Rats are extremely common rodents, but some varieties have a unique and striking feature – red eyes. If you’ve seen a rat with ruby red eyes, you probably wondered why their eyes look so abnormal. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about rats with red eyes – from how they develop this trait, to how to identify them, potential health issues, and more.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Rats with red eyes have a genetic mutation called ruby-eyed dilution that reduces the pigmentation in their eyes, fur, and skin. It’s a recessive trait and does not affect their health or vision.

What Causes Red Eyes in Rats?

Rats with red eyes, commonly known as “ruby-eyed rats,” have a distinct and unique appearance that captures the attention of many. The red coloration of their eyes is caused by a specific genetic mutation known as the Ruby-Eyed Dilution gene mutation.

Ruby-Eyed Dilution Gene Mutation

The Ruby-Eyed Dilution gene mutation is responsible for the red eye color in rats. This mutation affects the pigmentation of the eyes, causing a lack of melanin production. Melanin is the pigment responsible for the color of our hair, skin, and eyes.

In ruby-eyed rats, the gene mutation prevents the production of melanin in the eyes, resulting in the characteristic red coloration.

The Ruby-Eyed Dilution gene mutation is a recessive trait, meaning that both parents must carry and pass on the mutated gene for their offspring to have red eyes. If only one parent carries the mutation, the offspring will not have red eyes but may carry the gene and pass it on to future generations.

How the Gene Mutation Affects Pigmentation

The lack of melanin production in ruby-eyed rats not only affects the color of their eyes but also their overall pigmentation. These rats typically have a lighter coat color compared to rats without the gene mutation.

Their fur may appear more pale or cream-colored, creating a striking contrast with their red eyes.

It’s important to note that the Ruby-Eyed Dilution gene mutation is specific to rats and does not occur in other animals. This mutation has been studied extensively by geneticists and researchers, providing valuable insights into the genetics of pigmentation in mammals.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Ruby-Eyed Dilution gene mutation and its effects on pigmentation in rats, you can visit https://www.genetics.org/ for in-depth scientific research on this topic.

Identifying Rats with Red Eyes

Appearance of Red-Eyed Rats

Rats with red eyes are a unique and fascinating sight. Their eye color sets them apart from other rodents, making them easily distinguishable. The red coloration is caused by a lack of pigmentation in the eyes, which allows the blood vessels in the retina to be more visible.

As a result, the eyes appear bright red.

It’s important to note that not all rats have red eyes. In fact, most rats have dark-colored eyes, such as black or brown. Red-eyed rats belong to specific genetic strains, such as the albino or ruby-eyed variety.

Difference Between Ruby Eyes and Red Eye Discharge

While both ruby-eyed and red-eyed rats have red-colored eyes, there is a distinct difference between the two. Ruby-eyed rats have a uniform, solid red color in their eyes, which is consistent throughout both eyes.

On the other hand, red eye discharge, also known as “red eye syndrome,” is a medical condition that affects rats and can cause redness and inflammation in the eyes. This condition is often accompanied by discharge or tearing from the eyes, which can give the appearance of red eyes.

It’s important to consult a veterinarian if you notice redness or discharge in your pet rat’s eyes, as it could be a sign of an underlying health issue. A proper diagnosis and treatment plan can help ensure the well-being of your furry friend.

For more information on rats and their eye colors, you can visit www.ratbehavior.org/Red_Eye.htm.

Health and Vision of Red-Eyed Rats

No Negative Health Effects

Contrary to popular belief, red-eyed rats do not suffer from any negative health effects solely because of their eye color. The red pigment in their eyes, known as porphyrin, is actually a normal and natural occurrence.

Porphyrin is a substance that is secreted by the rat’s Harderian gland, which is located behind their eyes. This secretion helps to keep the rat’s eyes lubricated and protected.

While it is true that red-eyed rats may produce more porphyrin than rats with other eye colors, there is no evidence to suggest that this has any detrimental effect on their overall health. In fact, red-eyed rats are just as healthy and capable of leading a normal life as rats with different eye colors.

It is important to note that excessive porphyrin secretion in rats, regardless of eye color, can be a sign of stress or illness. If you notice a significant increase in porphyrin around your rat’s eyes, it is recommended to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.

