Do Leopard Geckos Like to be Held? (And How to Hold Them Correctly)

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If you’re a first-time leopard gecko owner, it’s understandably tricky to figure out what your pet likes and dislikes. For instance, do leopard geckos like to be held?

Leopard geckos are indifferent to touching and holding. This is because they aren’t capable of forming an emotional connection with their owners. They will increase their tolerance to you holding them as they get used to it. 

Why are leopard geckos indifferent to being held?

Like other reptiles, leopard geckos can’t feel deep emotions or form emotional connections.

That’s why leopard geckos don’t get lonely or yearn for physical affection the way cats and dogs do. Leopard geckos are likely to see touch from a stranger as an attack. The situation can stress them out and even make them lash out. 

As such, building trust with your leopard gecko before holding them is important. Also, understand that even after your leopard gecko gets used to you, they will still not want to be held all the time. 

How do you build trust with your leopard gecko?

You can do several things to build trust with your leopard gecko so that you can hold them without causing stress. These include:

  1. Gradually introducing yourself

Like other animals and even humans, leopard geckos don’t like sudden changes. So you can’t just buy a leopard gecko and start handling them immediately.

Instead, it would help if you started small. A great starting point is feeding them. Simply offering your leopard gecko food at specific times will make them associate you with food. 

This makes them see you in a different light – as an ally. Once this foundation is established, you can try placing your hand in your leopard gecko’s tank to see how they react.

If you do this several times and notice that your pet is comfortable with it, you can then try to touch its back. If they are comfortable with this, you can then try holding them for a few minutes before taking things further. 

  1. Introduce them to your scent

Another thing you can do to make your leopard gecko comfortable around you is to leave a few of your things in its tank. This introduces them to your scent and gets them used to it with time. Eventually, they will be able to smell you when you enter a room and not see you as a threat. 

  1. Use treats

When you’ve been feeding your leopard gecko for a while, it’s easy to tell which foods they like more than others. Once you have this knowledge, you can use these foods as treats to ease your leopard gecko into handling.

Offer your gecko a treat whenever you’re handling them. If you do this repeatedly, your leopard gecko will eventually associate handling with their favorite food and even look forward to it.

It’s therefore not surprising that you can even use treats to train your gecko to listen to your commands. 

  1. Give your leopard gecko a name

Soon after you get a leopard gecko, you should give them a name and call them by it whenever you see them. This creates predictability that makes these reptiles comfortable around you.

Some of them even start to react to their names at some point. Another thing that calling your gecko a specific name does is make them get used to your voice and associate it with safety.

  1. Allow your leopard gecko to explore

Like many animals, leopard geckos like exploring environments that they deem safe. Allowing them to do this and facilitating these encounters makes them more comfortable around you.

Fortunately, you can easily do this. For instance, you can start taking your leopard gecko out of its tank once in a while and letting them explore the area around it. If they are comfortable with this, you can even take them to other rooms in the house or even outside.

  1. Provide fun toys and activities in your leopard gecko’s tank

To help your leopard gecko associate you with fun, you can add cool toys or even obstacle courses to its tank.

Obstacle courses are particularly easy to create with a few household items or the things in your gecko’s tank. What’s more? You can even create them outside the tank using a box and items like little pillows. 

If you’re creating an obstacle course inside your reptile’s tank, remember not to change the layout too frequently. This can disorient them.   

How do you handle your leopard gecko?

Even after you build trust with your leopard gecko, you can’t just come around suddenly and manhandle them. There are 5 important steps to follow when handling a leopard gecko. These are:

  1. Placing your hand in the tank 

Before you attempt to handle your leopard gecko, place your hand in its tank and just let it lay there – ensure it’s in a spot that your leopard gecko can see.

As you do this, look at your reptiles and see if they exhibit any signs of stress. Such signs include hiding, chirping, an open mouth, and tail dropping.

If they exhibit any of this, you should retract your hand or wait to see if they get used to it. Whatever you do, remember to wash your hands before and after placing your hand in your gecko’s tank. 

  1. Move your hand toward your leopard gecko

If your leopard seems comfortable with your hand being in its tank, you can now slowly move it towards your pet. Avoid doing this from the back or top – this can startle and trigger your leopard gecko. 

  1. Scoop your hand underneath your pet

Once you get your hand sufficiently close to your leopard gecko, flatten it and scoop your pet off the ground. Just ensure the majority of your gecko’s body is in your palm and that you don’t push/bump it. 

  1. Lift

Once you ensure that your leopard gecko is secure, you can lift them as high as you want. Just ensure that you keep your other hand close by. This will help you support your leopard gecko if they try to run away or struggle in your hand. Don’t use your second hand to grab your gecko’s tail, though.

  1. Put the leopard gecko down

One thing you should know about leopard geckos it’s that they don’t take prolonged handling well – 15 minutes is just about as long as you can push it. So after this period, slowly lower your hand back into the tank and let your gecko slide off.  

Final thoughts

Ultimately, leopard geckos don’t care whether you hold them or not – they’ll never approach you to pet them the way dogs do.

So if this activity is important to you, you will have to build trust with your gecko first and then ease them into the handling. If you do a good job, though, your leopard gecko will get used to you handling it and not be stressed over it. 


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