When most people think of bonding with a pet, they’ll automatically think of dogs or cats. However, reptiles are great pets; and they require some bonding too. But it’s a bit more difficult.
Let’s see 14 things you can do to bond with a leopard gecko, and then we’ll look at what not to do.
How To Bond With A Leopard Gecko
Place Your Hand In The Terrarium
It might seem like a small step, but placing your hand on the floor of the terrarium for a few minutes each day will put their mind at ease. I mean, if you were a predator, you would have attacked by now.
Talking to your gecko or even talking to other people around your gecko will, again, help them feel comfortable.
Them recognizing the sound of your voice is just another step towards them being used to you so they don’t think you’re a predator.
Allow Them To Smell You
Once your gecko is more comfortable with your hand being in the terrarium and they recognize the sound of your voice, they might start to venture closer to smell you.
They will associate your smell with the hand and the voice, and, hopefully, these three things will come together as something they trust.
Let Them Lick You
Once they’ve plucked up the courage, they’ll approach you and might even lick your hand. This is their way of judging if you’re food, an object, or a living creature.
And most importantly, if you’re going to try to eat them. Don’t move your hand away when they do this. Tasting you tells them a lot about you, and moving your hand away could ruin any trust you’ve already built.
Feed And Talk
When you’re feeding them, make sure you continue talking and moving your hand (gently) around the terrarium. This makes them associate your voice and your hand movements with them being fed.
Don’t Rush To Pick Them Up
You need to practice the above methods for at least a week, consistently completing them daily before moving ahead to handling. If you rush things, it might scare them, and you’ll be right back to square one.
Approach From The Side
When you are confident that your gecko will accept you handling them, you need to ensure you approach from the side so they can see your hand.
They’ve spent the previous week getting to know your hand intimately, so this shouldn’t be too shocking.
If you try to pick them up from above, they’ll mistake you for a predator – as most of their predators in the wild are birds of prey.
Lift From Underneath
Once you’re close enough, slide your hand underneath their body and lift their full weight.
Don’t ever touch their tail when you’re picking them up. Geckos can drop their tails as a defense mechanism if they want to, as it allows to get away from a predator.
The last thing you want is to have half of your gecko’s tail left in your hand.
Place In An Enclosed Area
Once you have them in your hands, you’ll want to keep as close to the floor as you can. They are fast and will jump if they don’t feel safe and supported.
Pop them in a large cardboard box at first, so there’s nowhere for them to run to, and keep practicing picking them up and putting them back down (gently) within the box. This allows them to get used to the process.
Purchase a pair of feeding tongs from a reptile store and feed them directly from the tongs. It’ll get them to recognize you as the provider of food and they’ll get excited when they see you.
Giving your gecko different types of food when they’re with you will cement the idea that being with you is a positive experience.
Try waxworms – these are the fattier and tastier (well, for them) version of mealworms. Waxworms shouldn’t be given as part of their regular diet, though, as they can cause weight gain.
Leopard geckos love to hide away in nice cozy caves. Pop a towel on your knee and let your gecko find a warm shelter in the folds.
The comfort and safety, coupled with your smell, will help them understand that you aren’t a threat.
Leopard geckos love to climb; however, they aren’t very good at it as they’re used to live in burrows.
Laying small obstacles around, such as tubes and boxes, will act as an enrichment activity, and it’ll stimulate their brain so they don’t get bored. It will also be great bonding as they’ll notice you providing them ‘fun time’.
Watch A Movie
Your gecko won’t actually be watching the movie, but when you’re relaxed, your gecko will be able to sense that. They will also love how warm you are, and the atmosphere and heat will make them sleepy.
Encourage them to rest in the warm spots of your body. It might be in your pocket or at the back of your neck.
What Not To Do When Bonding With A Leopard Gecko
Don’t Pick Them Up Too Early
When you first purchase a leopard gecko, they will be a little skittish and afraid due to the new environment. You need to give them time to adjust.
Once you put them into their new home, leave them alone for around a week – except when you need to provide food. This will give them time to get used to their surroundings and understand they’re not in danger.
