Sex difference in daily water consumption of rats: effect of housing and hormones

Physiol Behav. Apr-May 1996;59(4-5):653-8. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(95)02017-9.


Females rats consume more water than males per day when consumption is indexed to body weight. We examined the developmental expression of this sex difference as well as the organizational and activational influences of testosterone (T). The amount of water consumed from weaning to adulthood exhibited a linear decrease with age in both sexes. The development of a sex difference in water consumption was evident immediately after weaning in singly housed animals, but did not emerge until about Day 42-45 in group-housed animals, when females began to consume greater amounts of water than males. Castration at weaning had minimal effects on the sex difference. Treating dams with testosterone propionate (TP; 0.3 mg/kg; E15-E20) resulted in a significant increase in adult water consumption in offspring of both sexes, but the sex difference remained. Overall, these data indicate that gonadal steroids are not the primary organizational influence on this sex difference. The greater water consumption in females is consistent with other studies demonstrating sex differences in plasma vasopressin levels, as well as differences in vasopressin sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drinking Behavior / drug effects
  • Drinking Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hormones / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Orchiectomy
  • Ovariectomy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Social Isolation*
  • Testosterone / pharmacology
  • Vasopressins / blood
  • Vasopressins / pharmacology


  • Hormones
  • Vasopressins
  • Testosterone