Do Leopard Geckos Like To Be Held?

As a leopard gecko owner, you probably know the irresistible temptation of wanting to pick up your scaly friend for a cuddle session. But, although leopard geckos tolerate handling, do they actually like it?

In general, leopard geckos do not like being held, but they do tolerate it better than a lot of other reptiles. Depending on the individual, once you build trust with your leopard gecko he may willingly climb onto your hand.

To find out more about why your leopard gecko probably doesn’t like being held and the best ways to handle your Leo (for those who can’t resist!), read on.

Leopard Gecko Being Held | Photo 12703483 © Duncan Noakes | Dreamstime.com

Do Leopard Geckos Like Being Held?

Although docile animals, leopard geckos, unfortunately, do not like being held. At best, leopard geckos are indifferent to human handling.

However, even though leopard geckos generally do not like being held, they are much more suitable for handling than other common reptiles, especially if you are a first-time gecko or reptile owner!

If you’re lucky, your leopard gecko will nestle up in your hands when it feels really safe. You may think this is because it’s fond of you, but truthfully, geckos do not have feelings or emotions. The real reason for the cuddle is purely instinctive−they enjoy soaking up the body heat you provide.

Leopard Gecko in Hand | Photo 39879409 © Tanya Little | Dreamstime.com

Why Don’t Leopard Geckos Like Being Held?

The primary reason leopard geckos dislike handling is that, like other reptiles, they do not have feelings or the ability to form emotional connections.

Leopard geckos are “lone animals” since they are born and solely rely on instincts to survive. So, in the wild, leopard geckos will feel threatened and stressed when picked up or handled.

The leopard gecko can even lose its tail as a result of the stressful experience.

However, if you spend enough time with a leopard gecko, it will eventually become more complacent and trusting toward you. This means that the leopard gecko can become indifferent or comfortable to human handling at best.

Leopard Gecko’s Temperament

Angry Leopard Gecko | Photo 192445720 © Cherokee4 | Dreamstime.com

Leopard geckos are docile reptiles that are relatively easy to tame. They are nocturnal (active at night), generally hardy, and forgiving of their environments. 

When bringing a leopard gecko home for the first time, be sure to handle it gently when introducing it to its new home. It will most likely tolerate a small amount of contact, but it’s best to leave the gecko alone for the first few weeks as the environment is new, and the gecko is already under a lot of stress.

Like other geckos, a leopard gecko will self-amputate its tail as a defense mechanism when it feels threatened. So, it’s best to keep contact to a minimum until your leopard gecko becomes comfortable in its new living space.

How To Tame A Leopard Gecko For Handling?

It’s vital to know that some leopard geckos are naturally more skittish than others

Even though there are tips to accustom them to socialization and handling, it’s essential to remember that human interaction may not be something they will ever really enjoy.

So, some leopard geckos may run around and avoid handling despite your endless efforts to tame it. But for those less skittish and stubborn, consider following these helpful ways for you to tame a leopard gecko. 

Firstly, you want your leopard gecko only to associate you with positive things so that it knows you are not a threat; for example, calm handling, food, and irresistible snacks.

Tips for taming a leopard gecko:

  1. When you initially bring your leopard gecko home, as hard as it may be, it’s best to leave it alone for the first few weeks aside from giving it food. This will help the gecko get used to its new environment, explore its new territory, and settle without the worry of an “outside predator” attacking it. 
  2. Next, freely move around the leopard gecko’s tank. Allow the gecko to see you and to become more comfortable with your presence. Get the gecko used to the fact that you will be around a particular time of the day (try to be consistent with times). Let the gecko know that you are there and positively reaffirm it with delicious food and snacks without unnecessarily reaching into its cage. 
  3. Once your gecko feels safe eating and going on with its everyday habits in your presence, it’s time to introduce it to your hand. So, slowly and calmly stick your hand into the tank and allow the leopard gecko to smell and touch you if it wants to. This step is only to familiarize the gecko with your scent, do not handle the gecko just yet. 
  4. Leopard geckos are nocturnal, so it’s best only to handle them in the evening, late afternoons at the earliest. Managing the gecko during the day can only add to its stress.
  5. If your gecko is still skittish, try introducing light hand touches like a finger along the back.
  6. If they are still very skittish and run away when you touch them, it’s advisable to tame them at a pace that they feel comfortable. So, leave the gecko alone and try another time again.

How To Handle A Leopard Gecko?

In addition to building trust and taming your leopard gecko, it’s vital to know how to handle the gecko properly. A leopard gecko is a very delicate creature; if you hold the gecko incorrectly or accidentally hurt it, you’ll essentially have to gain its trust all over again.

 Here’s how to appropriately handle your pet leopard gecko:

  1. After a couple of days of familiarizing yourself with the leopard gecko, you can try holding the gecko by using the step-up method.
  2. Take your hand and move it right toward the leopard gecko’s chin or feet and encourage the gecko to step up by nudging its legs gently. Keep moving your hands until its back legs are up too. Voila, you are handling your gecko!
  3. If the gecko does not want to follow the step-up method, stick to light hand touches until the gecko is comfortable enough to get onto your hands. Of course, some geckos take longer than others, and that’s ok!
  4. Note: a leopard gecko will immediately pick up any hesitation and fear. If you are apprehensive, your gecko will respond negatively to your hesitancy. So, it’s vital to have confidence when picking it up for the first time.
  5. It’s essential to gently scoop up the leopard gecko from its body and never the tail as they can drop it when scared or stressed. In addition, you want to let your gecko know that you are safe to be around. 
  6. Once you have the leopard in your hand, do not restrain it. Some may be happy to curl up in your hand to soak up your body heat, while others will walk and explore.
  7. Allow your leopard gecko to explore. A gecko might like handling, but it will enjoy exploring new areas. For example, close the bedroom door and allow your gecko to explore your room while you safely keep an eye on it
  8. Consistently holding the leopard gecko yields the best results. So, regularly handle the gecko and gradually increase the time you have them out of the tank.
  9. In addition, to put the gecko back in its tank, slowly lower your hand and allow the gecko to slide off.

Lastly, consider watching this short video on how to handle your leopard gecko: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHardqvAJcc&t=1s 

Conclusion

Leopard geckos are indifferent to human handling at best.

Even though leopard geckos do not particularly like handling, there are effective ways to handle them without completely stressing them out.

It’s imperative to build trust with your gecko to ensure that it feels safe during handling. This takes lots of time, patience, and consistency.