Albino Rats: Everything You Need to Know About PEWs

Rats come in many different colors and patterns. All of the colors are unique in their own way, but for me, the rat that really stands out is the Albino rat. Albino rats are characterized by their white coat and red eyes, giving them a recognizable and unique appearance. Because of their unique appearance, people also sometimes refer to them as Pink-eyed Whites, or PEWs.

In the wild, albino rats are extremely rare: only one in 20,000 to 1 in a million wild rats is albino. In captivity, however, they’re relatively common. More on why that is later.

In this article, we’re going over everything you need to know about this fascinating rat variety by discussing 7 fascinating facts. Let’s dig in!

7 Facts about Albino Rats

1. Albino Rats can have red tears

Many people believe that Albino rats cry blood. The reason for this is understandable; they do sometimes cry red tears. However, these tears are not red because of blood. Instead, the red coloration of their tears is caused by a substance called porphyrin, which gives their tears their red color.

2. An Albino Rat has been to space

In 1961, France sent an albino rat named Hector into space. Hector reached heights of 90 miles or more, and he was successfully recovered after his mission was over. He was the first rat to be sent into space and wore an absolutely adorable miniature space suit!

3. Albino Rats have worse eyesight and a worse sense of smell

According to John Hopkins University, Albino Rats have significantly worse eyesight than regular rats. The reason why albino rats have worse eyesight is that they have reduced amounts of melanin in their body. Melanin is involved in the development of the eye, which makes their vision worse.

Also, since Albino rats lack protective pigment in their eyes, they are particularly prone to being dazzled by bright bursts of light. So, if you have an Albino rat, be careful that you do not accidentally shine bright lights in their eyes.

As a result of their poorer vision, they rely much more heavily on their whiskers and sense of smell to interpret the world around them.

Unfortunately, studies done in 1942 and 1996 found that Albino rats got the short end of the stick in the smell department as well. The studies found that albino rats have a duller sense of smell than other rat varieties.

4. Albino Rats have been around for centuries

The first mention of an Albino rat was by the Swiss Naturalist Conrad Gessner, who saw an all-white wild rat during an expedition in Norway. Of course, albinos have been around much longer than that, but that was the first documented mention of them.

An interesting thing to note is that Albino Rats were the first rats to be kept as pets. The reason for this is that their white coat makes them much easier to see and catch so that they could be kept as pets.

Albino rats were first domesticated in the 18th century, and have been bred ever since. Since they’ve been bred for such a long time, combined with the fact that they’re often used as lab rats, means that albino rats are much more common in captivity than they are in the wild.

5. Albino Rats are the result of a genetic mutation

Albinism is a genetic mutation that occurs in many different species, including rats. It’s a mutation caused by a recessive gene that results in the animal being unable to produce pigment. The lack of pigment is what gives them their characteristic white coat. In addition to a white coat, albino rats also have pink or red eyes.

They have red or pink eyes because the lack of pigmentation in their eyes make the small blood vessels visible, giving them their unique reddish color.

6. Albino Rats sleep differently

Albino rats have different systems involved in regulating sleep-waking patterns and REM sleep responses to light.

Studies have found that Albino rats are more likely to experience deep sleep in the dark, while other rats are more likely to experience deep sleep in the light.
In addition, increasing the light intensity has a far greater effect on albino REM sleep than on the REM sleep of pigmented rats.

7. Albino rats are different, yet very similar to other rats

Some people are under the impression that albino rats are more likely to bite or that they’re less friendly or more skittish. Other people are under the impression that albino rats have a shorter lifespan.

However, none of these things are true. Albino rats are just as friendly and loving as other rats and require almost identical care. Care-wise, the only things that you have to take into consideration are their worse eyesight and the fact that their white coat shows dirt and stains more easily!

However, studies have shown that albino rats do have slightly worse motor skills. (Whishaw et al. 2003)

It is true that Albino rats have a slightly more challenging life: their worse eyesight, worse sense of smell, and worse motor skills do make life more difficult for them.

However, in captivity this does not really hinder them. They can do everything that a normal rat can do just fine, and the fact that they experience some challenges in certain aspects of their life does not mean that they’re not just as deserving as pigmented rats of having a loving home!

Remember, despite some of their shortcomings, the first rat-astronaut was an albino, so if they can go to space, living life as a pet is no big deal for them.

Wrapping up

So, there you have it, my pick of the 7 most interesting facts about Albino Rats! I hope this overview of this fascinating genetic mutation was insightful and informative and taught you something new!

If you prefer to watch a video about the topic, we’ve got you covered! Check out our YouTube video below!

Jesse A.