Guinea pigs come in various colors and patterns, including black, red, chocolate, white, tricolor, and banded.
White guinea pigs are sometimes confused with albino cavies, but the difference lies in the amount of melanin they have.
White guinea pigs produce melanin, and they usually have black eyes.
However, a guinea pig with true albinism cannot produce any melanin, and their eyes are a distinct pink color as a result.
You have likely seen several guinea pigs with chocolate or tricolored coats, but how common are albino cavies?
Guinea pigs with true albinism are extremely rare animals because their lack of pigment is due to a genetic mutation rather than selective breeding. The rarity of albino guinea pigs is compounded by their shorter lifespan, likely caused by chronic health problems.
Even though albino guinea pigs suffer from health issues, they still crave companionship and make wonderful pets.
Learning about their unique quirks and special needs makes them much easier to care for.
Read on to discover why albino guinea pigs are so rare and learn some of their common behaviors.
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Why Are Albino Guinea Pigs Rare?
Unlike physical characteristics such as fur colors and patterns, albino guinea pigs are not created through selective breeding.
Instead, albino cavies have a distinct genetic mutation, making them unable to produce any melanin pigmentation.
Albino guinea pigs are born with completely white fur and skin.
Its eye color separates an albino guinea pig from a white one.
Albino cavies are born with pigmented eyes, but the melanin dissipates and gives their eyes a pink color as they age.
While there are very few studies on how many guinea pigs suffer from albinism, they are extremely rare.
Albino guinea pigs have a shorter lifespan than other cavies, and their white coat makes them more susceptible to predators in the wild.
They require special care because albino cavies are often born blind and sometimes deaf.
The genetic mutations causing albinism are very rare, and since they have so many health issues and deformities, you are unlikely to see them in a pet store.
Albino guinea pigs are also rare because there are very few white cavies with true albinism.
Many breeders believe the lack of color and pink eyes is simply a result of the color dilution gene, but there are not enough studies to prove this theory.
How Long Do Albino Guinea Pigs Live?
A pigmented guinea pig may live for up to 8 years, but an albino cavy has a much shorter lifespan.
The average lifespan of an albino guinea pig is between 2 and 6 years.
Since albinism is a genetic disorder, albino guinea pigs are not usually bred, which prevents them from passing the mutation to any potential offspring.
Breeding two albino cavies will likely result in offspring with albinism, but this is cruel because of the potential health issues they would face.
Regular vet visits are necessary for albino cavies and ensure they stay as healthy as possible for a longer lifespan.
Also Read: How To Handle A Dead Guinea Pig’s Body.
Do Albino Guinea Pigs Have Health Issues?
Albino cavies are more sensitive to their surroundings when compared to other guinea pig breeds.
However, with the proper care and attention, most of these health issues are resolved and may be avoided altogether.
An albino guinea pig’s sense of smell is even more sensitive than in pigmented guinea pigs.
Like a majority of albino animals, most cavies with albinism are born blind or deaf, and sometimes both, so they rely heavily on their sense of smell to help them navigate.
Because of their lowered immune system function, albino cavies are more prone to respiratory tract infection.
An upper respiratory tract infection will cause an albino guinea pig a lot of stress, leading to pneumonia if not promptly treated.
It is vital to monitor your cavy for any signs of an upper respiratory infection, such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Discharge from the eyes and nose
- Loss of appetite
If you notice any of these symptoms, seek veterinary care immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Albino guinea pigs are also more likely to have corneal ulcers because their eyes are easily irritated.
A corneal ulcer may cause the cavy to stop eating, so if you notice a lot of squinting or the eyes seem watery, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
The vet will usually prescribe a medicated eye ointment for treatment.
Gastric ulcers are also common in albino guinea pigs, and they usually occur due to an unclean environment.
Bladder stones are also prevalent in albino guinea pigs
A clean cage is vital for albino guinea pig health because they are more susceptible to illnesses caused by bacterial infections.
