Traveling with a Leopard Gecko may seem daunting. Nonetheless, with the correct planning and know-how, your gecko can travel safely, and your journey can remain stress-free. Find all suggestions, tips, and advice here.
Traveling to a vet, on an extended holiday, or moving house may result in your leopard gecko being transported by car, train, or plane. Proper fore planning and carrier familiarisation are crucial, along with after-travel attention and maintenance.
Traveling with a Leopard Gecko
Before arranging your travels, it is essential to consider the type of care you require and what mode of transport is needed.
Consider the degree of care needed
Your Leopard Gecko is always happiest when left in its enclosure at home. When it comes to the health and wellbeing of your gecko, the less disruption to their environment, the better.
Your Leopard gecko can survive a day or two with no intervention. A weekend away should not cause them any harm, but if you have someone that can pop in, in the case of a power surge, that would be best.
If it is possible to leave your Leopard Gecko at home when traveling, then do so. A fully prepped family friend or fellow Leopard Gecko enthusiast would be first prize, but there are local vets or pet sitters that can also assist.
Although more expensive, local vets and pet sitters charge daily to care for your geckos. A trained sitter with detailed instructions is essential if you have multiple geckos with special needs.
However, leopard geckos do not get lonely so don’t worry about their emotional health. The only reason to get a pet sitter would be to make sure they are fed and watered regularly.
Airplanes, trains, and Leopard Gecko travel
Few airplanes and trains permit reptiles, and those that do are expensive. Airplanes will insist on having your Leopard gecko checked in as cargo.
I would only recommend traveling in a plane if you are relocating, as flying can be stressful for you and your geckos.
Proper carrier labeling is imperative, and if you can maintain a carrier temperature of approximately 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) for the trip, this would be optimal.
Try to book a nonstop early morning or late night flight to avoid the heat of the day and start getting your Leopard Gecko accustomed to its carrier at least a month before you intend to travel.
Steps for traveling by car with your Leopard Gecko
Car trips can be short or long-distance overnight journeys. Both need a degree of preparation to ensure that you and your Leopard Gecko have a peaceful, stress-free trip.
Seeing that car journeys are far more commonly taken with Leopard Geckos than plane or train rides, we will outline some essential steps and precautions when planning a trip.
Step 1: Consider how to transport Leo
It may be tempting to transport your Leopard Gecko in their existing enclosure. However, there are a couple of factors to be aware of.
Existing enclosure travel concerns
If your gecko’s current enclosure is glass, I would, for obvious safety reasons, avoid transporting them in it.
You would also need to remove all enclosure décor or objects that may tip over and injure Leo during a trip. A larger enclosure also increases the risk of Leo sliding and injuring themselves with any sudden car movements.
A smaller carrier is best
When transporting Leopard Geckos in a car, it is usually advisable to place them in a smaller well-ventilated plastic container or Tupperware. Any plastic container can be used as long as it has air holes, or you can poke air holes in it.
Take care to select a large container to allow Leo to move around but not too large that they are flung about with movement. I would strongly advise against any open-topped containers. You can purchase reptile travel carriers online and in pet stores if you want something sturdier.
Step 2: Set up the travel carrier
Add carrier floor covering
It is advisable to add a covering to the bottom of your travel carrier. This will provide extra protection and security during travel, and if the weather is cooler, some added warmth.
Depending on your required insulation, you can use newspaper, pads, paper towels, or blankets. This will ensure that your Leopard Gecko does not slide with any car movement and will add some added grip.
Add extra warmth
Leopard geckos can go up to 90 days without heat so additional warmth for a short trip to the vet will most likely not be needed unless you are dealing with extreme weather.
A more extended trip may call for some added heat to keep your Leopard Gecko comfortable. Heat packs or hand warmers are great for keeping your gecko warm for several hours. You can purchase reptile-specific hand warmers made explicitly for travel online and in some exotic pet stores.
On shorter trips, many gecko owners have successfully used a hot water bottle for added heat.
Covering or wrapping your carrier with jerseys and blankets will also help with heat loss.
On the flip side, if you are concerned about too much heat, you can wrap the carrier with insulated bubble wrap to block out the sun and prevent heat absorption. Bubble wrap can be cut to size but also remember to add some air holes.
