Why Do Rats Have Red Or Pink Eyes? Do They Need Extra Care?

Owning a pet rat with red eyes gives you a buddy to spend time with, and it’s a fantastic feeling to love and be loved by your pet. You can play with your tiny buddy because of its playful nature.

Red-eyed rats are among the rarest and most fancied pet rats among pet rats. Rats with red or pink eyes are called albino rats because they don’t have melanin: color pigment. 

Let’s discuss some aspects of albino rats. 

Albino Rat History

It is known that Conrad Gesner, a Swiss life scientist was the first to describe Norway’s Albino rats after he saw them in a graveyard in the 1550s

“Rattus norvegicus” is the binomial name of albino rats.

The fundamental mutation purposely carried out by humanity in pets is “rat albinism.”

Why do rats have red or pink eyes?

 It is a common misconception that rat eyes’ red or pink color is due to bleeding, but these colors are due to a gland’s secretion.

Third eyelids (a pink segment at the edge seen inside of the eye) are present in a large number of mammal species and have glands named Harderian glands. This gland is very compact in humans and doesn’t have much functioning, but in rats, it is vast and has a significant function.

The Harderian gland releases melatonin and porphyrin, a mixture of fatty acids and their products. Both the fluids aid in lubricating the eye, and the eye’s third eyelid safeguard the retina from ultraviolet rays.

The reason behind red or pink coloration is porphyrins secrete, whose molecules can absorb or soak up UV rays present in the red visible range. It gives a reddish or pinkish color fluorescence to the eyes of your rat.

Do rats with red eyes need extra care?

Yes! Rats with red eyes do require additional supervision as these rats are considered to be almost blind. They need extra care as they can hurt themselves easily.

Your pet rats eye’s can also secrete a red substance called chromodacryorrhea (red tears). This secretion is red due to the presence of iron.

Usually, this is no reason for alarm, unless you notice it in big quantities. When pet rats are sick, one of the first signs is this secretion around the eyes.

Your pet rat might also look less energetic and avoid contact with you as well. When this happens and when you noticed unusual quantities of this red substance around their eyes, it’s best to contact your vet!

This way, they can assess better what’s happening to your pet rat and advise you on the next steps.

Do all white rats have red eyes?

No, it’s not compulsory that all the white rats have red eyes because different eye colors like black, pink, and ruby are also standard.

The eye color variations are critical in determining your rat’s breed.

If your pet rat has ruby eyes, they usually look black under dim light. However, if the color of your furry buddy is pure white with red eyes, it is referred to as an albino rat.

The odd-eye coloration also exists in rats, which means both eyes have different colors.

Are Albino rats more timid?

Yes, albino rats are the most fearful among rat families.

For instance, you as a human feel unconfident and timid if you have any disability or constraint in doing something. 

Likewise, in albino rats, the eyes are red because of porphyrins, which allow rats to see only specific color shades.

a shy albino rat with red eyes in their cage

Pet rats already have particularly sensitive eyesight and can’t see very well. Red eyes are known to be even more sensitive, so of course, that will reflect on the pet rat’s demeanor!

It makes your rat’s movement difficult and slow. The sense of smell, especially in albinos, is not that good.

Both these limitations might make your pet albino less social. However, it all comes down to personality as well.

With time your albino pet rat will get used to you and their companions. This will boost their confidence!

Are red-eyed rats more dangerous?

Some people do not take red eyes lightly. It’s only natural since it’s a very uncommon color. Red eyes give you a scary look and feel of being dangerous.

But albino rats are not dangerous at all.

The red eyes are just a color variant in rats, likewise pink, black, etc. They might not be as common, but they are the exact same as other fancy/pet rats.

Each has its own personality, but all of them enjoy each other’s company, playing, climbing, grooming, and, of course, spending time with their owner!

Not only that, but unless there’s something wrong with them, pet rats are never dangerous. They are prey animals, who’ll more quickly run away if feeling in danger, than attack, scratch, or bite.

If you notice your pet rat is unusually aggressive, it might be due to some trauma or stressful situation they’re going through.

There are a lot of reasons why a pet rat is aggressive, so I advise taking a look at our article on Pet Rat Aggression to know more!

Can rats see colors?

This world is shady for your rat because your tiny furry friend can’t distinguish all the colors due to the constrained ability to see colors. 

The fundamental physiology of the eyes of humans and rats is alike, i.e., cones and rods are present.

The cones function for light detection, whereas rods for colors.

The main difference which makes your rat see limited colors is one less cone than humans, i.e., dichromatic vision.

It makes your pet rat perceive only green or blue shades and makes them unable to perceive red color.

