An albino mouse is one of the most common rodents found in lab experiments. But is quite an uncommon pet.
It’s easy to mistake a standard white mouse as an albino mouse. But, their genetics are quite different.
If you come across an albino mouse in your search for a pet, you will need to learn about their health and care needs.
So, read on for our 10 interesting facts about the albino mouse and their care!
1. They’re More Common as Lab Mice
You won’t usually see an albino mouse kept as a pet. But, albino mice are often seen in scientific studies as lab animals.
They’re popular because they are relatively cheap to care for, they can reproduce quickly, and they have a surprisingly high genetic similarity to humans.
In fact, one study suggests that most rodents used in labs are albino!
These pale little mice have been used to study and identify behavioral patterns in the species.
From albino mice, we’ve learned a lot about defensive and attacking behaviors, as well as reproductive patterns in mice.
But, these little animals have also been fundamental in research on human diseases. Especially helping to further research on cancer.
2. There are Lots of Strains of Albino Mice
Different strains of mice are used for different things in labs. But, several of these strains include albinism.
So, even though albino mice are popular in lab tests, it’s unlikely they’re all using the same strain.
Some common strains of albino mouse used in labs are: BALB/c, CD-1, CB17 SCID, A/J mice, and ICR mice.
These various strains and stocks each have different characteristics and natures that make them useful for different areas of study.
3. Some Albino Mice Strains are Inbred
Some of the strains of albino mouse mentioned above are purposefully inbred to produce greater genetic homogeneity.
The strain BALB/c is one such example. These albino mice are commonly used in immunology and infectious disease research.
Good breeders will avoid inbreeding when selling pets, as it can increase the likelihood of health risks.
However, in laboratory mice, it’s useful for identifying genes that make people and animals prone to certain diseases.
If you think you have an albino mouse as a pet, you should make sure that it has been bred responsibility to reduce the chance of health risks.
So, outside of the lab, how do you know if you have an albino mouse?
4. Not all White Mice are Albino!
It’s a pretty common misconception that all white mice are albino. This is because albino mice usually look like they have white fur.
Albino mice actually have a very different genetic makeup to standard white mice.
There are lots of ways that mice can have white fur. Some mice even have white patches of fur amongst darker colors.
If you see a mouse like this, they aren’t an albino mouse.
So, if albino mice don’t have white coloring on their fur, what’s happening with their genetics?
5. Albino Mice Have No Pigment
An albino mouse looks quite similar to a white mouse. But, they are actually very different when you take a closer look at their genetics.
Mice with the classic albino mutation actually have no pigment in their fur, skin, or eyes. Their fur looks white, but it actually has no color at all.
This is because they are incapable of producing pigment.
6. Albino Mice Have Pink Eyes
Although an albino mouse is incapable of producing pigment, studies have linked the albino gene to the pink-eyed dilution gene.
But, this eye color is a little misleading in albino mice.
This gene, as the name suggests, causes a color dilution. And, as we’ve already seen, albino mice are unable to produce pigment.
The pink coloring that you see in an albino mouse’s eyes is actually the color of blood vessels in the mouse’s eyes.
Albino mice have pink eyes and completely white fur.
Non-albino mice can also have the pink-eyed dilution gene. But their fur will be a cream or light grey shade, rather than fully white.
7. Albino Mice are Omnivores
Just like any other type of mouse, an albino mouse will be an omnivore. This is yet another trait that they share with humans.
Mice in the wild and mice as pets will eat a really wide range of foods. It can vary from grains, seeds, and plants, to insects!
If you have an albino mouse pet, it’s most likely you will feed them with a commercial mouse food.
This is a great way to make sure they’re getting the right nutritional balance.
But, you’ll be able to top this up with some of your own foods. Make sure to always check a new food is safe before giving it to your mouse.
And, introduce new foods slowly to avoid any upset tummies!
8. Albino Mice are Nocturnal
Another trait that albino mice share with other types of mice is their sleeping and waking patterns.
An albino mouse is a nocturnal rodent. This means they sleep in the day, and most of their activity happens at night.
If you’re bringing home an albino mouse pet, you need to be aware of this! They won’t be around for lots of socializing in the middle of the day.
And, they will be moving around and making lots of noise at night. So, it’s best to place their cage somewhere where neither of you will disturb the other whilst they’re trying to sleep!
You can read more advice on choosing and placing a cage in our complete guide to mice as pets.
9. Albino Mice have Individual Personalities
All mice, like humans, have different personalities and temperaments to one another.
So, one albino mouse can behave very differently to another. Some may be naturally more outgoing and friendly. Whereas others can be more timid and aggressive.
This doesn’t just apply to albino mice. Any pet mouse will have its own individual personality.
But, this is partly what makes them such a great and popular pet.
No matter what their personality, make sure you’re meeting your albino mouse’s needs to ensure they’re as happy and comfortable as possible.
This will help to bring out all their best traits!
10. Mice Show their Feelings Through Expressions
An albino mouse, just like other types of mice, will show emotions through facial expressions.
But, as humans, we might not recognise these expressions as easily as other mice will!
Albino Mouse Summary
Do you know any albino mouse facts that we can add to our list?
If you have an albino mouse pet, be sure to tell us about them in the comments. It’s a great way for others to learn what they’re like.
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References and Resources
- Blanchard, R. (et al), ‘Attack and Defensive Behaviors in the Albino Mouse’, Aggressive Behavior (1979)
- Beermann, F. (et al), ‘The Tyr (Albino) Locus of the Laboratory Mouse’, Mammalian Genome (2002)
- Jackson, I. ‘Molecular and Developmental Genetics of Mouse Coat Color’, Annual Review Genetics (1994)
- Tontonoz, M. ‘Birth of the Lab Mouse’, Cancer Research Institute (2014)
- Johnson, M. ‘Laboratory Mice and Rats’, Labome (2012)
- Charlesworth, B. & Charlesworth, D. ‘Inbreeding Depression and its Evolutionary Consequences’, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics (1987)
- Nakamura, H. ‘BALB/c Mouse’, Brenner’s Encyclopedia of Genetics (2013)
- ‘Feeding Your Mice’, PDSA
- Dolensek, N. (et al), ‘Facial Expressions of Emotion States and their Neuronal Correlates in Mice’, Science (2020)
- Sanders, J. (et al), ‘Empathic Fear Responses in Mice are Triggered by Recognition of a Shared Experience’, PLoS One (2013)