Six 8-week-old Sprague-Dawley rats were studied for 9 days divided into three periods of 3 days each: before transferral to metabolism cages, during metabolic cage housing and after return to their home cages. Faeces were collected daily when the animals were housed in their home cages and every 6 h when the animals were housed in metabolic cages during which time urine was also collected every 6 h. The rate of weight gain was slightly reduced during the 3 days in metabolic cages and the animals produced significantly larger amounts of faeces when housed in metabolic cages than when housed in their home cages. The total faecal excretion of corticosterone (nanograms excreted per hour per kilogram body weight) and immunoglobulin A (IgA) (milligrams excreted per hour per kg body weight) quantified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) exhibited a clear diurnal rhythm in the metabolic cage. Urinary excretions of corticosterone and IgA also followed a clear diurnal cycle. The mean daily amounts of corticosterone excreted were not significantly affected by cage change and by housing in metabolic cages. However, the excretion of faecal IgA was significantly reduced during the 3 days after the period in metabolic cages. Taken together the results indicate that metabolic cage housing is mildly stressful for young adult male rats.