Practice good hygiene by regularly cleaning your cavy’s cage and providing clean water, plenty of hay, and fresh bedding.
What Is Lethal White Syndrome?
The lethal white syndrome is entirely separate from albinism, but the two conditions are often confused because the guinea pigs appear very similar.
A cavy born with lethal white genetics will also have a white coat and red or pink eyes.
The lethal white genes occur in about 25% of the offspring between roan and dalmatian patterned guinea pig breeds.
When a guinea pig inherits two copies of the roan gene from its parents, it results in some severe health issues, including:
- Small or missing eyes
- Partial or complete blindness
- Partial or complete deafness
- Missing or deformed teeth
- Difficulty digesting food and nutrients
Guinea pigs with a lethal white disorder have a very short lifespan of about three years.
Without extensive medical care, these cavies will have an even shorter life.
Breeding roan and dalmatian guinea pigs are typically avoided to prevent this genetic disorder.
Do Albino Guinea Pigs Mark Their Surroundings?
Since albino cavies are born blind and rely solely on their sense of smell to survive, they tend to mark their territory more often than pigmented cavies as a way to navigate.
This makes cleaning your cavy’s cage a bit more challenging.
If you remove all soiled areas, your albino guinea pig may become stressed because navigation will be more difficult.
Many albino cavy owners recommend cleaning the soiled spots selectively to maintain the animal’s scent.
Cleaning is even trickier if you have more than one guinea pig in the cage with your albino.
Always avoid using chemical cleaners in your cavy’s cage; instead, use a diluted solution of vinegar and water to sanitize and remove odors.
Cleanliness is vital for the health of your animals, and since cavies tend to poop a lot, daily cleanings are necessary.
Having a companion for your albino guinea pig is very helpful.
An albino guinea pig will be more stressed when lonely, so having a friend will keep the animal much calmer.
If you decide to add a guinea pig into your albino’s cage, start with a slow introduction so there is less stress and the albino cavy does not feel like its territory is threatened.
Once they live together, regularly monitor your cavies to ensure the albino guinea pig is not being bullied.
You may even want to add a divider to the enclosure so the albino guinea pig has a space all its own while still being able to smell its companion nearby.
Do Albino Guinea Pigs Bite?
Any guinea pig will bite if it feels threatened or stressed out.
This behavior is often more prevalent in albino cavies because they are usually blind, deaf, or a combination of both.
Unfamiliar smells or movement may cause the albino cavy to feel unsafe, and its only natural defense is to bite.
Keep this in mind when handling your albino guinea pig; do not take it personally if the animal does not want to cuddle with you.
Use slow, gentle movements to get your cavy used to your scent.
Start by lightly petting them, and you may even want to let the albino guinea pig sniff your hand first, so they are aware of your presence.
Eventually, the cavy will learn you are not a threat to them and will begin to look forward to the extra attention.
Once the animal is comfortable with petting, you may even experiment by occasionally feeding them from your hand.
Always supervise young children around your guinea pig to ensure no one is injured.
It is also best to keep other pets like cats and dogs away from your cavy to prevent the animal from becoming stressed and lashing out by biting.
Will an Albino Guinea Pig Bond with You?
When you have earned your albino guinea pig’s trust, they will come to rely on your companionship.
This is especially true if they are housed by themselves.
Guinea pigs tend to get lonely if consistently left alone, which will cause them some stress.
You want to minimize stress whenever possible to avoid any health issues.
Albino guinea pigs tend to form a strong bond with their owners and may even cry out for you if they are craving attention.
The albino cavy will become familiar with your scent and may even run to greet you when you approach the cage.
This is important to remember if you have a busy lifestyle due to work or travel and are frequently away from home.
If this is the case, consider getting your albino cavy a companion to keep it from getting lonely while you are gone.
The albino guinea pig will still bond with you, but having a friend around when you are unavailable will keep the animal from getting too stressed.
It is also recommended to leave a piece of clothing near your albino guinea pig’s cage when you are away for an extended period so it can have your scent nearby.