When you think of petting an animal and bonding with it, you likely think of a dog or cat. Most people don’t think of petting and bonding with a reptile. However, reptile owners know lizards can be nearly as affectionate as other pets. They show it differently. Keep reading to learn how to pet a Leopard Gecko, and how to bond with them.
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What Is A Leopard Gecko?
Leopard geckos are yellow or cream-colored lizards with dark spots covering their bodies. They are one of the most popular kinds of lizards, likely because of their colorful nature. These geckos typically grow to about 7-10 inches and can live for up to 20 years.
Leopard geckos are most active at night when they like to hunt and explore. This is because, in the wild, they live in hot, dry places. They are most commonly found in Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq desert environments.
How To Pet A Leopard Gecko
Do leopard geckos like to be pet?
Leopard geckos absolutely like to be pet. It feels good on their skin. However, petting a lizard can be stressful for the creature if they’re unfamiliar with you. Don’t ever try to pet your gecko if they are new to the family. You’ll need to build up trust and work your way up to it. We’ll go into that later.
Some of their favorite places to be pet are the head, under the chin, and at the base of their tail.
Never try to pet your gecko’s tail further down than the base. Going lower than that can stress them out and may even cause them to drop their tails. While their tails will grow back, they won’t be the same. Besides that, losing a body part is downright stressful.
When you pet your gecko, always use soft strokes and be gentle. Remember that you’re much larger than them, and it’s very easy to hurt them accidentally.
You’ll know they’re enjoying being pet because they will close their eyes in contentment.
Check out this video for beginner tips on handling Leopard Geckos:
Do Leopard Geckos Like To Be Held?
This is similar to petting. Leopard geckos do like to be held, but you need to give them a chance to get to know you first. Never rush things and don’t try to grab them when they’re clearly afraid.
How To Hold A Leopard Gecko
You’ll have to start slow if you’re hoping to hold and pet your leopard gecko. Here are some steps you can take to gain your lizard’s trust.
Placing Your Hand In The Cage
Never try and touch your gecko right off the bat. They will be very fearful, and their cage is considered their safe space. If you try to grab them within their safe space, gaining their trust will be very difficult.
Begin by simply placing your hand in the terrarium a few minutes a day. Do not attempt to touch your gecko.
Taking this first step shows your gecko that you’re not a threat and aren’t going to try and attack them.
Talk To Them
You should have a conversation with them and place your hand in their tank. Sure, they won’t understand what you’re saying, but they will understand that you’re not threatening. Talking in a soothing voice will help them to become more at ease.
You should still talk to them even when you’re not inside their cage. Have a conversation with them while you’re puttering about the room, going about your day.
Let Them Approach You
This is the hard part. So many of us are so excited to bond with the new animal that we take things too fast. If you’re not patient and try to rush things, it will only set you back. If you try to touch your gecko before they’re ready, you will lose all that trust you gained with them.
It may take only a few days, or it could take several weeks. But, eventually, your gecko will approach you.
Your gecko may try to lick or smell you because your scent and taste will tell them more about you. Keep very still while they do this so you don’t spook them.
Eventually, they’ll associate the sound of your voice and your smell together. They’ll become more likely to approach you when you come to their cage because you’ve gained their trust.
Pick Them Up From The Side
Once you’ve reached the point where your gecko will allow you to hold it, you should use caution when picking up your gecko. Even though they trust you, you don’t want to scare them and lose their trust.
Move slowly and reach toward them with from their side. This ensures that they can see you approaching and won’t become startled.
NEVER try to pick them up from the top. This is how a predator would pick them up. It is very frightening and it’s a good way to lose your gecko’s trust.
Just as you should approach your gecko from the side, you should also lift them up from underneath their body.
As you’re approaching them from the side, slide your hand underneath their belly and lift them up.
Like we said above, avoid touching their tails, especially in the beginning. Dropping tails is a fear response and is much more likely to happen in the early stages of handling.
Place Them In A Small Area
Although your gecko has allowed you to hold them, they’re likely still very afraid. It is best to practice picking them up and placing them down multiple times.
Place your gecko inside a small box. You won’t want to place your gecko down just anywhere. Being picked up by you was likely very scary. As soon as they feel you let them go, they’re likely to bolt.
If you placed them on a floor, table, or bed, you may lose them. Worse yet, they could injure themselves. Instead, place them in a small box where they can’t escape.
Continue practicing picking them up and placing them down until they’ve become more comfortable with you. Just don’t over do it or they may become overly stressed. A few times a day is enough.
Once they’ve gotten used to you picking them up, you can begin holding them. Always hold them close to your body. This will make them feel more secure, and you’ll be less likely to drop them.
Holding them close also allows them to share your body heat. This will keep them warm and it will also help them see you as a non-threat.
Be careful not to handle your gecko too often or you may stress them out. Once a day is best. You should get them out in the evening when they are just waking up.
Do They Like Me?
What do leopard geckos “like”? Is it possible for reptiles to like people?
It’s harder to tell if a gecko likes to be around you than it would be with a dog or cat. Researchers aren’t sure if lizards can feel emotions like happiness. However, they do feel contentment.
You can know that your gecko is “happy” and comfortable around you if it allows you to pick it up and hold it. This shows that they don’t see you as a threat and are comfortable in your presence.
How To Bond With Your Leopard Gecko
Besides learning how to hold and pet your gecko, there are other things you can do to strengthen your bond. Try out some of these suggestions and see where it takes you:
Always Be Talking
At first, getting to know the sound of your voice will show your gecko that you’re not a threat. Once you’ve established a bond, the sound of your voice will even make them feel comfortable and safe. They may even come to the edge of their enclosure to greet you when they hear your voice.
Always Move Slowly
When you reach your hand into their enclosure, you’re invading their space. This is true regardless of if your pet is new or if you’ve established a trusted bond. The terrarium is your gecko’s safe space, and they should never be made to feel fearful when inside it.
Whenever you enter their enclosure, whether it’s to clean or feed, move slowly and talk to them soothingly. This will make them feel more comfortable about you being in their space.
Hand Feed Them
Many people place their gecko’s food into a food dish. This is perfectly fine, but it does nothing to help with bonding. If you want to become closer to your gecko, try feeding them directly.
You can purchase a pair of feeding tongs and dangle their favorite food in front of their face. Your gecko will begin to associate you with food and other good things.
To supplement this, don’t be afraid to offer them treats. They shouldn’t receive treats more than a few times a week, but they’re a good way to help with bonding. Usually, their favorite food will be some kind of treat, so if you hand it to them directly, they will become very fond of you.
How To Make Your Leopard Gecko Happy
Once you’ve really bonded with your leopard gecko, there are plenty of ways for you to bond with them besides just simply holding them.
Places To Play
Leopard geckos love warm, dark spaces. They’re always seeking out a new place to explore. You can try placing a lightly folded towel on your knee. The gecko will be drawn to the towel and will burrow inside. This activity will make them feel safe and closer to you.
You can also set up an obstacle course for them outside of their enclosure. They love to explore and stimulate their brains. They can become bored without anything to do, so setting up obstacles for them to go through will enrich them.
Try things like tubes and boxes. Just remember that they can’t climb well, so don’t stack anything high.
When beginning to work with your gecko, consistency and patience are key. Take things slow and allow your gecko to get used to you. Don’t give up, though. Keep practicing these steps until your gecko warms up to you. It may take a few weeks, but in the end, it’s worth it.
Want to learn more? Click here to find all our guides to geckos or click here to learn whether leopard geckos have teeth and if they bite. Find out about the differences between leopard and fat tail geckos here.As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.