Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Does ‘playtime’ reduce stimulus-seeking and other boredom-like behaviour in laboratory ferrets?

Burn, C C; Raffle, J; Bizley, J K


C C Burn

J Raffle

J K Bizley


Much environmental enrichment for laboratory animals is intended to enhance animal welfare and normalcy by providing stimulation to reduce ‘boredom’. Behavioural manifestations of boredom include restless sensation-seeking behaviours combined with indicators of sub-optimal arousal. Here we explored whether these signs could be reduced by extra daily play opportunity in laboratory ferrets. Specifically, we hypothesised that playtime would reduce restlessness, aggression, sensation-seeking and awake drowsiness, even 24h later in the homecage. Female ferrets (n = 14) were group housed in enriched multi-level cages. Playtime involved exploring a room containing a ball pool, paper bags, balls containing bells, and a familiar interactive human for 1h. This was repeated on three consecutive mornings, and on the fourth morning, homecage behaviour was compared between ferrets who had experienced the playtime treatment versus control cagemates who had not. Their investigation of stimuli (positive = mouse odour or ball; ambiguous = empty bottle or tea-strainer; and negative = peppermint or bitter apple odour) was also recorded. We then swapped treatments, creating a paired experimental design. Ferrets under control conditions lay awake with their eyes open and screeched significantly more, but slept and sat/stood less, than following playtime. They also contacted negative and ambiguous stimuli significantly more under control conditions than they did following playtime; contact with positive stimuli showed no effects. Attempts to blind the observer to treatments were unsuccessful, so replication is required, but the findings suggest that playtime may have reduced both sub-optimal arousal and restless sensation seeking behaviour, consistent with reducing boredom.


Burn, C. C., Raffle, J., & Bizley, J. K. (2020). Does ‘playtime’ reduce stimulus-seeking and other boredom-like behaviour in laboratory ferrets?

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 12, 2019
Publication Date Feb 1, 2020
Deposit Date Sep 14, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 1, 2021
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL


12360_Does-playtime-reduce-stimulus-seeking-and-other-boredom-like-behaviour-in-laboratory-ferrets_Accepted.pdf (591 Kb)

You might also like

Downloadable Citations