If you are new to owning a leopard gecko, you may be wondering the best way to pick them up. Leopard geckos can be timid, skittish, and can drop their tails as a way to defend themselves if they feel threatened. So how do you pick up a leopard gecko safely without putting it under undue amounts of stress?
If you have not yet tamed your leopard gecko, please take a look at my post How to tame a leopard gecko, as this will help you gain their trust. It will be very difficult to pick up an untamed leopard gecko, so spending a few days getting acquainted with your new pet will be worthwhile.
If you have taken steps towards taming your gecko, then there are two ways I would suggest to pick up your gecko.
The first one is to place your hand into their vivarium and let them wander onto your open palm out of their own free will. They are quite curious if anything new enters their surroundings, so this works for me about 80% of the time.
However if they are being a little more stubborn, I would suggest briskly and confidently scooping them up from underneath their bellies if they are easily accessible and standing out in the open. Sometimes just a little nudging under their stomach will make them put their feet onto your hand anyway.
Leopard geckos are crepuscular, meaning they are most active around dusk and dawn (mine seem to be active throughout the night too) so the best time to try and handle them is after dark. They are usually sleeping during the day, and again I would not deliberately cause them stress by trying to handle them during the day unless they are already awake and active.
If they do not want to come out of their hides, I would never remove the hide to get to them, as I would feel very cruel. Their hides are their safe space, and I wouldn’t want them to feel like they can’t find security there. Also, if my gecko was displaying signs of being distressed, or was very clearly not in the mood to come out, I would just leave them alone and try again later or another day.
I would also not recommend grabbing them from above and plucking them from their enclosure, especially if they are not used to being handled, because this may alarm them. In the wild, this is how they would be taken by a bird of prey or some other predator, and this could panic them.
As mentioned, if they feel alarmed, they could drop their tails, which is something we want to avoid. Losing and subsequently growing back a tail is very stressful for a leopard gecko – not only does it store their fat and extra energy reserves, but it can also get infected, and make your gecko very unwell. The tail will also not look the same when it grows back; they usually look more bulbous, smoother and less uniform in their shape.
This leads onto my next point… you must never try to pick up a leopard gecko by its tail. in the wild, if a leopard gecko was grabbed by its tail by a predator, it would eject itself, leaving behind the tail, giving it the best possible chance to run away and stay alive. The same could very easily happen if you grab onto their tails, so as a rule of thumb, I try to avoid touching their tails at all, just to be on the safe side.
I hope this post is helpful, and if you have any more questions around handling and taming, I would suggest reading my other blog posts on the subject:
- How to tame a leopard gecko
- 3 ways to handle a nervous leopard gecko
- Are leopard geckos sociable?
- Why these tents are perfect for your leopard geckos