Normal Vision

Despite their distinctive eye color, red-eyed rats have normal vision. The red appearance of their eyes is due to the lack of pigmentation in the iris, which allows light to pass through and reflect off the blood vessels at the back of the eye. This reflection creates the red glow.

Red-eyed rats are capable of seeing their surroundings just like any other rat. They have good depth perception, can detect motion, and have a keen sense of smell and hearing. Their visual acuity is similar to that of rats with different eye colors.

It is worth mentioning that rats, regardless of their eye color, have poor visual acuity compared to humans. They rely more on their other senses, such as smell and touch, to navigate their environment.

This is why providing a well-enriched environment with plenty of toys, hiding spots, and opportunities for exploration is essential for their overall well-being.

Breeding Rats for Red Eyes

Ruby-Eyed Dilution is Recessive

Ruby-eyed dilution is a genetic trait that gives rats their distinct red or pink eye color. This trait is recessive, meaning that both parents must carry the gene in order for the offspring to have red eyes.

When two rats with the ruby-eyed dilution gene are bred together, there is a 25% chance that each offspring will have red eyes. However, it is important to note that not all rats with red eyes necessarily carry the gene for ruby-eyed dilution.

The ruby-eyed dilution gene is responsible for altering the pigmentation of the irises, causing them to appear red or pink instead of the typical dark color seen in most rats. This unique trait adds to the appeal and beauty of these rats, making them a popular choice among rat enthusiasts.

Crossbreeding Pigmented and Ruby Rats

Crossbreeding pigmented rats with ruby-eyed rats can produce interesting results. When a pigmented rat and a ruby-eyed rat are bred together, the offspring can inherit a combination of both traits. This can result in rats with partially pigmented eyes, commonly referred to as “odd-eyed” or “heterochromia” rats.

These rats have one eye with pigmentation and the other eye with the red coloration associated with ruby-eyed dilution.

Crossbreeding can also be used to introduce the ruby-eyed dilution gene into different rat strains or breeds. This can be done to create new varieties of rats with red eyes, allowing breeders to expand the diversity within the rat breeding community.

It is important to note that breeding rats should always be done responsibly and with a focus on the health and well-being of the animals. Breeders should have a solid understanding of the genetics involved and ensure proper care for both the parent rats and their offspring.

For more information on rat breeding and genetics, you can visit www.afrma.org or www.ratbehavior.org.

Caring for Rats with Red Eyes

Same Needs as Other Rats

Rats with red eyes, also known as albino rats, may have a unique appearance but their care needs are similar to other rats. These small rodents are social creatures and require companionship, so it’s best to keep them in pairs or small groups.

They thrive in spacious cages with plenty of opportunities for exercise and exploration. It’s important to provide them with a balanced and nutritious diet that includes a mix of pellets, fresh fruits and vegetables, and occasional treats.

Regular veterinary check-ups are also crucial to ensure their overall health and well-being.

Sensitive to Bright Light

One of the distinctive traits of rats with red eyes is their sensitivity to bright light. The lack of pigmentation in their eyes makes them more susceptible to damage from excessive exposure to light. It is essential to provide them with a habitat that includes areas of shade and dim lighting.

Placing their cage in a quiet and calm area of your home can help minimize their exposure to bright lights and loud noises. Additionally, it’s a good idea to avoid using harsh or bright overhead lighting in their living space.

When handling rats with red eyes, it’s important to be gentle and avoid sudden movements that could startle them. They may be more prone to stress and anxiety, so it’s crucial to create a calm and secure environment for them.

Providing them with hiding spots, such as tunnels or small boxes, can give them a sense of security and help them feel safe.

Remember, rats with red eyes are just as intelligent, playful, and affectionate as other rats. They can make wonderful pets for those who are willing to provide them with the care and attention they need.

If you’re considering getting a rat with red eyes, make sure to do thorough research and consult with a veterinarian or reputable breeder to ensure you can meet their specific needs.


Rats with red eyes are truly unique. While the ruby-eyed dilution gene mutation reduces their pigmentation, it doesn’t affect their health or vision at all. These striking animals are just as hardy and affectionate as any other pet rat.

With proper care and affection, red-eyed rats can make delightful and intriguing pets.

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