Once you get your first pet reptile, you’ll probably be hooked forever. But, if you’ve ever been bitten, you might think twice about which pet reptile you choose. Some of them are definitely more likely to bite you than others are. So, how do you know which reptiles aren’t going to bite you?
Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of 14 reptiles that don’t bite.
Realistically, all reptiles have the potential to bite you. But based on size, temperament, and situation, some are way less inclined to bite than others. Animals like ball pythons, leopard geckos, and sulcata tortoises have alternative defensive mechanisms besides biting and won’t usually chomp on you.
This article will talk about each of our non-biting reptiles in depth. We’ll discuss why they made the list and what they might do instead of bite.
If It Has A Mouth, It Can Bite!
Before we get begin talking about specific animals, we want to make one thing clear.
No matter how much trust you have in your pet, how docile they are, or if they haven’t bitten you in 50 years, they still might bite you. Anything with a mouth can bite you. The possibility is always there even if the bite is accidental.
Reptiles are especially notorious for biting hands when they mistake them for food. This is sort of a separate issue because hand biting is a mistake and is an owner error. If a reptile smells its food on your hands, they’re definitely going to mistake you for food. You can avoid that situation by feeding food on a plate or with tongs and always washing your hand before you handle your pet.
Besides food smells, there are some other things that make a reptile more likely to bite.
What Determines If A Reptile Will Bite?
There are a few factors that you can consider when wondering if a reptile will bite and how much damage it’ll do. These factors can help you to make your own informed decision on whether or not you think your pet is likely to bite.
Body Size and Tooth Size
Body size and tooth size affect how serious a bite from your pet can be.
In general, both large and small reptiles can bite, and reptiles with large or small teeth will bite. But, you’re going to be more worried and need to pay more attention to a bite from a large reptile with big teeth. If you’re worried at all about biting, you’ll want to avoid any animals that can cause your serious harm.
Temperament and Defensiveness
The temperament of an animal describes what its personality is like. Are they relaxed and docile or are they high energy and quick to react?
Temperament is usually similar within species of animals. You can expect many bearded dragons to act the same way. Temperament is also affected by an animal’s defensive instincts. Is your reptile a fight or a flight kind of pet? If your reptile chooses to flee in the wild, you won’t have to worry about biting as a reflex. But, if your pet is a natural fighter, biting might be their first line of defense.
Environmental factors can play a part in the probability of your reptile biting.
For example, animals at a shelter are more likely to bite because they’re in a novel high-stress situation. At home, these animals are more relaxed and less likely to bite. If your reptile’s living situation is stressing them out, they’re going to be more likely to lash out. Improper temperature and humidity can cause reptiles to become agitated and annoyed.
14 Reptiles That (Probably) Won’t Bite You
Instead of worrying about what to do if a reptile bites you, let’s talk about reptiles that probably aren’t going to bite you at all! Our list is divided into different groups of reptiles (and amphibians). Remember that anything with a mouth can bite and different groups of animals will be forced into biting for different reasons.
Now, here are 14 pets that don’t bite (most of the time).
With pet snakes, the biggest cause of biting is usually mistaking your hand for their food.
Snakes don’t see with their eyes. Depending on the snake, they use heat vision and their amazing sense of smell to track prey. Snakes can smell and taste things just by sticking their tongue into the air. If your hand is covered in the scent of their food, there’s a chance it’s going to look like a big meal to a snake. It’s warm and smells like prey.
Besides biting out of confusion for food, the following snakes are very unlikely to bite you.
1. Ball Python
Ball pythons are one of the best pet snakes for beginner reptile keepers. They’re also a snake that almost never bites. Ball pythons get their name from the tight ball shape they make with their bodies. They form themselves into a ball as a defensive mechanism to keep their organs safe from predators. It’s one of the reasons why these snakes curl up so much.
So, if your ball python feels threatened, they’re probably just going to ball up and won’t bite unless they’re striking at food.
