When we think of forming an emotional bond with a pet, most of us think of a dog or a cat. After all, dogs are considered man’s best friend due to their ability to build a loyal connection with their humans.
But what about something a little more exotic?
Reptiles can make lovable pets as well, and some reptile owners swear their scaly companions show them affection in their own quirky ways.
So, that leads us to the question: What are the most affectionate reptiles?
Bearded Dragons, Leopard Geckos, and Chinese Water Dragons are among the friendliest and most sociable reptile pets. Blue-Tongued Skinks and Corn Snakes have also proven to be very docile companions. If you’re looking for something bigger, Argentine Black and White Tegus, Ball Pythons, and some Tortoise species are known to enjoy human interaction too.
Below we’ll dive deeper into some of these and how you can build a trusting bond with your reptile. But first, let’s explore if reptiles are actually capable of expressing affection.
Are There Any Affectionate Reptiles?
While we know reptiles are able to experience certain emotions like fear, aggression, and even pleasure, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to suggest they can experience more complex emotions like love and affection.
From an evolutionary perspective, reptiles’ brains are wired to primarily focus on primitive instincts such as breeding, survival, and finding food.
That’s why some believe they only tolerate us as a food source or for the warmth of our skin.
But it’s also widely believed that some reptiles are able to recognize and build a trusting bond with their owners, at least to some degree.
This could look like your reptile coming to you willingly, being content while lying across your body, or closing its eyes while you gently scratch its head.
So, even though we can’t say reptiles have the most sentimental nature, with proper socialization, they can learn to trust in human interaction and even grow to enjoy it.
Now let’s get into our list of the most affectionate reptiles…
8 Most Affectionate Reptiles
Ever wonder what the friendliest reptiles are? Below is a list of reptiles that are known to show the most affection!
1. Bearded Dragon
Maybe you’ve seen one dancing across the window of its enclosure as if to get your attention at a pet store, or riding around on its owner’s shoulders while out running errands.
They seem to truly enjoy human interaction.
As they get to know you, beardies may display affection by showing excitement when they see you, bobbing their head gently at you, or relaxing and even falling asleep on your body.
If they feel safe and comfortable with you, they may prefer to spend more time outside of their cage with you than to be left alone.
2. Leopard Gecko
Leopard geckos are one of the easiest reptiles to care for and make wonderful family-friendly pets.
Their small size and docile nature allow for easy handling, and their playful and curious personalities add to their charm. With their big eyes and perpetual grins, it’s hard not to fall in love with these adorable little critters.
Leopard geckos that have grown to trust you can show affection by willingly approaching you and walking onto your hand. You might notice them give you a little lick or even close their eyes when being stroked, which could be a sign that they are enjoying your physical touch.
Just be careful when handling your leopard gecko not to grab or tug on their tail, or they may drop it! But don’t worry if it does happen, because they will grow it back.
3. Chinese Water Dragon
Chinese water dragons, also known as Asian water dragons, are a friendlier alternative to iguanas and can make for great scaly companions!
One reason for this is that they’re very social and full of personality. With frequent handling, they can grow to be quite tame and enjoy interacting with their owners outside of their enclosure.
They also love to explore their surroundings and are fun and entertaining reptiles to watch.
Content Chinese water dragons may lay across their owners with a relaxed and comfortable body posture. If they’re in the mood to show affection, they might seek out and climb up on their owners for attention.
Some Chinese water dragons even enjoy being scratched under their chins or along their spines and will actually lean in for more. If that doesn’t indicate their ability to be affectionate, I don’t know what does!
4. Blue-Tongued Skink
Blue-tongued skinks landed on this list for a few reasons: their calm and friendly nature makes them one of the easiest reptiles to handle, and they’re known to recognize and form special bonds with their owners.
Whether getting things done around the house or lounging on the couch, blue-tongued skinks can be perfectly happy just hanging out with their owners. In fact, some owners say their skinks will curl up on their chest or cuddle up to them under a warm blanket while watching tv.
You might also notice your little skink interacting with you if you see them watching you in their enclosure and waiting for you to take them out.
If wandering around your house, they might nuzzle up to your legs or you may even find them laying on an article of clothing that smells like you. (Awww!)
Overall, blue-tongue skinks are very tamable and a great choice for a reptile that seemingly embraces and engages in affection.
5. Corn Snake
In the snake family, corn snakes are one of the more popular snakes to keep that can form a bond with their owners once they get used to being regularly handled.
The simplest but most obvious way they may demonstrate that bond is by being comfortable when held and not showing signs of stress. If a snake that is being held is calm and relaxed, it usually means that the snake is content with being handled.
Corn snakes may also move to the front of their enclosure when they see you in the room, and may even crawl onto your hand or arm when approached, which can be a sign of trust.
