Most experienced leopard gecko keepers have been there…
You’re enjoying an afternoon with your little leo and they’re happily climbing around your hands, then your shoulder, and maybe even your head. But suddenly, out of nowhere, the little leopard gecko decides it’s time to explore the world and they jump off and land on the floor.
Yeah, it’s stressful. But in most cases, your leopard gecko will be okay. Which is great, but also a little confusing and naturally leads many people to wonder, “How far can a leopard gecko fall?”
It’s not something you want to test or ever encourage but most leopard geckos can safely fall from 5 to 6 feet without an issue- especially if they land on a soft surface. However, they could still easily become injured if they land in an awkward way or hit something on the way down.
I know it’s terrifying when your leopard gecko falls out of your hands and while you need to do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again, leos are usually fine. Let’s take a closer look at what you should do if you ever drop your leopard gecko along with a deeper explanation of why these little lizards can survive such high falls.
What To Do If Your Leopard Gecko Jumps Out Of Your Hand
Leopard geckos aren’t known for high intelligence or strong spatial awareness which means if they see an opening to explore, they’ll often take it. That doesn’t mean your leopard gecko jumped out of your hand because they distrust you or that they were scared, instead it’s natural for leos to explore and they aren’t exactly afraid of heights.
Even though leopard geckos are great at surviving falls, let’s talk about what you need to do when it happens. However, if you’re ever unsure it’s always a good idea to consult your veterinarian.
1. Carefully Collect Your Leopard Gecko
Your leopard gecko just had a big fall followed by a mostly new environment. Sure, they may have only fallen a few feet out of your hands or off the table, but things are looking different for your leo. As a result, your leopard gecko is probably feeling stressed so approach them slowly and carefully. Pick them back up and if they’re feeling especially wiggly, gently place them back in their enclosure.
2. Check and Inspect Your Leo
In most cases, leopard geckos will be fine. Even more so if they landed on something soft like carpet or a couch. But that doesn’t mean falling is without risks so take some time to look closely at your leopard gecko and check for any signs of injury.
When it comes to falls, your leopard gecko’s limbs and internal organs are the biggest concerns so look for any changes in how your leo moves or shifts in its behavior. Internal changes are difficult to notice but limbs injuries are usually obvious. But as always, if you’re ever unsure, consult your veterinarian.
3. Pay Closer Attention To Your Leopard Gecko After The Fall
Even if they seem fine at first, you’ll want to keep a closer eye on your leo for a few days after the fall. Look for any changes in the way they move and significant changes in behavior.
Despite some sources suggesting that broken bones and injuries can be treated at home, if you see a limb injury in your leopard gecko it’s always best to take them to a veterinarian. And if you see signs of internal injury like labored breathing then it’s absolutely time to see the veterinarian.
4. Figure Out How To Prevent It In The Future
Even though leopard geckos are able to survive most falls, it’s definitely not something you want to make a habit of. So reflect on how it happened and what you think you can do to prevent it in the future.
If you’re struggling to keep a jump-happy leopard gecko under control, then start handling your leopard gecko over soft surfaces or on the couch so that if an accident does happen, it’s much less likely to cause a problem.
You’ll also want to brush up on your handling skills and this quick video does a great job explaining how to safely handle your leo:
Why Are Leopard Geckos Able To Fall From Such Heights And Survive?
Of course, we’re very happy that our leopard geckos are able to survive falls from heights but it does seem confusing still.
After all, if you only looked at the height of the fall compared to the size of the leopard gecko, it would seem like every leaping leo accident should result in a fatal fall.
But the height of the fall isn’t the only number that matters. Geneticist John Burdon Sanderson Haldane explains that what really matters is the leopard gecko’s air resistance relative to their weight. He explains that as a creature’s overall size decreases, its weight decreases at a much faster rate compared to its overall surface area. High surface area means that there’s still plenty of air resistance but low relative weight means that momentum isn’t as high.
I know, it’s a little confusing but all that really means is that the bigger you are in terms of weight, the faster you’ll fall and the more damage will be done as a result. Or as Haldane puts it, “You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at the bottom it gets a slight shock and walks away, provided that the ground is fairly soft. A rat is killed, a man is broken, a horse splashes.”
So it’s the combination of high surface area relative to weight that allows leopard geckos to safely survive falls and take very little fall damage.
What Increases The Risk Of Falls For Leopard Geckos?
Just because the little leopard gecko has a favorable weight to surface area ratio doesn’t mean they’re invincible and several factors can make falls riskier for leos.
Some Surfaces Are Safer Than Others
This one is a bit obvious but anything soft or cushioned is going to be a safer place to land after a fall.
But it doesn’t take a feather bed to make a difference and there’s a huge contrast in safety between a leopard gecko landing on carpet and linoleum. Use this to your advantage when handling your leo and make sure to stick around softer areas. This is especially important if you’re letting someone who’s a bit more inexperienced hold your leopard gecko.
How Leos Land Matters
When a leopard gecko jumps out of your hand or off your shoulder they’re usually moving through the air with their belly down. That’s ideal from a surface area perspective since it allows leopard geckos to produce the greatest amount of air resistance.
But if a leopard gecko falls (instead of jumps) it may end up going head first or landing directly on a limb or their head. These situations can lead to much worse outcomes and landing directly on their leg after a high fall is a recipe for injury and tragedy. Because leopard geckos don’t have a diaphragm, landing on their back can also be very problematic since they can’t breath without being upright.
There’s also the factor of what leopard geckos run into on the way down. Bumping into the corner of a table can be catastrophic but falling into something soft before hitting the floor could actually help. There are a lot of variables here and just another reason why it’s best to avoid falls in the first place.
Metabolic Bone Disease And Other Health Considerations
If your leopard gecko is already having health problems then a fall could make things much worse.
One of the biggest concerns is metabolic bone disease which is caused by a lack of vitamin D, usually as a result of a poor lighting setup. This deficiency can cause problems with calcium absorption and bone density which can lead to leopard gecko leg bones breaking more easily.
Keeping your leopard gecko healthy is already important but leos that are dealing with metabolic bone disease should never be allowed to jump or fall from any height. The impact is just too risky for already fragile bones.
It’s jarring the first time you see a leopard gecko decide to jump to the floor and it can be surprising just how fast these little lizards can run.
Unfortunately, it’s just part of keeping herps and while more experienced handlers know how to avoid it, if you’re just getting started it’s probably going to happen at some point. But thanks to their lightweight and relatively high surface area, leopard geckos can easily survive falls from 5 feet or more. Still, it’s not something you ever want to encourage because it can absolutely end in tragedy.
What do you think? Have you learned how to make sure your leo doesn’t fall during handling?