London, May 23 : While cleaning ensures warding off health hazards for humans, frequent cleaning of cages in case of lab rats leads them towards cannibalising their own young ones, according to a new study.
In a study, Charlotte Burn at the University of Oxford and Georgia Mason at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, discovered that almost twice as many pups were eaten in cages cleaned twice a week as in those cleaned fortnightly. The trend was more likely when the cages were cleaned soon after the pups were born.
While cannibalism in rats is not a strange phenomenon as mothers usually consume on its unhealthy young in order to save energy for raising healthy ones. But apart from this normal behaviour, there is also a disruptive angle to this trait.
According to Volker Rudolf at Rice University in Houston, Texas, cleaning of rats' cages results in creating disturbance in their ability recognise their brood, reports New Scientist.
Burn said that the rats are able to recognise their pups because of their specific scent, and she has suggested that minimising the handling of very young pups may aid in avoiding the interference with the scents that bond their parents to them.
She also said that it was vital to avert foreign scents into the rats' cages. For instance, many rats should not be handled consecutively by lab technicians.
And she finally advised that cleaning the rats' cages should not "stress the parents with loud noises or physical disturbance."