What kind of reptile lover are you?
Are you someone that likes to create the perfect enclosure and feed your herp from a safe distance or do you prefer to regularly handle your reptiles?
Maybe you’re even the person that dreams of running errands with a large snake draped around your neck or a little lizard riding shotgun on your shoulder?
If that sounds like you, then you’re in the right place as we review 10 of the most handleable reptiles that you can also keep as pets.
So what are the most handleable reptiles?
Leopard geckos, bearded dragons, and blue tongue skinks top the list of the most handlable lizards while ball pythons and corn snakes are some of the most handleable snakes available. Crested geckos, Ackie monitors, and red tail boas are also highly handlable reptiles for people that are looking for something a little different.
Let’s take a closer look at these handleable lizards and snakes with everything you need to know about each reptile! But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with what “handleable” really means!
What Makes A Reptile Handleable?
Most folks have a good idea of what they mean when they imagine a reptile to be handlable. For example, just because king cobras are small enough for most folks to manage, I wouldn’t exactly call them easy to handle!
Instead, we’re looking for the following characteristics:
We’re looking for reptiles that are small enough to be carried around but large enough to be hardy. Even though a boa imperator can make a great pet, they can also reach lengths of 10 feet or more which isn’t exactly easy to carry around.
On the other side of things, small lizards like green anoles are some of the smartest reptiles but they’re so small that they can be difficult to safely handle (at least without losing them). Luckily, there are hundreds of reptiles that fall within this range of sizes.
Low Chance Of Biting Or Causing Damage
Having a bearded dragon nibble your ear is one thing but getting bit by a large snake isn’t something we’re ready to tolerate. We’re looking for docile reptiles that aren’t quick to nip or bite. Additionally, we want to focus on reptiles that aren’t likely to cause serious damage if an accident occurs and they do end up biting.
This is not only important for adults but even more so if you’re looking for a kid-friendly reptile.
Shoulder Ready…Or At Least Easy To Carry
Reptiles like snakes are usually easy to drape over your shoulders or arms and many lizards (like leopard geckos and bearded dragons) are happy to sit on your shoulder and attach themselves via their claws. But other reptiles like turtles can be a little more awkward to carry.
On top of that, it’s much more normal for arboreal (or at least semi-arboreal) reptiles like boas to hang out on your shoulder. Turtles, on the other hand, aren’t going to be happy about flying around in your hands. For that reason, you aren’t going to see turtles make this list. Turtles may be easy to pick up and move but they’re still not exactly what most people mean when they talk about handleable reptiles.
We’re also going to focus on specific species that are happy to hang out with you. Some of the more inquisitive snakes may be friendly and docile but if they’re fast-moving and not interested in latching on to your arm then they’re going to be tougher to handle.
Easy To Care For
Even though it isn’t directly connected to handleability, we’re going to focus on reptiles that can make good pets for beginner to intermediate reptile keepers. We’ll throw in a few advance options but for the most part, any herper can handle these critters without a degree in herpetology.
10 Most Handleable Reptiles
Now that we know what we’re looking for let’s take a look at our favorite easy to handle reptiles.
1. Leopard Gecko
No one should be surprised to see leopard geckos at the top of this list!
Unlike some other reptiles on this list, leopard geckos don’t need nearly as much socialization before handling and their naturally docile personality makes them ready for shoulder time right out of the gate…or egg.
They will occasionally try to climb around a bit but they’ll also be perfectly happy to sit on your shoulder for hours at a time while you watch TV or go about your day. While they are on the small side, they can be surprisingly hardy when comes to falls which still makes them a solid choice for young children.
They can also lose their tail if they get in trouble. That could end up being terrifying to a child who’s not prepared but it’s overall a win for handleability as the leopard gecko has an escape plan for tough situations already.
Another plus is that these little lizards are small enough that you can safely and comfortably hand feed them mealworms and other small insects.
If you really want an interactive reptile, the leopard gecko probably isn’t a great choice and they aren’t well known for being especially smart so they’re usually quite content to just sit right where you put them.
What the leopard gecko lacks in brains, they make up for in beauty and these cute little reptiles come in a wide range of colors.
Still, it doesn’t get much easier than the leopard gecko not only in terms of care but also in general husbandry. So if having a little lizard riding shotgun on your shoulder sounds like a blast, then this could be the right reptile for you.
2. Bearded Dragon
A list of handlable reptiles wouldn’t be complete without the bearded dragon. After all, they’re one of the most popular reptiles for a reason, and these docile lizards are happy to sit on your shoulder all day.
