It is often misunderstood that an albino hamster is always white, but this is not necessarily the case. Although true albino hamsters are rare, there are various other genetic mutations that can provide hamsters with white fur, pink eyes, and pale ears. This causes some hamster owners to question whether their pets are really albino or not.
What is an albino hamster?
Albino hamster is a term that can be misleading. It appears to refer to white hamsters, but in reality, a hamster’s fur can be white due to various genetic mutations. Not all of these mutations are linked with albinism, and they are not necessarily present in all hamsters. However, to make things easier to understand, these mutations are frequently referred to as albino, even though they are not technically albino. By the end of this article, you’ll know the difference between a partial albino hamster and a fully albino hamster, and when a white hamster is not albino at all!
Genetics of the albino hamster
Many different genes could impact a hamster’s color. In fact, at least 17 genetic mutations have been identified that cause Syrian hamster fur to look different from its natural golden color in the wild. Among these mutations, four are responsible for white fur in hamsters!
Let’s take a closer look at them:
1. Dominant spotting gene
The dominant spotting gene, also known as the Ds gene, causes the hamster’s fur to become covered with large white patches. In these patches, there are no pigment-forming cells (melanocytes) under the skin. Although other colors may sometimes be seen between the white patches, the patches can sometimes cover the entire body, giving the impression of a completely white hamster. These white hamsters possess flesh-colored ears and dark eyes, so they are known as “black-eyed whites.”
2. Acromelan gene
The acromelan gene is responsible for a form of partial albinism that is temperature-sensitive. This gene triggers the production of the enzyme tyrosinase, which is essential for pigment development, only when the skin’s temperature is lower than normal body temperature. As a result, pigment can only be produced in specific areas because only these areas can reach the required temperature levels. Pigment begins to accumulate in hamster ears from the age of four weeks, and these hamsters are known as “dark-eared white hamsters.”
Extra Twist: Hamsters with the acromelan gene and cinnamon gene have white fur, flesh-colored ears, and pink eyes. They are quite uncommon.
For the first time, a white hamster that is truly albino! The gene responsible for true albinism, also known as complete albinism, in hamsters is known as Ca. Animals with true albinism are incapable of producing any pigment because they completely lack the tyrosinase enzyme, which is essential for pigment production. However, this form of complete albinism has only been observed in Campbell’s dwarf hamsters and has never been seen in another breed, including the increasingly popular Syrian hamster. Albino Campbell Dwarf hamsters have white fur, pink ears, and pink eyes.
4. White-bellied gene
The last genetic mutation that can result in hamsters looking albino is the white-bellied gene. When hamsters carry one copy of the white-bellied gene, known as Wh, it gives them a clean, snowy white belly. However, if they inherit two copies of the Wh gene – one from each parent – they become white all over. This gene is also known as the anophthalmic white gene because hamsters born with two copies of this gene are blind.
Anophthalmic white hamsters
These hamsters are born without eyes and are also completely deaf. Both males and females have a shorter lifespan than other hamsters. Professional hamster breeders never mate two hamsters that carry the Wh gene, as there is a risk of producing a litter of anophthalmic whites. However, accidents regarding mating can occur.
Albino Hamster Health
Thankfully, none of the genetic mutations that cause hamsters to look albino have a negative impact on their health. However, they are still susceptible to other health problems that affect hamsters like overgrown teeth, cheek pouch disease, wet tail, and infectious diseases. It is essential to offer them the best possible care and interact with them regularly so that you can monitor their health closely, just like with any other hamster.
How long do albino hamsters live?
Being albino is often harmful to the life cycle of prey species in the wild. White animals stand out more from their surroundings, making them easy prey for predators. However, white and albino pet hamsters do not have the same survival issues in captivity. Like all hamsters, white and albino hamsters live for around two years on average. However, the lifespan of eyeless white hamsters is around nine months.
Albino hamster temperament
What about personality? Do white and albino hamsters have different personalities than their brighter colored counterparts? Based on current evidence, the answer is no.
The factors that determine a hamster’s personality the most are its breed, the temperament of its parents, and how well socialized they are as youngsters. Their color is not a significant factor influencing their personality. Eyeless white hamsters can be jumpy due to their inability to hear, but besides that, they are lovely, friendly pets.
Albino hamster care
White and albino hamsters require the same level of care as other types of hamsters. They all require:
Albino Dwarf Campelli’s hamsters and white dwarf hamsters, in general, can benefit from having a cagemate for company. However, white Syrian and Chinese hamsters prefer to be alone.
Are albino hamsters good pets?
The only true albino hamsters are Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters. Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters are usually quite pleasant and friendly, but they can be prone to pinching. Their small size and top speed make them better suited to being handled by adults than children. Other breeds of white hamsters, such as the larger Syrian hamster, are more appropriate for households with small children. Eyeless white hamsters are best suited for experienced hamster owners who are confident in their ability to care for their needs.
Your Albino Hamster
To sum up:
- Hamsters with
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