It doesn’t take a genius to work this question out. Just watch one of these little fella’s for a couple of minutes and you will see their energetic characteristics and a small insight into their daily activities. Leopard geckos are native to the rocky deserts of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, so I can see why you might be wondering “Do leopard geckos like to climb?”.
When we think of deserts and dry land, we don’t automatically think of vast areas with a lot of places where a leopard gecko could climb. We think of flat ground, with a few shrubs and not much else for miles. Well, this isn’t really the case. Let’s take a closer look at the question, do leopard geckos like to climb.
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Leopard geckos compared to their cousins…
So, we know that geckos do indeed like to climb. Pretty much every gecko likes to climb. Most commonly geckos will have suction toe pads which keep them stuck too walls, trees, branches, ceilings. You name it, they’ll be able to climb it. They can even defy gravity and hold their body weight upside down. They commonly walk across ceilings, or the underside of branches. Theres really no places that geckos can’t reach.
But this isn’t ALL geckos.
Unfortunately, leopard geckos fall under this category. Leopard geckos do not have these sticky toe pads which the majority of their cousins have, which helps them scale walls and trees. Leopard geckos actually have claws, and this is due to the needs in their natural environment.
As I have stated before, leopard geckos are native to drylands and deserts. The terrain leopard geckos are usually exposed to combines gravel, stone, dirt, rock, sand, mud, clay and grassland. So for this reason, it’s much more suited they have craws rather than sticky toe pads to manoeuvre through such landscapes. Nonetheless, they are still very good climbers.
Do Leopard Geckos Climb In The Wild?
In a leopard geckos natural habitat, it is usually exposed to a lot of dangers. However unlike most other habitats, deserts and drylands lack in trees or derelict buildings they can climb to evade any danger, or potential threat. However, their little claws are perfect for rock climbing. Thats right, these little reptiles can scale rock surfaces like the professionals. Their claws have evolved over time so they can grip onto the jagged, rough surfaces of rock walls.
Leopard geckos are knows as “terrestrial”. This means they prefer to stay as close to the ground as possible. But this doesn’t mean they won’t climb to find the best basking spot to source of food. In fact, many geckos are actually terrestrial, and they usually only climb to avoid threats. But unlike other geckos leopard geckos have their secret escape tool.
What is this secret escape tool?
As stated before, geckos commonly like to climb to avoid any threats or danger. Now knowing that leopard geckos aren’t always able to do this, they have a secret escape tactic. Their main defence when avoiding predators is to run. They are very fast, agile little reptiles and can usually outrun their predators, but sometimes they do meet their match.
When running away from a predator, a leopard geckos trailing tail is usually the first point of contact. Leopard geckos have evolved to deal with such situation incredibly well and can actually detach their tails from their bodies to get away from predators.
They are able to re-grow their tails, usually within 30 days, which is faster than any other lizard or gecko. The severed tail will still wriggle about, as if it is still attached to the body to distract the predator, making it believe it has actually caught the gecko.
Why Do Leopard Geckos Like To Climb?
Leopard geckos love to climb, but why? They have an amazing ability to climb vertically as well as upside down. But they don’t just do this for fun. In an ideal world a leopard gecko would spend most of its time on the ground floor. This is because they gain most of their body heat through basking on rocks which have been heated by the morning sun.
Leopard geckos mainly climb trees to hunt for food or evade predatory threats. Insects seek shelter and safety in trees from the overwhelming daytime sun, which makes feeding slightly more challenging for a leopard gecko. For this reason a leopard gecko has to sometimes climb to find a suitable meal.
Out in the open dessert, a leopard gecko is very vulnerable to attacks. Both ground attacks and aerial attacks. Stress levels on the dessert ground floor heighten, as the leopard gecko knows this is not the safest place to be. Trees give a leopard gecko the ideal cover from both methods of attack. Birds cannot swoop down, manoeuvring amongst the branches, quick enough to catch a leopard gecko. Nor can a snakes climb a quicker than a leopard gecko can escape.