Bearded dragons are significantly larger than their leopard gecko cousins at around 16 to 24 inches. That’s two to three times longer than leopard geckos and a bearded dragon’s extra size can make them hardier and easy to handle. The tougher scales and more durable exterior (compared to a leopard gecko) also help increase their overall handleability when it comes to both adults and children.
Even though these lizards look spikey (and they are) those spikes aren’t going to hurt you and instead, they make handling a beardie a bit more interesting by providing a unique texture. Bearded dragons can move quickly when they need to, but it’s unlikely that your beardie is going to do anything besides hang out exactly where you put them.
Because these lizards are a bit more durable, they can be a better fit for kids. However, the big downside (and the reason they’re the runner up) is that bearded dragons require more complex care than some other reptiles.
Even though they’re advertised are beginner reptiles, and they can be, they need UVB light and a varied diet to stay healthy. That sounds simple, but we’ve already seen how confusing UVA and UVB lighting can be if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
But if you can handle the care, it’s hard to beat a bearded dragon when it comes to handleability.
3. Ball Python
Ball pythons are the perfect handlable snake!
Ball pythons are big by most standards, with adults coming in between 4 to 6 feet in length but they’re still light enough to handle with a weight of less than 10 pounds. That may sound like a lot, but a ball python’s large size and slow movement make them much easier to hang onto than a smaller and faster snake.
Their size is also impressive but not terrifying and even though a reticulated python may be handlable, 16 feet of smart snake is too much for one person to handle. In other words, ball pythons find the perfect balance between impressive size and being easy to handle.
Ball pythons are constricting snakes, which means they wrap around their prey to subdue it. That may sound scary but the average ball python is much too small to constrict around humans, including children. Instead, their natural tendency to wrap becomes a benefit to handleability.
Ball pythons will definitely hold onto you, but it’s not going to be scary tight like you’ll experience with some other snakes. Additionally, because they’re only around 25 feet on average, you don’t need to worry about getting overwhelmed by a snake that’s a little too eager to give you a hug.
Still, ball pythons may be larger than other reptiles you’ve handled in the past and it’s worth brushing up on your skills before diving in. This video does a great job reviewing the basics of handling a ball python:
Ball pythons are also very reluctant to bite, which is exactly what you’d want from a snake this size.
However, there’s a big leap in husbandry requirements between the hardy little leopard gecko and a 6-foot ball python so even though these snakes are easy for the beginner to handle, their care is best suited to the intermediate keeper. Or a beginner that has enough time, money, and motivation to do it right.
For starters, these snakes will need a much bigger enclosure than the lizards we’ve looked at! On top of that, ball pythons can be finicky eaters so you’ll need to be ready to navigate a meal plan for a potentially picky python. A snake that doesn’t want to eat can be very stressful for any reptile keeper but especially challenging for a first time herper.
But if you’re ready to take care of the big ball python, they’re a very rewarding and easy-to-handle snake!
4. African Fat Tailed Gecko
At first glance, you might think that this little gecko guy with the fat tail is simply a morph of a leopard gecko. But instead, the African fat tailed gecko is a completely different, although just as docile, species of gecko.
These geckos have all the same pros and cons of their leopard gecko cousins but they do require a bit more humidity which can complicate care and earns them a spot a little lower on this list.
So why go for the African fat tail instead of another lizard?
The main reason is to be unique and these lizards are a let less common than some of the others on this list. That means you can get all the handleability of a leopard gecko but with a more unique style!
5. Dumeril’s Boa
We’ve included another boa on this list and the Dumeril’s boa is quite comparable to the ball python, although they can average slightly longer. As another constricting snake, they will hang onto you but not so much that you’ll start to get nervous about it.
What makes the Durmeril’s boa an interesting addition to this list is that they’ll typically move around a bit more than some other snakes but not so much that they’ll be difficult to handle. They’re still slow-moving and laid back but inquisitive enough to make handling them interesting. Especially for folks that find the ball python to be a little boring.
If you’re interested in a reptile that’s going to just relax, or even fall asleep, on your shoulder then the lizards at the top of the list are a better fit. But if you’re looking for an impressive snake that will almost interact with whatever you’re doing, then the Dumeril’s boa could be a great choice.
Dumeril’s boas are a little less interested in climbing trees or exploring elevation in their enclosure which can make caring for them a bit easier to care for. They’ll still need a large enclosure and are still considered semi-arboreal but in my experience, these snakes aren’t especially interested in climbing trees. Additionally, Dumeril’s boa doesn’t need as much humidity as some other boas which can make them easier to care for depending on where you live.