2. Western Hognose Snake
Western hognose snakes are adorable flat-faced snakes that are common pets. These snakes are very unlikely to bite because they have a ton of other defensive mechanisms that they use. When threatened or stressed out, western hognoses will huff and puff and they might even falsely strike at you. Usually, when a western hognose strikes defensively they just head butt something. Their first reaction isn’t to bite.
This snake will even flatten their neck muscles to appear more cobra-like and intimidating to threats rather than attack them. They’ll do almost anything to avoid conflict!
3. Rosy Boa
Rosy boas are interesting snakes that like to lie low. These snakes are known as sneak attackers and only strike from underground burrows. When you’re handling a rosy boa, never reach into a burrow to grab them. You should always try to pick them up when they’re above ground. If you follow that rule, this should be yet another snake species that doesn’t bite!
4. Garter Snake
Garter snakes are small thin omnivorous snakes that can be super entertaining pets. Because of their size, these snakes hunt small animals. They’re also prey items for a lot of larger animals. Instead of fighting off a predator, these snakes will turn and slither away as fast as they can. So, if you accidentally spook your garter snake, you won’t have to worry about getting bit.
5. African Egg-Eating Snake
The last snake on our list is the African egg-eating snake. These snakes are named appropriately and truly do only eat eggs. One of the best things about these snakes is that they don’t have any teeth! As you can see in the video above, these snakes swallow eggs whole. So, if you’re looking for a snake that you won’t need to feed whole animals to, this is the winner! Plus, a bite from this snake won’t cause any damage other than giving you a good scare.
Lizards are tougher than they look. Some of the smallest pet lizards are actually some of the most aggressive ones. And lizard bites can really hurt! These reptiles tend to have sharp and pointy teeth. Luckily, the next 5 lizards we’ll discuss won’t be the ones to take a bite out of you!
6. Leopard Gecko
Leopard geckos are one of the easiest pet reptiles to handle and hold. They’re in the number one spot on our list of the 10 most handleable pet reptiles. These lizards are small and docile and tend to have chill personalities. One of the best things about these lizards is that they don’t bite to defend themselves. Instead, they’ll just drop their tail!
That’s right, if a leopard gecko is running away from a threat and feels overly tense its tail will literally fall off of its body. It’s one of the reasons why you should never grab this pet by the tail. On the plus side, it means that leopard geckos just aren’t wired to fight back and will almost always end up running away instead!
So, your leopard gecko is more likely to bite themselves than you (depending on the context of course.)
7. Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons have huge personalities. Luckily, these reptiles don’t usually bite people or other beardies. Instead, these dramatic lizards will put on a show. When threatened, they huff and puff. They blow air into their necks and the skin under their chin (beard area) might even turn black. This is why they’re called bearded dragons!
Bearded dragons often show when they’re upset by making themselves appear more intimidating. sometimes, these animals might even play dead when trying to avoid a sticky situation! The odds of being bit by a bearded dragon are so low. You’re honestly more likely to be poked by one of the spines on their neck than anything else!
8. Crested Gecko
Crested geckos react to stressful situations in the same way that leopard geckos do. These tiny lizards are docile and submissive. They will drop their tails when threatened rather than turn around and fight a predator.
9. Blue-Tongued Skink
It seems like we’re using the words “huff” and “puff” a lot in this article, but that’s because so many non-biters make these sounds. Blue-tongued skinks are yet another lizard that will huff and puff toward a threat instead of biting at them. These lizards aren’t naturally aggressive but will make a lot of noise when they’re upset.
10. Rudis Chameleon
Have you ever seen a mad chameleon? It’s kind of scary! Chameleons usually move very slowly and can be aggressive in their own way when intimidated.
Rudis chameleons are some of the least aggressive chameleons. When they’re feeling uneasy, these animals will usually hiss and gape their mouth wide open. Chameleons aren’t great animals for people who like to handle their pets. They don’t seem to enjoy human company and really prefer to have something like a stick or a branch to hold onto.
