Owners might walk up to their rats’ cage to find that one might be huddled in the back of the cage, swaying back and forth. The rat might appear drunk, with a “caught in the headlights” type of stare. The rat might also be easily spooked, especially with quick movements or loud noises. This is more common in red eyed rats, but why do rats exhibit this type of odd behavior? Let’s find out!
Red Eyed Rats: How Well Can They See?
Red eyed rats, or pink eyed rats as they’re called, cannot see quite as well as ruby or black eyed rats. The red eyes are even more sensitive to light, and seem to be unable to develop as thoroughly as black or ruby colored eyes. For true albino rats, they lack the melanin required to produce rods within the eyes. This and the lack of enough photo receptors greatly reduce their ability to see in low lighting. However, their vision is much worse in brighter light, as their eyes also cannot control incoming waves of light. This is much like a human staring into the sun. Therefore, they adapt behaviors in order to see the world around them.
Why Does the Rat Bobble, Weave, and Sway?
If the rat is presently engaging in this swaying behavior, it means that he or she is trying to get a better view of the surrounding world. In addition, the rat might perceive that a threat is close by, but cannot see it; therefore, it is trying to identify any potential nearby danger. This weaving action results in a “movement” of the environment, allowing the rat to pick up on shapes, outlines, or movements that it may not have been able to see before. Rats who are blind in one eye, or who have lost an eye, might engage in this behavior frequently as well.
My Rat Never Swayed Before; Why Is My Rat Swaying and Weaving Now?
If the rat has just recently developed this swaying behavior in order to visualize his or her environment, then it is quite possible that the rat might be losing his or her vision. This is common as old age takes hold. If old age is not to blame (any rat over 10 months of age), then there is possibly an injury to the rat’s eye or underlying health condition that is causing the rat to suffer with vision problems. With the massive list of issues that could be taking place, it is vital for a rat to meet with a vet if his or her vision begins to fade. Another thing the owner can check for is any potential symptom. Excessive porphyrin (red tears/snot), bulging eyes, cuts or scrapes on the eye, or an eye that appears white or blue require a trip to the vet. While rats already have bad vision, a rat will not begin to strain to see his or her environment for no reason at all.