I’ve also found that while the Dumeril’s boa is popular, they aren’t as well known as some other species so if this snake is new to you, it’s worth checking out this quick video that covers everything you need to know:
6. Blue Tongued Skink
I’ve seen dozens of herpetoculture enthusiasts say that handling a blue tongued skink is like handling a potato- and I’d have to agree.
Well, if a potato had scales and a little blue tongue that occasionally popped out. But beyond those differences, they’re quite similar to potatoes!
In all seriousness, blue tongued skinks are round, plump, and inquisitive lizards that aren’t suited for sitting on your shoulder but they’ll be quite content to be carried around your home while you go about your day.
It’s rare that these lizards bite and in most cases, it will be proceeded by plenty of warning hisses that you’d have to completely ignore before this lizard bites (with mealtime being the notable exception). They do have small claws but one look at their little legs and you can see how difficult it will be for a blue tongue skink to use their tiny claws in any dangerous way.
In addition to being easy to handle, blue tongued skinks are just fun to interact with.
Watching them move is interesting on its as they get around with something between a slither and a walk with their belly on the ground. Their distinctive blue tongue regularly pops out and you can tell that these lizards are interested in what’s going on around them. But they’re still slow enough that they’re not going to get away or get lost while they explore.
As a large lizard, they’re hardy enough to handle without worry about hurting them though you absolutely would not want to drop this hefty lizard.
The blue tongued skink also earns bonus points for its easy care. Most of their diet can be acquired at the grocery store and as long as you take care of basics like basking spots, water, space, and supplying an appropriate substrate these skinks will be happy.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that there are two types of blue tongued skinks out there: Northern and Indonesian. When it comes to handleability, northern blue tongued skinks are much easy to handle as they’re primarily captive bred. So make sure you understand which type of blue tongue skink you have on your hands before making a purchase.
7. Crested Gecko
If you like leopard geckos but are looking for something a little more unusual and a bit more active, then the similarly sized created gecko could be a good pick.
Coming in at only around 5 inches in length, the crested gecko is the smallest reptile on this list. While the leopard gecko will be happy to go into “rock mode” on your shoulder, you should expect quite a bit more activity from the crested gecko. These lizards will hop around and happily climb up your arms and up your shoulder. That means you’ll need to be a bit more mindful when handling them and pay attention to their little hops.
If you have some experience handling herps, the extra activity can be a good thing and these little guys can be much more entertaining to interact with. Folks that are just getting started handling reptiles will quickly learn how to handle these springy little guys but the small crested gecko isn’t always a good fit for younger children.
But hopping around and exploring aren’t the only things that make these reptiles interesting to handle. They also have sticky feet that are definitely noticeable but never uncomfortable. Instead, they’re a novel feeling in the world of reptile handling.
I’m also a big fan of their semi-prehensile tails which they can use to hang onto things. Again, this makes the handling experience a lot more interesting but just know that they can also drop their tails so don’t count on carrying your crested gecko around by their prehensile tail!
Caring for these little guys is pretty straightforward but they will need daily (usually twice daily) misting to stay healthy. That may be a little different than what you’re used to depending on the other reptiles you keep but once you get into the routine, it isn’t a problem.
If you’d like to learn more about exactly what I mean when I say these little lizards can be springy, check out this video on handling crested geckos which does a great job showing off the best ways to interact with these little lizards:
8. Red Tail Boas
For folks that find the ball pythons or Dumeril’s boa to be too small for their tastes, we’ve included the red tail boa. These snakes are quite a bit larger at roughly 8 to 9 feet long and weigh around 25 pounds.
That’s a lot of snake which means the red tail boa isn’t a good choice for inexperienced keepers. But if you want a big snake that’s still easy to handle, the red tail boa may be for you.
In terms of temperament, you can expect a red tail boa to be more interested in exploring the world than a ball python and for some handlers, that’s going to be preferred.
These snakes aren’t just going to placidly sit on your shoulders until you place them back into their enclosure. Instead, the red tail boa will move around your body and engage with the world around them. That makes for a much more active handling experience that some folks will prefer.
These snakes are large, but not so large that you have to worry about being injured- at least for most folks. Outside of a mealtime miscommunication, it’s unusual for these snakes to be aggressive and while they are quite inquisitive they’re also pretty laid back.
