of cage enrichment, animal gender, temperament, and colour mutation. The study did not show conclusively that the use of cage enrichment affects animal temperament or the level of cortisol. However, in the group with gnawing sticks, the level of cortisol in the second measurement was significantly lower in comparison with other groups. This indicates that satisfying the need to gnaw objects reduces stress in foxes. The study showed a high correlation between the empathic and the feeding test, both of which are useful for testing the emotional state of foxes and the human–animal relationship.
Key words: red fox, Vulpes vulpes, welfare, behaviour, cortisol test, behavioural tests