Different Leopard Gecko Behaviors Explained

Remember that your leopard gecko is nocturnal which means it will be more active at night and will tend to hide and sleep throughout the daylight hours!

Biting

  • Leopard geckos are not known for or prone to biting when handled carefully.
  • Never make any rough or fast movements around your gecko.
  • Never grab your gecko from behind its head, or grab its tail.
  • This is one of their last means of defense and it is usually directed towards other geckos (ie between males or between a male and female during mating).
  • Usually occurs when the gecko feels threatened or scared in any way.
  • Leopard geckos do have teeth and adults can draw blood.

 Cage Mates

  • Leopard geckos are not social creatures  do not need companionship like other mammals do.
  • Males are extremely territorial and should never be housed together.
  • A solitary life can be less stressful on the gecko.  Stress can negatively affect the gecko’s health.
  • When housed individually, most geckos will fare better in captivity because there will be no competition for: food, space, activity areas, hiding areas etc…
  • If you must keep multiple geckos together, make sure they are all the same size and that the enclosure is large enough to provide them with ample access to all the necessities (food, space, hiding areas, activity areas).
  • Overcrowding can often result in serious and potentially fatal health problems.

Defectating

  • Ideally leopard geckos should defecate once every day or once every other day.
  • These geckos will typically choose one spot in the enclosure to defecate in only – i.e. their own personal bathroom.
  • The rate of defecation will depend upon:
  • The amount of food eaten.
  • When food was last consumed.
  • The environmental temperatures.
  • Any ongoing medical/health problems.
  • Leopard gecko stools are comprised of two parts:
  • Feces which are usually brown-black in coloration and solid.
  • Urates which are the non-fecal part of the gecko’s excreta. The white part of the urates may be semi-soft pellets which harden after deposition into a chalk-like substance.

Handling

  • Although leopard geckos tend to be very trusting and many adults can be quite calm with gentle and regular handling, extensive handling is not recommended.  Occasional handling is preferable for adults.
  • Minimal handling of hatchlings and juvenile leopard geckos is recommended because they tend to be more delicate and nervous than adults.  They tend to bolt suddenly and panic more than adults.
  • Leopard geckos typically make very deliberate and slow movements – especially in adults.
  • They tend to be quite calm as pets when they are handled for short periods of time regularly.
  • Ensure proper personal hygiene before and after handling your gecko.
  • Always supervise children closely when they are around or handling the gecko.
  • Try to approach the gecko from the front and at the same level as opposed to coming at it from above which it may perceive as a predator.
  • Place your hand in the enclosure and allow the gecko to walk onto it on its own.  Some people lure the gecko over with talking softly to it, offering a treat or even some very gentle persuasion with their free hand.
  • One can build up the trust level by periodically hand-feeding the gecko.
  • Leopard geckos do not tolerate leashes!  When put in a leash, most will flail, spin and will entangle themselves in it.  A leash creates a stressful situation for a gecko!

Hiding

  • Hiding is a natural part of a leopard gecko’s behavior.
  • If a gecko is not allowed to hide, the gecko can become stressed.
  • These geckos are naturally nocturnal (active during the night) and will hide throughout most of the day.
  • If the gecko is hiding an excessive amount, it could be indicative of a health problem such as stress, illness, injury or a reaction to its environment.

Hunting              

  • Leopard geckos do not normally search out their food items but tend to be more opportunistic in nature.
  • It is common to see their tail wiggle or quiver when a gecko spots its meal and gets ready to attack it.
  • These geckos tend to have very deliberate movements when stalking an insect.
  • You may even notice your gecko licking its lips after devouring a meal.

Seasons

  • The change of seasons will affect the life and behavior of your leopard gecko.
  • A change of season may involve changes in the temperatures or photoperiod.
  • Leopard geckos tend to be more active during the warmer months of the year.
  • Leopard geckos tend to be less active during the cooler months and may also cut back on their eating (seasonal anorexia).  Keep in mind that unlike some other reptile species, leopard geckos do not hibernate.

Shedding           

  • Leopard geckos go through regular periods of shedding which is also known as ecydsis.
  • These geckos will shed their entire body all at once and not in individual pieces.
  • Geckos should have some type of a rough surface in their enclosure to assist with the shedding process (avoid porous rocks through such as lava).
  • As the gecko goes through the shed cycle, the skin will become dull and take on a milky hue.  The old skin will eventually start to peel off with a little bit of help from the gecko.
  • Most geckos will then eat the shed skin (dermatophagy). 
  • Once the gecko has shed, its colours are vibrant and bright once again.

The rate of shedding will depend on:

– Age of the gecko.         

– Reproductive status.

– Rate of growth.             

– Parasites.

– Environmental factors.

– Hormones.

– Nutritional factors.      

– Infection (bacterial, viral or fungal)

Tail Autotomy

  • Leopard geckos has a handy defense mechanism whereby they can drop their tail if they feel threatened or are grabbed by the tail.  Tails have also been dropped as a result of stress.
  • The original tail will then twitch on the ground for a short while which distracts the predator so the gecko can escape.
  • This process is called autotomy.
  • The caudal vertebrate has connective tissue fracture points that allow the tail to autotomize easily.  This is then followed by a rapid constriction of the blood vessels to the area to minimize blood loss. 
  • The gecko can regrow its tail but it may not look like the original with respect to size, shape and color.
  • The gecko that has lost its tail has lost a significant fat reserve and will be more vulnerable to stress.
  • What should you do if your gecko drops its tail?
  • House the gecko individually until the tail has been regenerated.
  • Recommended that you maintain the gecko on paper towel to prevent the accumulation of debris in the affected area.  Keep the enclosure clean.
  • Closely monitor for any signs of infection and treat appropriately.
  • It is critical that you evaluate the situation that could have caused this and correct the situation so it does not happen again.

Territoriality

  • Male leopard geckos can be extremely territorial and should never be housed together.
  • Territorial disputes can often lead to a potentially stressful situation, as well as serious injury or even death.
  • With an aggressive cage mate that tends to control the environment, other geckos may become more subordinate and may not thrive as well.
  • Even females may become territorial in nature.

Tongue Flicking

  • Like other reptiles, leopard geckos are equipped with a Jacobson’ organ (vomeronasal organ) which is located in the roof of the mouth.
  • This sensitive organ will analyze molecules (part taste and part smell) that the gecko’s tongue will have picked up when it was flicked in and out.
  • A gecko’s primary sense is its vision, but the Jacobson’s organ is used as a secondary sense.
  • To some people, it often appears as thought the gecko is tasting its environment.
  • The tongue is typically flicked when the gecko is out exploring, is curious about a particular item or even curious about a cage mate.
  • Leopard geckos will often tongue flick their food several times (especially new prey items) as they decide whether or not they want to eat it.

I am the editor-in-chief at MyPetReptiles.com, a site that is devoted to reptiles and the people who love them. I have been keeping and breeding many pet reptiles such as bearded dragons, geckos, chameleons, etc. for over 10 years now.

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