Not only that, but pet rats do not perceive the world as well as us. They are known to have weak eyesight.

However, they do have other means to move and orient themselves. Their whiskers, sense of smell, and tail are exactly what they need to make up for their bad eyesight!

Can rats with red eyes see well?

Rats usually have poor eyesight, and those with red eyes suffer much. They cannot see clearly because the light is not focused on the retina of their eyes.

The light focuses on the retina’s front and creates a shady image of the object, which makes their vision blurred.

If you are nearby and your rat gives a gesture before approaching, this means the rat is confirming your identity and it may have been considering you a danger.

Their sense of smell is great though, so it might be a good idea to let them sniff you before interacting with them, so they can better recognize you. Especially at the beginning, when they are still getting used to you and their new surroundings.

pet rat with red eyes sniffing the air
Rats with red eyes don’t usually see very well.

It’s always good to have lots of accessories and toys inside your pet rat’s cage.

Since rats with red eyes have extra trouble seeing, it’s good to have lots of ladders, bridges, tunnels, and other platforms, so it reduces the chances of them falling down the cage, by accident. 

Here’s a list of the 11 best toys/accessories for your pet rats, if you need help in choosing some!

Are albino rats rare?

Albino rats are not scarce at all and are usually found in forests even!

Albino pet rats are widely used by breeders because of their genetics but still are not widespread pet rats.

More often than not, you’ll more easily find pet rats with ruby eyes and those can be easily mistaken with albino rats.

Our girls are an example, their fur is very creamy, almost white for the most part, while their eyes are ruby.

People often assume they are albino, when in fact, they’re not. It’s easy to mistake them, especially for people who are not as used to pet rats, since they can look very similar.

The scarcity of albinos is declining with time due to their utilization in research.

Why are albino rats used in experiments?

Albino rats are the most desirable rats used in the experiments for research because the use of other mammals may lead to questions about the welfare of animals.

Philipeaux conducted the first research on the upshots of adrenalectomy in the 1850s, and Savory studied the attributes of proteins using albino rats. 

The first and foremost reason is the remarkable resemblance of anatomy, genetics, and physiology between the two, i.e., humans and rats.

Secondly, albinos have the exceptional capability to multiply because of their extraordinary small reproductive cycle.

Their breeding cost isn’t much of a burden.

The Albinos can easily withstand severe environmental conditions, which results in their increased subsistence rate.

If someone asks, Is there any rat universally used for research? The answer is no because different rat breeds are used for different research involving particular organs and systems.

Usually, inbred and outbred albinos are used for research projects. For instance, outbred albino Wistar is widely used in the medical field for research on ailments like cancer.

Sprague Dawley another albino breed is commonly used for research on behaviors.

The massive variation in the albino breed made these rats immensely famous in research. It’s all because of rats’ unique traits, which made them an ideal mammal for research.

How much does a lab rat cost?

If you want to own a lab rat, having one is tough because selling to the public is restricted.

Usually, these rats are bred for a specific purpose and are present in a limited number. The lab rats are retained in separate cages to avoid human interaction.

Depending upon the genetic modification and purpose, the cost of a lab rat ranges from $50 to $100,000.

However, very often lab rats are rescued from places that mistreat these animals.

If you are interested in adopting a pet rat, there are places where you can do that.

Shelters like the Mainely Rat Rescue, accept and rescue pet rats from different places and experiences.

So, you know that adoption is always an option, even if sometimes it comes with a small fee.

How can rats explore their surroundings?

The disability to perceive every color can’t stop your rat from roaming the world!

To overcome this limitation, pet rats use sound, smell, taste, and tactile senses to keep themselves informed regarding their surroundings.

Your small furry buddy can use facial hair as a sensory antenna during movement from place to place.

They can also smell and hear quite well, so they always know what’s happening around them.

Generally, rats are very nimble and will adapt themselves to any situation, even if their eyesight isn’t that good!

Final Words 

Red-eyed rats have a unique look and they are popular due to their eyes and coat color. Some people have misconceptions about them being dangerous or completely blind.

The truth is, they are quite friendly, just like any other pet rat. Albino rats are not blind, but they do have poor vision and you need to be extra careful about them.

Pet rats have, in general, poor eyesight, but when it comes to red, pink, or even ruby-colored eyes, it’s even poorer!

Albino rats are easy to breed and a large number of their offspring can be obtained in a short time.

This has made them one of the most popular lab animals and some important research has been carried out on them.

If you have an albino rat, take good care of it and enjoy the amazing companionship. Even though in general pet rats have bad eyesight, you might be wondering how they make up for this, and how sensitive pet rats are to light, which you can read about here!