The aims of this thesis were: 1) to identify resources that may be important in the housing of laboratory rabbits (from a survey of the pharmaceutical industry, visits to laboratories and consultation with the industry) and 2) to test the motivation of rabbits for the identified resources. From the survey and behavioural observations of rabbits in different housing systems, it was decided that further investigations would focus on female New Zealand White rabbits and the importance of social contact and platforms within cages. The importance of these resources for rabbits was assessed using both short and long-term motivational tests and observations in laboratory cages. An initial experiment to develop motivational tests identified that pushing through a weighted push-doors was perceived by rabbits as costly, in terms of the effort taken to overcome it, but moving through a water bath and approaching an air- stream were not. Short-term motivational tests were set up to give singly and pair caged rabbits the opportunity to push through a weighted push-door to gain a short period of visual and minimal tactile contact with another rabbit. The rabbits pushed through heavier weights to gain social contact than for no reward. Olfactory cues were found to be important, as several rabbits did not push through even the unweighted push-door when the other rabbit was removed. Also, socially housed rabbits pushed through heavier weights for social contact when they were housed out of olfactory contact with their cage-mate. A closed economy consumer demand experiment using weighted push-doors was set-up to test longer term motivation for resources. Two different economic measures (maximum price paid and total expenditure) were used to rank the importance of food, visual and minimal tactile contact, a platform and an empty cage. Both measures showed food and social contact to be of equal and most importance, whilst the importance of the platform varied with the economic measure used. When in the social contact cage the rabbits spent just over half their time in direct visual contact with the other rabbit. In the platform cage the majority of time was spent lying in front of the platform, suggesting that being near to a bolt-hole was important. Platform use was found to be affected by the presence of visual and olfactory cues from conspecifics. The different approaches used found that rabbits were motivated to work to gain visual
and minimal tactile contact with conspecifics and to gain access to a platform. It is recommended that visual and minimal tactile contact should be allowed between rabbits in adjacent cages (as well as providing a means of avoiding contact) and that caged rabbits should be provided with a platform.