Turtles And Tortoises
Usually, when you think about reptile bites, snakes are the first animals to come to mind. However, a bite from a turtle or tortoise might actually be the worst kind of all.
Turtle and tortoise mouths are different from many other reptiles. They have a sharp keratinous structure called a beak. This beak is the pointy part of their mouth and can cause serious damage. You never want to stick your finger or hand in front of a turtle or tortoise’s face. Obviously, some turtles like snapping turtles are more ready to bite than others.
The two animals we’ll talk about below have been chosen because of their temperaments but if you are unlucky enough to receive a bite from one of these, you’ll probably need medical attention!
11. Russian Tortoise
Russian tortoises are one of the best species of domesticated tortoises. These animals are super chill and have laid-back personalities, even for a tortoise! Russian tortoises in the wild can be described as having a boring routine to study. When threatened, these guys are highly likely to hide away inside their shells.
You won’t need to worry about a sudden surprising bite from a Russian tortoise.
12. African Sulcata Tortoise
Sulcata tortoises are one of the biggest pet reptiles you can have! Sulcata tortoises have personalities and have been known to form bonds with owners. These reptiles would spend most of their lives digging, eating, and burrowing if they could.
Sulcatas can be surprisingly aggressive towards other tortoises. When males fight over territory, they’ll pull their heads into their shells and ram each other with their hard scutes. Sulcata tortoises never bite as a way to attack another animal. If your sulcata feels upset or threatened, they’ll probably retreat inside their shell and hiss. What they won’t do is run towards you with a mouth ready for biting!
Although amphibians aren’t reptiles, many reptile lovers also love amphibians. It’s worth mentioning that frogs do bite. Frogs actually bite a lot more than people realize. Plus, most people shouldn’t handle most frogs outside of specific situations. Amphibians have a very delicate skin barrier layer and can absorb chemicals that reside on your hands.
That being said, the next two frogs are frogs that you can be pretty sure wouldn’t bite a child’s hand if they stuck it into an enclosure.
13. African Dwarf Frog
African dwarf frogs are aquatic pets that can be a great addition to a home. These amphibians are incredibly active and can usually be seen swimming around in their tank. When resting, these frogs will float and blow bubbles at the surface of the water.
Because these frogs are so small and fast, their best defense is always to run away. They’re skittish and you’ll have a hard time getting your hand near them. If you’re looking to avoid a bite from a new pet, these might be a good option for you!
14. American Green Tree Frog
American green tree frogs made our list of reptiles that don’t bite because they’re incredibly docile amphibians. These frogs spend a lot of time sitting in their terrariums and look like they have a permanent smile on their face! Tree frogs aren’t typically aggressive and also shouldn’t be handled much at all. Unlike some other reptiles, these animals don’t enjoy handling and might end up hurting themselves if picked up.
What To Do If You’re Bitten By Your Pet Reptile
If you are bitten by your pet reptile it’s not the end of the world!
Since it’s your pet, you already know what kind of reptile they are and whether or not they’re venomous. If for some reason you are bitten by a venomous reptile, go to the hospital ASAP so you can receive anti-venom. Otherwise, you can likely manage your bite wound at home.
Often the initial shock and swelling of the bite are worse that the wound itself. From most pet reptiles, you’ll probably end up with a few marks on your arm or hand. If the wound seems minimal, you can wash it at home with antibacterial soap and cover it with antibacterial ointment. If you feel like the bite is deep or dirty, you can always see a doctor to make sure that it’s not going to become infected.
If an animal has a mouth, it can bite you! But, that doesn’t mean they will. There are plenty of pet reptiles that are docile and tend to run rather than bite their handler- and they’re not always what you’d expect. Either way, you should always take steps to reduce your pet’s stress.
Plus, you should consider the safety of the situation you and your pet are in because an animal that never bites still could bute if they are pushed to it! As long as you’re careful, the pets on our list should be safe additions to your home.