Step 3: Travel carrier familiarity
Purchase your travel container or carrier at least one week before leaving for your trip. You need to provide enough time for your Leopard Gecko to familiarize themselves with the carrier before leaving.
Incorporate a couple of minutes of travel carrier time into your Leopard Geckos’ regular schedule. Do this daily and keep adding a few extra minutes until they are happy spending up to 30 minutes daily in the new carrier.
One week of getting accustomed to the travel carrier is sufficient, but if you have the time to start earlier, it will only help. Getting your Leopard Gecko used to the carrier will help to reduce their stress levels during travel.
Step 4: Pack your travel essentials
A short drive to your local vet will not need the same planning as an extended trip away.
Here is an extensive checklist of essentials for your next car trip.
- Plastic container / Tupperware / carrier
- Insulated bubble wrap or blankets and jerseys
- Food, water, and calcium
- Small plastic containers
- Vehicle harness
- Emergency contact list: vet numbers
Optional – long-distance trips
- Newspaper, paper towels, or pads
- Hand warmers, heat packs, hot water bottle
- Gloves, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer
- Spray bottle with water
- Duct tape
- Bin bag
- Basking light
Step 5: Secure and prep the carrier
Before leaving, you must prep and secure the carrier or container for the journey ahead.
This would involve securing your carrier to the car with a harness, insulating the carrier with blankets or bubble wrap, and ensuring you have all the essentials on hand.
If you decide to add hides to the carrier, ensure they are secured down with duct tape or something similar.
Many Leopard Gecko owners prefer to secure their carriers in the front passenger seat so they can better keep an eye on their geckos during the trip.
If this is not possible, the backseat or a secure spot on the floor can also work. Ensure that wherever you position the carrier, there is no risk of them toppling over or items dropping on them.
Try to position the carrier where direct sunlight will not cause a problem or use bubble wrap as protection. Close off or position your carrier away from aircon or heating vents to protect them from getting too hot or cold.
Step 7: In journey checks and safety
It is important to remember not to remove your Leopard Gecko from its carrier for the duration of the journey unless necessary. This will add unnecessary stress to an already agitated gecko.
You will need to check up more frequently on your Leopard Gecko on longer journeys. Look out for abnormal behavior and try to stick to their usual schedule as much as possible.
Check that your Leopard Gecko is eating and drinking enough, and on extended trips, stick to housekeeping schedules by clearing out any feces or left-over food.
You do not need to be too concerned if your Leopard Gecko does not want to eat or drink unless this continues for an extended period. Leopard Geckos can go without food for up to 10 days. Although this is unhealthy, a day of not feeding will not kill them.
It is normal for geckos to temporarily refrain from eating when stressed. If you are concerned about them not eating or they are behaving oddly, it may be time to pull your emergency list out and give your vet a call for some advice.
Step 8: Post-travel care
Travel can be stressful for Leopard Geckos. Being placed in a new environment with new smells, sights, and sounds can be unnerving.
Once you arrive at your destination, give your Leopard Gecko time to settle into its new environment. Your gecko may be scared. If it shies away from your presence, refrain from handling them until they are comfortable in their surroundings.
A Leopard Gecko can exhibit signs of stress for seven days up to a month. Typically, they will return to normal within a week or two, but more time may be needed in severe cases.
How to tell your Leopard Gecko is stressed
A stressed or anxious Leopard Gecko may not eat or drink and may even regurgitate its food. They may become lethargic, change color, or hide in the corners of their enclosure. Their defecations may also increase, decrease, or alter in appearance.
You may notice bruises, inflammation, swelling, or sores if they have been injured during travel. In more severe cases, they may struggle to walk, look disorientated, or battle to breathe. Excessive saliva or bubbling from their nostrils may indicate a breathing issue.
If any of this behavior persists or is of concern, it is always best to visit a local vet or arrange a telephonic conversation if still journeying.
Your Leopard Gecko may feel part of the family but leaving them home when taking a trip is usually a safer choice. A gecko enthusiast or prepped family member or sitter can help ease any anxiety when traveling for an extended period.
If you must journey with your gecko, careful planning before leaving is vital to ensure a safe and stress-free trip. Knowing how to handle your Leopard Gecko after a journey is as crucial as putting their carrier and essentials in order before leaving.