Don’t Handle Them While They’re Young
You should wait until they’re 5-6 months old before trying to handle your leopard gecko. The hatchlings are too small and delicate for handling, and you may accidentally hurt them.
Don’t Bother Them During The Day
Leopard geckos are nocturnal, so they won’t often be out and about during the day. If you try to get them out when they’re sleeping, it could disrupt their schedule, causing stress. You should always handle them in the evening.
Don’t Take Them Out In A Cold Room
Because geckos are cold-blooded, they need to be kept warm while they’re out of the terrarium. If they get too cold, they won’t enjoy themselves, and prolonged exposure might even cause health issues.
Make sure you close all doors and windows when you’re handling them.
8 Commonly Asked Questions
How Do You Know If Your Leopard Gecko Likes You?
Studies on leopard gecko’s emotional states are inconclusive, so there’s no guarantee that your gecko will ever love you in the same way that you love them.
However, we know that they can feel content, angry, or scared. You should aim for the ‘content’ end of the scale.
If your gecko accepts your presence when you’re in their terrarium without running away and is okay with you picking them up without a struggle, that’s generally the best way to show that they like you.
They are happy that you aren’t a threat to them and might even get excited to see you if it’s lunchtime.
How Do You Get A Gecko Used To Being Handled?
Consistency is key. For the first few weeks, you will need to go into the terrarium with the hand, voice, and smell techniques, making them aware of your presence.
These are the most crucial stages, and missing a day or making sudden movements around them could put you right back square one.
When you pick them up, always hold them close to your body so they can share your body heat. This will make the process a pleasant experience for them.
Never pick them up from anywhere other than their midsection and support them underneath as much as you can so that they feel safe. And, lastly, never touch their tail!
Do Leopard Geckos Like To Be Petted?
Yes, leopard geckos like to be petted once they feel safe with the person who’s touching them. The best spots are the top of their head, their chin and the base of their tail (never further down the tail).
Always be gentle. They are tiny, after all, and if you’re too rough, you could easily hurt them. If you tickle their chin, you’ll often notice them closing their eyes, which is a sign that they’re enjoying it.
How Often Should I Hold My Leopard Gecko?
Get them out once a day in the evening. This will allow you to get to know your gecko’s personality a little more and will keep your connection strong.
However, once geckos are tame, they don’t often revert to being skittish unless they have a terrible experience, so if you skip a few days while you’re on vacation, that’s fine. They won’t forget you.
How Do Leopard Geckos Show Affection?
They don’t show a whole lot of affection. They will generally curl up with you on the sofa and sit in your hair or your pockets and fall asleep.
While this looks cute and feels like it’s because they love you – in reality, it’s probably because you feel nice and warm. It does mean, however, that they really trust you.
How Do I Know If My Leopard Gecko Is Stressed?
Leopard geckos aren’t generally stressed creatures, so if you do notice stress, it’s usually because something is wrong.
Keep an eye out for:
- Loss of appetite.
- Lack of poop in the terrarium.
- Running poop.
- Constant hiding away.
- Skittishness – when they’re normally tame.
- Noises – screeching or chirping sounds.
These things are usually caused by sudden changes in their schedule or atmosphere or when they’re feeling threatened.
If there have been any changes to the terrarium position, the activities going on outside, or other pets in the home, this could be the issue. Monitor and fix, then monitor to see it’s fixed.
If the behavior continues, take a trip to the vet, they could be ill.
Do Leopard Geckos Need A Lot of Attention?
No, leopard geckos don’t need a lot of attention. In the wild they’re solitary animals and don’t need to live with a partner. They’re perfectly happy alone. However, it’s recommended to get them out for at least 15 minutes per day to keep your bond strong.
My Leopard Gecko Hates Me, What Should I Do?
If your gecko shows signs that they’re scared of you, such as running away, hiding, chirping, or even trying to bite you, it’s really not good.
This can be either because there’s been a traumatic experience that has changed their opinion of you or because you just haven’t spent enough time handling them.
You can fix this, but it’ll be a lot of work. You’ll need to start from the basics, putting your hand in the terrarium and letting them get used to it, then gradually moving closer and building up their trust.
This will take much longer with an older gecko, so you’ll need to have lots of patience and be prepared for their temper.