Frogs are unusual and entertaining animals that can make wonderful pets. They’re often vibrantly colored, small, and live in beautiful environments. But, frogs aren’t the first animal you think of if you’re looking for a pet to cuddle.
Not only are frogs a little slimy, but it’s hard to tell whether or not they enjoy being handled. It’s a source of debate as to whether owners should or shouldn’t pet their frogs.
So, do frogs like being petted?
For the most part, frogs don’t like being petted. Most frogs instinctively jump away and risk injuring themselves when handled. On top of that, frog skin is very delicate and handling can make them sick. Tree frogs and toads are the only frogs that may enjoy being petted and even that is case by case.
Frog petting is pretty complicated. In this article, we’ll discuss whether or not frogs like being petted, we’ll also talk about whether it’s even safe to pet a frog, and which species are the best to handle.
Is It Safe For People To Pet Frogs?
Before discussing whether frogs like being touched, let’s talk about the safety issue.
There is an old myth that claims that you can get warts from holding a toad or a frog. This old wives’ tale has been deemed untrue. It’s not possible to get human warts from an amphibian. However, there are other things that can be transmitted from frogs to humans.
Frogs can carry harmful bacteria or viruses that have the potential to infect humans. Some species of frogs may also emit toxins that could irritate the skin and cause serious reactions. Even if a toxin doesn’t affect human skin, it could affect the eyes or the mouth when touched.
So, unless you’re sure about the species of frog you’re handling you really shouldn’t pick one up. And if it’s your own pet, you’ll still need to wash your hands extremely well after handling it. The most dangerous part about petting frogs is actually the danger you put the frogs in.
Can Petting Hurt A Frog?
Human touch can be fatal for frogs and toads. Like all amphibians, frogs, and toads have semi-permeable skin. This skin serves them well in the wild and helps them take in fresh oxygen and water. They have an especially permeable area on their bellies that helps them stay hydrated while they’re sitting in water.
The problem with this thin skin is that it is also very susceptible to chemicals and toxins. For this reason, frogs are often used as a warning species when something is wrong in the environment. They’re usually affected first and early on because of how delicate their skin is.
What does this have to do with handling?
Well, anything that’s on your hands has the potential to go into a frog’s body. Hand lotion or soap, can cause issues for amphibians and make them sick. And even something like hand sanitizer that’s safe for other reptiles is too toxic for amphibians.
And, if you’re thinking not washing your hand is better, think again. The human biome usually contains almost 1000 different species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can be passed to a frog.
The only way to safely handle an amphibian is to wear clean gloves every time you pick them up.
Do Frogs Like Being Petted?
With all of that in mind, is it worth petting a frog? Do frogs enjoy being petted?
While many pet reptiles seem to enjoy being petted and bonding with their owners, the same may not be true for frogs. In the wild, frogs are social creatures and can sometimes be found in large groups. Frogs can be fairly intelligent and do have the capability to learn and bond, But, frogs are a prey species that naturally see humans as predators.
For most frogs, their initial reaction will be fight or flight when confronted with a human hand. They may try to jump away, bite, or scratch. In general, frogs really don’t seem to enjoy being petted.
Despite these instincts, some owners report that their frogs do enjoy handling. This might have to do with frogs’ ectothermic natures. Because frogs are cold-blooded, they maintain their body temperature from external sources of heat.
If your frog is feeling a little cold it might move towards your warm hand or finger. In this case, you could say that your frog does enjoy being petted because they enjoy your body heat.
Where Do Frogs Like Being Petted?
If you’re petting a frog, the best spot to pet them is on their head, on their back, or under their chin. Frogs seem to like to be petted somewhere on the top of their bodies. Sometimes a nice warning tap beneath the chin before touching is welcome.
Frogs don’t seem to like to be petted on their bellies and won’t ever be caught rolling on their back for belly rubs. Remember if you are petting a frog it’s always a good idea to wear gloves.
In the video below you can see a compilation of one person petting many frogs. You’ll notice that some of these frogs look uncomfortable and look like they want to jump and escape from the touch. In other shots, it looks as if the frogs are moving toward the finger and might actually enjoy the scratches.
Signs That Your Frog Is Enjoying Itself
The best way to know if your frog wants to be touched is to look out for signs that they’re relaxed.
The best sign that will show that your frog is enjoying itself is if they move towards your touch. A relaxed frog is one that doesn’t want to flee from your hand or your pets. They’ll sit in happily and not make any signs that they’re about to jump away.
Other signs that your frog is relaxed might include soft or closed eyes and slow breathing. If your frog is doing these things while you pet it, that probably means that they like it!
