Some lizards are legendary for their ability to climb not only trees and other vegetation but even completely smooth glass thanks to their sticky, textured, and adaptable toes.
Then there are leopard geckos…and these lizards are more famous for falling than for climbing. However, it might not be fair to say that leopard geckos can’t climb, and instead we may not be giving them the right surface to climb on.
So do leopard geckos climb and is it something they like doing?
As terrestrial lizards, you shouldn’t expect leopard geckos to climb tall trees but their tiny, sharp claws are perfect for climbing small rocks and rocky terrain. Climbing and scaling rocky areas helps leopard geckos stay safe in the wild and it can be a good form of enrichment and fun for captive leos.
If you’re comparing them to their crested gecko cousins then leopard geckos wouldn’t be considered good climbers. But when it comes to navigating the rocky terrain of their natural desert habitat, leopard geckos do a great job climbing.
Let’s look a little closer at this difference and how it leads to the common misconception that leos can’t climb.
Leopard Geckos (And Their Toes) Evolved For A Very Specific Type Of Climbing
In other words, leopard geckos have a “very specific set of skills” that allow them to climb rocks, not trees!
The first, and biggest, difference between leopard geckos and expert climbing lizards are the toes. Crested geckos don’t just have sticky feet, they have a complex adaptation that allows them to stick to (almost) anything. We’ve only just begun to understand this and you can learn the fascinating science behind the gecko’s sticking power in this quick video:
Just in the video thumbnail, you can see that the toes of a crested gecko look very different from the toes of a leopard gecko. Just check out this little leo gripping a rock with his tiny claws:
You can see that rather than use pure sticking power, leopard geckos spread their toes out and try to lock into the rock with their toes. That’s a completely different strategy from high-flying geckos but it makes sense when you consider a leopard gecko’s desert origins.
Sticky toes wouldn’t be as effective on dirt and hard clay that’s constantly shifting. Instead claws and toes are the better tools for the job.
Do Leopard Geckos Like Climbing?
While it’s hard to figure out how leopard geckos feel about anything, introducing them to the same activities that they’d engage in within their natural habitat is a great way to keep them entertained, active and engaged. That means climbing rocks (especially as part of their hunting process) can be quite enjoyable for leopard geckos as it taps into their natural instincts.
Given the right setup, leopard geckos may really impress you with their ability to climb up rocky areas like this little leo:
How To Introduce Climbing Opportunities For Your Leopard Gecko
So how can we use this information to be better leopard gecko keepers?
By adding opportunities for leos to climb, crawl and hide on small rocks!
Leopard geckos should already have multiple hiding spots but try to safely create a few other options using rocks, logs, and other terrain that they’d see in their natural habitat. Still, you don’t want to go overboard with this, and leopard geckos are terrestrial lizards that will do best in an enclosure that’s wider than it is tall.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s take a closer look at some specific questions about climbing leos.
Do leopard geckos need stuff to climb?
Leopard geckos will happily climb on small rocks, logs and branches so it’s a good idea to add a few of these into their enclosure. Leopard geckos don’t need a lot of vertical space but small items to climb and crawl can provide enrichment and exercise for leopard geckos.
Why does my leopard gecko climb?
In most cases, climbing is completely normal behavior for leopard geckos and they enjoy climbing small rocks and branches. Leopard geckos may also associate climbing the walls with you bringing them food which can encourage the behavior. In other cases, trying to climb the enclosure could be a sign of stress or boredom.
Can leopard geckos climb upside down?
Without specialized and sticky toe pads, leopard geckos can’t climb upside down like other geckos. Given the right surface, leopard geckos could climb upside down using their small but sharp claws. However, this isn’t something you want to test and would likely be stressful to the leopard gecko.
Can leopard geckos scale walls?
Leopard geckos won’t be able to scale walls like crested geckos and other sticky-toed lizards. But thanks to their long toes and sharp claws, leopard geckos could climb up a rocky wall or one with several branches. However, it’s safer to just allow leopard geckos to climb rocks and other small items.
Even though leopard geckos aren’t known for their ability to climb, they can still excel at and seem to enjoy climbing small rocks, logs and anything else that resembles what they’d find in the wild.
You shouldn’t expect them to take advantage of extra vertical space like a crested gecko would but adding a few climbing opportunities can be a great way to provide enrichment and exercise for leopard geckos!
What do you think? Are you going to add a few rocks so your leopard gecko can show off their climbing skills?