Modulation of aggression in male mice: influence of group size and cage size

Physiol Behav. 2001 Apr;72(5):675-83. doi: 10.1016/s0031-9384(01)00425-5.


Aggression in group-housed male mice is known to be influenced by both cage size and group size. However, the interdependency of these two parameters has not been studied yet. In this study, the level of aggression in groups of three, five, or eight male BALB/c mice housed in cages with a floor size of either 80 or 125 cm(2)/animal was estimated weekly after cage cleaning for a period of 14 weeks. Furthermore, urine corticosterone levels, food and water intake, body weight, and number of wounds were measured weekly. At the end of the experiment, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) activity, testosterone levels, and weight of spleen, thymus, testes, and seminal vesicles were determined. Results indicate a moderate increase of intermale aggression in larger cages when compared to the smaller cages. Aggression in groups of eight animals was considerably higher than in groups of three animals. The increase of agonistic behavior was observed both in dominant and subordinate animals. Physiological parameters indicate differences in stress levels between dominant and subordinate animals. It is concluded that aggressive behavior in group-housed male BALB/c mice is best prevented by housing the animals in small groups of three to five animals, while decreasing floor size per animal may be used as a temporary solution to decrease high levels of aggression in an existing social group.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Corticosterone / urine
  • Drinking / physiology
  • Eating / physiology
  • Environment
  • Housing, Animal
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Social Environment*
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / blood
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology


  • Testosterone
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Corticosterone