Signs That Your Frog Is Stressed
If your frog is giving you signs that they’re stressed they probably don’t like what’s happening. Pet frogs aren’t so different from wild frogs. They still have a lot of the same survival instincts that they would in the real world.
When threatened or stressed frogs have plenty of adaptations they can use to survive. Some frogs might jump or leap away and even kick their predators. Others might choose instead to play dead. In some cases, frogs like Pacman frogs will bite and attack their predators.
If your frog is exhibiting any defensive behaviors it means that they are stressed. So, attempts to escape, playing dead, biting, or vocalizing are all signs that your frog is stressed. If you observe these body language cues you should stop petting your frog as you’re causing them fear and anxiety.
Frogs That You Can Pet
Some frogs are more likely to enjoy being petted than others. Below you’ll find some of the frogs that are best suited for handling.
Toads are one of the amphibians that are most amicable to petting.
Toads are large and a lot less flighty than most small frogs. This is because a toad’s natural defense is found in their bodies. Toads emit toxins from small glands on the tops of their heads when threatened.
They don’t usually jump or bite. In captivity, this makes them great specimens for handling. As long as you’re not eating your toads, you should be fine to give them a scratch on the head. Some might even lean into it.
2. White’s Tree Frog
White’s tree frogs are medium to large size frogs that may be the perfect frogs to handle.
These frogs seem to enjoy some petting and aren’t even always afraid of humans in the wild. Even the way these frogs look encourages cuddling. These frogs are cute, chubby, and nonintimidating. They’re easy to care for and a relaxed species overall. Just remember you’ll still need gloves to safely handle these frogs.
3. White-Lipped Tree Frog
White-lipped or giant tree frogs are the largest tree frog species in the world. Their large size makes them calm and stable in captivity.
White-lipped tree frogs are well known for their docile nature and can be housed in large groups. These are some of the qualities that make them one of the best pet frogs for handling. If any frog truly likes being petted it might be one of these large tree frogs.
4. Waxy Monkey Leaf Frog
Waxy monkey leaf frogs have a special waxy substance that their skin secretes to help them retain moisture. The wax protects them from dehydration and also makes their skin a little less permeable to chemicals. For this reason, these frogs can be handled with less risk than other frogs.
Additionally, their large size makes them a little bit braver than a smaller frog. Just be careful since this is an arboreal species that may climb or jump away from you when they feel threatened.
5. Crowned Tree Frog
Crown tree frogs are adorable small tree frogs that look like they are wearing permanent crowns. These tree frogs are also known for their docile nature making them prone to easy handling. Owners of these frogs do report that they like being petted. However, this tendency will vary between individuals.
Frogs You Shouldn’t Handle
There are only a few frog species that do enjoy being petted and there are way more that you just should never handle. So, let’s see some frogs that don’t like beeing petted and that might even hurt you if you do try.
1. Aquatic Frogs
Any species of frogs or toads that are fully aquatic should never be handled. These animals are meant to live in the water at all times and can become stressed when taken out of the water. It’s kind of like taking a fish out of the water to pet them. Aquatic frogs definitely don’t like being petted and should never be taken out of the water.
2. Poison Dart Frogs
Dart frogs accumulate their poisons from the bugs that they eat in the wild. In captivity, these frogs aren’t poisonous simply because of their diets. However many species of dart frogs still emit toxins that can be extremely irritating to soft tissues like the eyes and mouth.
For your safety, you should never handle a dart frog. Not only would they not enjoy it but you might end up with a burn.
3. Miniature Frog Species
Any miniature frog species are natural prey animals. This means that they’re super alert and aware of predators. Pets and handling will usually cause stress for these tiny frog species.
Plus when handling such a small animal it’s easy to accidentally hurt them or lose them when they’re out of their enclosure. It’s best to leave these tiny frog species in their enclosures and admire them from afar.
4. Ambush Predators
Frogs that use ambush techniques to capture prey like Pac-Man frogs and pixie frogs should never be handled. These frogs are almost guaranteed to bite. While their bites might not be super painful, they are definitely irritating. Plus, you mightn’t enjoy your pet frog if you have to pull them off of your hand.
If your frog is trying to bite you it’s a pretty clear sign that they do not like being petted.
It’s sad when the most adorable frog species don’t like being petted, but you might find an individual frog that does seem to enjoy being touched. They might like the warmth from your body heat or the comfort of the scratches.
However, frogs, for the most part, shouldn’t be handled not only because they don’t enjoy it but because it can be dangerous for you and for your pet.