So this really does make the perfect defence for a leopard gecko. Therefore, climbing is used more as a survival necessity, than a fun activity.
Should You Include Climbing Apparatus In a Leopard Gecko’s Enclosure?
Even though these geckos do not climb as much as other geckos do, you can still include some climbing apparatus into their enclosure. In the wild they will scale rocks and climb walls, so you’ll want to replicate this as closely as possible within their enclosure.
Make sure the enclosure is wide and long. There are may different enclosures to choose from, so keep this in mind. A narrow and tall enclosure will not fulfil the needs of a leopard gecko very well. Many people like to use glass enclosures, or large fish tanks as enclosures as they are commonly cheaper than reptile enclosures, but personally I wouldn’t recommend this.
Leopard geckos are known to jump. They often leap from surface to surface if they need to in the wild when on a rock surface. Because of this, they have been knows to escape their enclosures if they entrance is via the top (like a fish tank is).
I’d recommend sticking to the usual reptile enclosures, where the entrance is via a sliding glass door on the side. This makes it easier for many purposes including, cleaning, handling and safety. This also means that your leopard gecko cannot climb out the top of its enclosure. Like I have said, they do like to climb and they are very good at it, so please do not underestimate their climbing abilities.
Leopard geckos do like to climb, so integrating some climbing apparatus into their enclosure will pay dividends to their health and happiness. The most common climbing apparatus are rocks, logs and branches. Leopard geckos like a place to climb where they can bask.
You can pick up rocks and logs from outside, but they have to be properly cleaned and sanitised before putting them into the enclosure with your gecko. Rocks and logs from outdoors can carry all kinds of parasites and diseases. If these aren’t removed, then this can cause some serious health problems for your gecko.
I would recommend to stay away from this completely. I wouldn’t risk it. You can buy come really good climbing apparatus, specially make for reptiles, which will be 100% safe.
Exo-Terra Climbing Products For Leopard Geckos
Exo-Terra specialises in reptile safety. They are renowned for their suitable products which include enclosures, substrates and furniture for reptiles. They are made from materials which are 100% safe for reptiles, from artificial rocks and hides, too durable plastic foliage.
The Exo-Terra Reptile Cave is a personal favourite as if offers more than just a hide for leopard geckos. Its rock like designs means it can be used as a climbing apparatus as well as a place to hide. This product can easily be combined with other rocky furniture to replicate a leopard geckos natural habitat.
The Exo-Terra Forest Branch is another one of our favourite choices. The wood is heat treated grape vine which has been sand blasted to remove all harmful parasites and bacteria. The natural wood can be used in both desert and rainforest enclosures. The larger branches and logs are great for desert climbing reptiles
Foam Climbing Walls
The Exo-Terra Terrarium Foam Wall adds an amazing, natural looking rock wall which your leopard gecko can scale and climb if it wants. The hard foam material means your gecko can grab onto the artificial wall with its craws without any worry of becoming caught up. The foam wall also offers realistic aesthetics to any desert themed enclosure.
Do Leopard Geckos Climb When Being Handled?
Once your leopard gecko has got used to being handled it will indeed enjoy to climb all over you. Commonly, like most other reptiles, leopard geckos will try to find a high spot which is levelled. For this reason it is common that reptiles like to perch on your shoulder. Your shoulder offers the height and the flat, levelled surface it is happy to relax on.
Also, if you bend your arm at a right angle, so it is placed across you chest, this also provide a great place for your gecko to rest. If you are laying on a bed or the floor, then you may find that your gecko is intrigued to explore further. Being relatively close to the ground, your gecko may in fact climb all over you. Just make your you keep an eye on them.
I hope this has helped answer the question “Do leopard geckos like to climb?”. A little recap of this article will remind you that YES, leopard geckos do indeed like to climb. Although they don’t have the climbing tools as their sticky toe pad cousins, they do still like to climb rocky surfaces from time to time.
Yes you should try to incorporate some climbing apparatus into a leopard geckos enclosure, as this is natural to their native habitat. Incorporating climbing apparatus into the enclosure will definitely keep your gecko happy and active.
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