Husbandry and care requirements are straightforward and the red tail boa doesn’t need anything too extreme- except of course for their enclosure and you’ll need to be prepared for a large enclosure to accommodate this big snake. Hopefully, that goes without saying.
Overall, if you’re looking for a large and very handlable snake but don’t want to go into giant snake territory, like a reticulated python or a burmese, then the red tail boa is a great option. Inquistive, laid back, mostly easy to care for and certainly easy to handle, this big boa is one of my favorite reptiles!
9. Corn Snake
We’ve looked at quite a few big snakes so far so now it’s time to look at something a little smaller!
Corn snakes are one of the easiest reptiles to care for and are frequently listed as one of the best starter snakes for beginner reptile keepers. They can grow in length to over 5 feet, but most will end up around 3 or so feet long. Corn snakes are also a great deal lighter and thinner than the boas and pythons that we’ve already looked at.
But their small size is both a pro and a con in terms of handlablity and young corn snakes may be too small (and therefore fragile) for children to handle. Smaller snakes will also take more attention to handle and you won’t able to do it as a sort of background task like you can with a big ball python.
Additionally, corn snakes are quite active and you should expect them to be exploring almost the entire time you’re handling them. Again, this could be a pro or a con depending on what you’re looking for. Handling an active snake is exactly what some folks are looking for while others may want to lay back on the couch with their ball python just slowly slithering.
However, these snakes aren’t too small which makes them a better choice over smaller and even faster snakes like the hognose snake.
And as you’d expect from a snake that’s frequently cited as one of the best for beginners, the corn snake is extremely easy to care for and doesn’t need much more than weekly feeding and a steady water supply. Unlike ball pythons which can be very finicky eaters, corn snakes are happy to chow down which makes the entire care process a lot easier.
If you’re looking for a small snake that’s still hefty enough for easy handling, the corn snake can make a great option. But just make sure you’re up for an active explorer!
10. Ackie Monitor
Ackie Monitors may not be the first lizards you think of when we start talking about handleability but these hardy lizards have a lot going for them and they’re your best choice for handleability when it comes to the super smart monitor lizard family.
Compared to most monitor lizards, the Ackie Monitor is quite small at around 24 to 30 inches, but a large part of that length includes their powerful tail which makes these lizards relatively compact. Their small size can make them a bit more fragile than large lizards like the blue tongued skink but it also means that their claws are small enough to be comfortable when handling.
The Ackie monitor is best for a handler that prefers an active reptile and these lizards will usually be quick to explore everything around them- including your head!
Unlike a few of the other lizards on this list, the Ackie monitor doesn’t drop its tail so if a detached, wiggling tail isn’t your thing then this could be the lizard for you.
When it comes to temperament, Ackie monitors are inquisitive but calm- both traits that make them a great lizard for someone who prefers a more active and interactive handling experience.
Still, Ackie monitors are a bit more likely to bite than the other lizards on this list, which is why we’ve put them toward the bottom. Experienced handlers shouldn’t have a problem not getting nipped but beginners may need a little practice reading their Ackie monitor’s mood.
Ackie monitors will need to eat more frequently than many other reptiles and many will do best with daily feeding. For some folks, that can make keeping this reptile more fun but other may prefer the weekly feeding schedule that comes with other reptiles.
If you love the idea of a monitor lizard but you’re looking for one that’s smaller and more handlable, the Ackie monitor could be a great choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s take care of the most common questions we’ve received about handleable reptiles!
What Is The Most Handleable Snake?
While there are many handleable snakes, the best option for most people is the ball python. These snakes are docile, slow-moving, and large but still small enough for one person to comfortably manage. However, their care is more complex compared to smaller snakes so they’re best suited for more experienced keepers.
What Is The Most Handleable Lizard?
The most handlable lizards are either leopard geckos or bearded dragons. Both lizards are very docile, easy to handle to widely available. The leopard gecko is a little smaller and so needs slightly more delicate handling compared to the bearded dragon. But the bearded dragon’s care can be a little more complex.
What Is The Cuddliest Reptile?
Many reptiles could be considered cuddly but when it comes to lizards the bearded dragon is a good pick. While he may seek out cuddles from you, he’ll be happy to receive your snuggles. When it comes to snakes, the ball python is large snake that’s easy to handle and happy to cuddle with you!
Our favorite reptiles when it comes to handlablity! I know there are some that didn’t make this list but with so many potential pet reptiles out there we had to be quite picky with which ones we selected.
What do you think? Have you found your new favorite reptile or do you think we missed an easy-to-handle reptile that should have made the list?