6. Argentine Black And White Tegu
Another dog-like lizard is the Argentine Black and White Tegu. And I don’t just mean dog-like as in their behavior, but also in their size. These reptiles can grow to be almost 5 feet in length!
Adult Argentine Tegus are well known for their mild temperaments and ability to respond well to handling. If socialized frequently enough, they can become very friendly and social. They’re highly intelligent too, and can even be trained to be housebroken.
One way Argentine Tegus might show affection to their owner is by seeking out physical contact. They might approach their owner to lay in their lap or climb up onto their back, shoulders, or arms.
They can also learn to associate their owner with positive experiences, like receiving food or treats, and become excited and energized when they see them.
As long as you can tolerate their large size, Tegus can make a friendly and affectionate reptile companion.
7. Ball Python
Ball pythons are one of the more commonly kept snakes due to their mild temperament and because they are also one of the easiest reptiles to handle.
Much like the corn snake, with frequent socialization, ball pythons will grow to bond with their owners, and even learn to enjoy being handled.
Have you ever seen a ball python calmly draped around its keeper’s shoulders?
A ball python that is comfortable with its owner will be at ease in their presence, slithering slowly around them, with an occasional flick of the tongue.
This docile and friendly behavior makes them a popular choice for snake owners looking for an affectionate and slithery friend.
Though they may not look very cuddly, tortoises have been known to seek out their owners for positive interactions. For that reason, I’m adding these gentle giants to the list.
There have been many stories from tortoise owners over the years who claim to enjoy relationships with their tortoises like they would a dog or a cat.
Their tortoises might follow them around the yard, seek them out for treats, or approach them to be petted.
I personally know someone whose Sulcata Tortoise comes running to him for “back scratches” when he sees his owner in the backyard. It’s the cutest thing!
But while that might sound cute, it’s important to remember that different tortoise species require different levels of care and commitment. So, as with any pet, it’s recommended to do some research first to find out which species is right for you before considering getting a tortoise.
What Is The Friendliest Lizard?
When it comes to lizards, and reptiles in general the concept of love might seem quite alien, but research done by Dr. Sharman Hoppes has shown that not only do reptiles recognize people who frequently handle and feed them, but they also like some people more than others.
But which lizard is the most affectionate?
Well, there’s a reason why the bearded dragon was at the top of our list and that’s because it’s the friendliest lizard. While bearded dragons may not like being around other beardies they certainly enjoy the company of their fellow humans.
Many owners can attest to their bearded dragon’s friendly nature but don’t expect it to happen overnight, you’ll still have to earn their trust. Once you do, you’ll have a scaly friend that will climb all over you!
Should You Worry If Your Reptile Is Not Affectionate?
Since reptiles don’t have the capacity for forming emotional connections with humans in the way that dogs and cats do, there’s no need to worry if your reptile doesn’t show you affection in the way you might expect.
Like any other animal, reptiles have individual personalities and temperaments, so you might just have to adjust your expectations when it comes to interacting with them.
Sometimes their feisty little personalities are part of their charm!
It is worth pointing out, however, that despite their tamable nature, these creatures still derive from wild animals, so their behavior may not always be predictable.
It’s essential to handle your reptile safely and to respect their needs and boundaries to maintain a positive relationship with your pet.
Ways To Build Trust With Your Reptile
It takes time and patience to build trust with a reptile, but there are some things you can do (preferably in this order) to establish a positive relationship with your pet:
Adopt A Baby Reptile
If you can, adopt your reptile as a baby or juvenile. It’s much easier to bond with a reptile as it grows from a young age than as an adult which may not have been handled very much in its life.
Create The Right Environment
Provide a safe and secure environment that meets your reptile’s specific needs. This will help them to feel more comfortable and at ease, making it easier to bond with them.
Spend Time With Your Reptile
Once your reptile has had time to settle in, allow them to get used to your presence. Simply spending time in the same room as your reptile by reading a book or watching tv will help them get used to having you around and seeing movement outside of their enclosure.
Treat Your Reptile
Offer food and treats to your reptile by hand. This is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to get them used to having you close by and to associate you with a positive interaction.
Start Handling Your Reptile
Once they’re used to you, handle your reptile regularly. Consistent and gentle handling will help to “tame” your reptile and allow them to become more comfortable around you.
Respect Your Reptile’s Boundaries
Avoid forcing interactions or handling your reptile when they don’t seem to be in the mood. Give them space when needed and try again at a later time.
If you’d like to learn more about bonding with your reptile, check out this helpful video that covers responsible handling and trust-building in depth:
Reptiles are not typically affectionate animals, but this doesn’t mean they’re unable to form any type of connection with their humans or enjoy human interaction.
With proper handling and socialization, they can learn to respond to and interact with their owners in interesting ways, and can make fascinating and rewarding pets for those who appreciate their unique qualities and behaviors.