Do Lizards Like Being Pets? Here’s What Vets Say

Getting a lizard as a pet is not a decision you want to make hastily. Some can live for as long as a decade and may not process emotions like other social critters.

So, it would be best to understand how they appreciate and respond to being handled and shown affection.

Hence the question, do lizards like being pets?

Here is an article that discusses the answer and other related concerns.

Do Lizards Like Being Pets?

The general answer to this question is NO. Lizards are solitary animals and do not like or enjoy being petted. They like to be left alone most of the time. They are generally not affectionate, and they do not display any feelings of affection towards anyone.

However, it is the experience of many reptile keepers and experienced vets that lizards have varying personalities. So, while they may generally not like being petted, there are exceptional cases since some can develop a different individual personality.

Some lizards may like to stick with you more often. The reason for this exception to the general behavior of lizards could be that your presence is associated with treats and food. It may also be a learned behavior.

But it is rare to find lizards that love being petted.

If you are in the market for one, do not expect too much affection from your lizard as you would from a regular social critter. Lizards generally do not form emotional bonds with their owners and are not affectionate.

Do Lizards Get Attached to Their Owners?

Again, it is rare to find a lizard that is attached to its owner. Lizards like to be left alone in their enclosure, regulating their body temperature and going about their natural business as usual.

They do not form emotional bonds, and they do not show affection. However, there are instances of lizards being attached to their owners, showing a sort of pleasure when scratched, stroked, or patted affectionately.

But these are very rare instances, and these lizards appear to have a different personality from the generally exhibited behaviors.

You should not expect your lizard to feel attached to you. Although they may exhibit some sort of pleasurable feeling during feeding and treat breaks, you want to always remember that this is because your scent and presence are associated with food and treats.

Do Lizards Like Being Handled?

It is rare to find a lizard, or any reptile for that matter, that likes to be handled. Lizards, and reptiles, generally love being left alone. This is the case most of the time.

Also, as a responsible pet owner, you want to keep in mind that too much handling can put your critter under stress.

When this happens, your pet can become vulnerable to health issues. This is especially the case when your critter is new to the enclosure and your house.

If you have bought a new lizard, you want to leave it in the enclosure for at least a month. You should only handle the critter when you clean the enclosure and check for any threats like mites or signs of disease.

Perhaps, your pet will feel more comfortable around you over time. But you do not want to rush it.

Do Lizards Have Feelings?

It is settled among vets that lizards and many other reptiles have two basic types of emotions; fear and aggression.

There is no controversy there.

Generally, lizards will try to get away from you when they are afraid. This is why you must reduce the time you handle your pet. You want to pay attention to its body language, so you do not stress your pet.

Many lizard owners confirmed that their lizards trusted them over time and became reluctant to get away from them when the usual handling time was up. This can be your case, too, but you mustn’t rush or force it.

Lizards show aggression differently. While some may try to bite you, others may hiss a warning, arch their backs as in a fight stance, flatten their sides while raising their tails, and even shake and bob their heads. These are natural signs of their “aggression mode.”

When this occurs, you want to leave the lizard to be. These behaviors are usually a response to a perceived threat from you, your children, or another critter in the house.

Pleasure is one debatable feeling, however. Some vets contend that reptiles and lizards do not feel pleasure or love.

But another group of vets argues that since they can recognize the scents, voices, and touch of people that handle them frequently, that is evidence that they feel love.

Whatever the case, the fact remains that lizards appear to love it when their handlers or owners stroke them.

Another argument in this direction is that although lizards are born fully developed to face the world when they hatch, some species show a degree of parental care for their younger ones.

While some may argue that this is an instinctive move to teach some behavior to the younger ones, others argue that this is a sign of love. Hence, it is difficult to say for sure whether lizards show love or not.

But they appear to feel pleasure when cared for or stroked by the person feeding them or handling them frequently.

Do Lizards Show Affection When They Smile?

After petting some lizards, their owners sometimes find that they smile or appear to be smiling. Some species of lizards are indeed known to smile. A good example is the leopard gecko.

For this reason, many wonder if a smiling face is a sign of happiness. The smiling face is more a biological consequence of its facial anatomy than a show of affection or happiness.

Leopard geckos do not smile to display pleasure or contentment. The smile on their face is a result of the shape of their heads, the structure of their mouth, cheek folds, and movable eyelids.

In addition to their triangular face, leopard geckos also have slightly upward-curved mouths, which makes it seem like they are smiling. This smiling face appears whether the leopard gecko has its mouth closed or open because they do not have straight, slim lips.

The excessive skin on their cheeks folds to emphasize the smile. Although not all leopard geckos have these excessive skin folds, they extend so that the leopard gecko can open its mouth without getting injured.

The final detail which makes it seem like they are smiling is their slightly squinted eyes. Ordinarily, slightly squinted eyes are associated with genuine smiles. This feature, coupled with the other facial features, makes it seem like the leopard gecko smiles.

But the truth is that it is just a normal facial conjecture.

Why Do Lizards Close Their Eyes When You Pet Them?

It is common to find your pet closing its eyes when stroked. Many pet lizard owners often associate this with pleasure.

While there may be reasons to believe this assertion to an extent, it is pertinent to note that when your pet closes its eyes, it is not displaying trust, contentment, or pleasure.

They often close their eyes because they are at your mercy, and there is not much they can do to escape your grasp.

The way to ensure your lizard is comfortable when you handle them is to notice how they respond with their eyes. Pet lizards that are comfortable with you when you handle them will often open their eyes and keep them open all the while you handle them.

This is because they have come to trust you and have nothing to worry about. If your pet lizard closes its eyes while you are handling it, you want to return it gently back to its enclosure. You will notice that its eyes will open back up because it is back in its comfort zone.

But you do not have to give up. You only need to keep trying until your pet becomes very comfortable with you to the point where they can keep their eyes open while you are handling them.

Bottom Line

Although many reptiles believe that their pet lizards love being petted, it is important to understand that normally, lizards and reptiles generally do not like to be bothered. They love being left alone in their safety zone, which is their enclosure.

They do not recognize the intentions of anyone handling them as the spectrum of emotions they feel is minimal.

However, some individuals may like being around their owners more often than normal. This is perfectly okay, but it is rare to find lizards that are comfortable with being handled.

When you handle them, you want to pay attention to your lizard’s response. Do not expect them to be comfortable with you the first few times. You may have to be consistent with care until they become comfortable with being handled.

But you also want to keep in mind that they will rarely reach that point because, by default, these ectothermic critters like to be left alone.