Your new leopard gecko is out of its habitat and exploring. He’s crawling on your hand and then licks you. Is this normal, or is there something wrong? Here are the answers to your questions!
What it Means When Your Leopard Gecko Licks You
Leopard geckos use licking to become acquainted with their overall surroundings. Your Leo is simply licking you to determine if you are alive and to learn more about its environment. Think of it as its way of getting to know you better.
Why Does My Leopard Gecko Lick My Hand?
Leopard Geckos have a vomeronasal organ, which is often called a Jacobson’s Organ. It’s located right on the roof of the mouth and helps them determine if the object they are licking is alive. This is also where their taste buds are found.
The tongue’s surface has nanoscopic particles on it, which were gained when it licked the environment. The leopard gecko’s tongue then reaches the opening in the upper part of the mouth when it draws the tongue back inside.
That opening connects to the sensory organ. From there, it transmits the messages through the brain’s nerves. Then, the brain lets the leopard gecko understand what’s around it.
Many other reptiles and animals use their tongues to smell or taste. However, it’s concerning for new leopard gecko owners. Scientists believe that the vomeronasal organ also detects pheromones, which is crucial for socializing and reproduction.
The reason leopard geckos lick you is to learn about their environment. If you watch them closely, you see that they also lick everything else around them. It might feel a little strange at first, but it doesn’t indicate there’s a problem. However, if your leopard gecko bites you then you may have a problem and you should immediately return your Leo to its tank.
Generally, bacterial spread isn’t a concern. However, it’s a good idea to wash your hands after handling your leopard gecko.
What Does It Mean When a Leopard Gecko Licks You?
Tongue flicking or licking is a behavior that many leopard geckos possess. They use their tongues as chameleons do. However, they don’t have those long tongues that thrust forward at a fast rate to catch prey from a great distance.
In a sense, licking lets them understand their surroundings, especially when they’re breeding, hiding, hunting, and pursuing a mate.
Essentially, the leopard gecko is getting to know you a little better when it licks you.
Generally, the licking activity is described as the leopard gecko flicking its tongue into the air continuously. Then, it draws its tongue back into its mouth. It doesn’t feel like a dog licking your hand, but it isn’t sharp or painful like a snake’s tongue flick.
Humans tend to hold hands, kiss, and hug each other to show affection. Therefore, it’s normal to think that your new leopard gecko is licking you as a way to show its love and devotion to you.
However, you now know that it goes deeper. Though your leopard gecko does love you and is glad that you take care of it, the licking has a specific purpose and is important.
What Else Might Licking Behavior Indicate?
Licking isn’t just focused on learning about the environment. It might indicate issues that your leopard gecko is experiencing. Therefore, you should carefully monitor any licking behavior you see. That way, you can act quickly if the need arises.
Here are the licking behaviors you should be aware of. You may need to visit a veterinarian or respond with the right treatment if you notice these things:
Leopard geckos might open their mouths very wide and frequently lick their food and mouths. If they are doing this and can’t hold down any food, that can indicate a severe problem.
Just as humans lick their lips, geckos can lick their mouths. That’s normally not an issue. However, that paired with being unable to eat could be a sign of a weak jaw. This is caused by MBD or a calcium deficiency.
You can lightly run your fingers over the leopard gecko’s jaw to see if it feels sponge-like, pulpy, or soft. If so, it’s best to go to a veterinarian to find out the cause and seek treatment.
If a leopard gecko licks their lips all the time, it might indicate an abscess or mouth rot. These conditions are extremely painful and could prevent the gecko from eating.
It’s easy to spot this problem! Inspect the leopard gecko’s mouth for any sores or redness. Veterinarians have the right medications to reduce the pain and fix the problem.
Leopard geckos lick their eyes to ensure that they are moist and clean. Humans produce tears and can cry to do the job. However, leopard geckos can’t. Therefore, it’s not an issue if you see them licking their eyes all the time.
In fact, it might be time to go to the vet if they aren’t licking their eyes!
What Are Some Other Reasons for the Licking Behavior?
Leopard geckos tend to enjoy licking their vents for many reasons. Just as dogs and cats lick their private areas, leopard geckos do, too. Therefore, you shouldn’t worry if you see this behavior. However, if you’re concerned at all, you should always call a veterinarian for help.
Licking after Secretions
Generally, leopard geckos lick their vent area when they mark their territory or pass stool. This isn’t considered odd behavior, so there’s no need to worry.
Licking after Bowel Movements
Humans use toilet paper to clean themselves after visiting the restroom. However, leopard geckos can’t. Therefore, they lick the area clean after a bowel movement. That way, it sanitizes everything and keeps them healthy.
Some people might be grossed out by the idea of licking after going to the bathroom. There’s no reason not to pick up the leopard gecko properly and play with them.
However, you must always wash your hands thoroughly before and after you handle the leopard gecko. Otherwise, you risk spreading germs to your pet, yourself, and others.
Leopard geckos are known to carry salmonella in their stomachs. They’re immune to it, so they can’t be harmed. However, humans can get salmonella poisoning, which is a serious condition.
Make sure that you practice good hygiene after touching your leopard gecko. That way, you don’t have to worry about being infected and getting sick.
Licking after Marking Their Territory
Many animals mark their territory, and leopard geckos do it by passing waxy substances from the pores near the vent. That tells female geckos that the male is ready to mate.
To keep the area clean, they lick them, preventing secretions from hardening inside. You can clean the vents if they don’t.
Licking for Shedding, Impaction, and Cleaning
Generally, leopard geckos lick for these purposes, too:
Licking to Stay Clean
A leopard gecko wants to be clean just like humans. Even if they don’t mark their territory or pass stool, they’re often licking their vents to prevent infections. They may lick their entire bodies when they feel “dirty,” but they frequently lick the vents.
Licking During Impaction
Vents help leopard geckos pass waste. If it gets clogged, swelling and impaction can happen. To clear the area, they may lick the vents more frequently. You can soak your gecko in warm water to soften the stool and alleviate the pain. However, you should also check with a vet.
Licking after Shedding
It’s normal for a leopard gecko to lick after shedding. They’re cleaning off the extra bits of skin and may lick from the feet/tail to the nose!
Licking is the primary way leopard geckos learn about their surroundings. However, they can also lick for other reasons, such as cleaning, impaction, and to warn you of a health concern. Pay close attention to when and how often your leopard gecko licks itself to be safe!