Why Do Leopard Geckos Bite? (And Does It Really Hurt)?

Why Do Leopard Geckos Bite

Without a doubt, leopard geckos are one of the cutest pet reptiles you can find. These lizards are super small, have interesting skin patterns, and are very docile. Even though leopard geckos are known for their easy handling and calm temperaments, any reptile can bite.  Although leopard geckos aren’t prone to biting it can still happen.

So, why do leopard geckos bite? And does it hurt?

Just like any other animal leopard geckos will bite if they have to. Though it’s not common, leopard geckos may bite when they’re feeling scared, surprised, when they’re hurt, or if they’ve mistaken your hand for food. Luckily leopard gecko bites aren’t especially painful or dangerous.

This article will talk about why leopard geckos bite, and we’ll talk about how to prevent that from happening and what to do if you are bitten. First, we’ll talk a little bit about why leopard geckos aren’t prone to biting in the first place.

Do Leopard Geckos Bite?

Leopard geckos are one of the pet reptiles that bite the least.  They’re notoriously easy to handle and slow to upset.

However, like many other pet reptiles that don’t usually bite, leopard geckos will bite in desperate situations. If an exotic pet is pushed to the limit it will do just about anything to escape that situation.

This is why keeping exotic pets can be dangerous for owners who don’t understand them because even though they might seem sweet and calm they are still animals at the end of the day.

The leopard geckos will bite if needed, they’re much more likely to do something else when stressed. In the wild leopard geckos have a different sort of defense mechanism and we’ll talk about that now.

What Is A Leopard Gecko’s Normal Defense Mechanism?

In the wild, leopard geckos have two main defense mechanisms. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that biting isn’t one of them.

The first method of defense for a leopard gecko is camouflage. Geckos often live in rocky, desert-like terrains. You can probably already imagine how well a leopard gecko might blend in on a sandy surface with rocks.

Leopard geckos are predators but there are also plenty of things that are hunting for them too. The best way for a leopard gecko to survive in the harsh desert climate is to avoid detection in the first place. If detected a leopard gecko might then make weird chirping noises and puff up their throat to scare a predator off.

The second method of defense for a leopard gecko how to do with its tail. Leopard geckos possess caudal autonomy, which means that they can control the end portion of their body. Where am I going with us?

Well, when they’re in a sticky situation leopard geckos can actually drop their tails off of their body. The idea here is that the leopard gecko can make a quick getaway and escape with their life. The detached portion of the tail remains behind to distract and entertain the predator that the gecko just escaped from.

Dropping a tail is still stressful for a leopard gecko because they immediately lose the fat stores they were keeping there. Almost immediately the tail will start to regenerate but it won’t look exactly the same as the original tail.

If your leopard gecko has dropped their tail while under your care that’s a bad sign. It means that you stressed them out to the point where they felt like that was their only way to escape.

Do Leopard Geckos Bite When Hungry?

Geckos have so many other defense mechanisms they use before biting.

One situation that might make a leopard gecko more body is if they’re hungry. When I gecko is hungry they’re thinking about eating food with their mouths.

Obviously, a hungry animal might be more likely to take a bite out of you than a full and satisfied animal. But just because a leopard gecko’s hungry doesn’t mean it will bite you. It just might make the odds a little higher.

Reasons Why Leopard Geckos Might Bite

When geckos bite in captivity it usually means that something’s wrong. Biting is something a gecko will truly only do if they’re feeling extreme emotions or extreme confusion.

We’ll talk about some of the reasons why your leopard gecko might be biting now.

Reason 1: They Think You’re Food

One of the most common things that makes a leopard gecko bite is confusion.  In this instance, we’re talking about the confusion between your hand and their food.

Unfortunately, it can be very easy for your animal to mistake your fingers for food during feeding time. Leopard geckos are insectivores. This means that they eat mainly bugs for their main meals.

Ironically many of these bugs are skin-colored. Ranging from very pale to dark brown, it could be easy for your gecko to mix up your hand with something they’re supposed to eat.

What can make this confusion even more profound is hand feeding. Hand feeding is a great way to bond with your gecko. Unfortunately, hand feeding leads to confusion around you and your pet’s food.

If you’re hand-feeding your gecko and it bit you, you really can’t blame them. They’ve already formed an association between your hand and food. During feeding time your gecko senses are hyperactive and yes they may accidentally bite your finger.

The easiest way to avoid this max up is to feed your pet with tongs. Tong feeding can be tricky but once you learn how to do it right it saves you and your gecko the struggle that can arise from hand feeding.

Reason 2: You’ve Surprised Them

Did you know that leopard geckos are nocturnal?

In the wild, leopard geckos spend their days sleeping and trying to stay cool. At night they become more active and hunt and socialize.

In captivity, leopard geckos may adopt a more diurnal sleeping pattern. However, this doesn’t mean that your gecko is going to be 100% awake and active during the day. Your gecko may deeply sleep or take multiple naps throughout the day.

If you pick your leopard gecko up and they’re sleeping you might really startle them. Surprising a pet is never a good idea and can often lead to unwanted injuries.

Even though your leopard gecko doesn’t want to bite you it just might be their first instinct if they’re woken up out of sleep. When your gecko is sleeping they’re vulnerable and any sort of shock might cause them to act differently than they normally would.

This is why we always recommend moving slowly with your pet leopard gecko.

Reason 3: They’re Scared Or Stressed

In captivity, our pets are completely safe from danger.  But, they don’t have any way of knowing that. Leopard geckos can still get scared in captivity.  Plus, if something isn’t right with your leo’s environment they might become stressed and agitated.

What could scare your gecko?

Changes to your pet’s environment are something that can set your pet on edge. A new rock or water dish might not seem like a big deal to you, but it can set your gecko off.

New items in your gecko’s enclosure should always be introduced slowly and methodically. If you’ve added something new to your pet’s enclosure suddenly, don’t be surprised if they’re jumpy and even bitey.

Stress for a gecko can also cause them to bite more easily. Stress for pets is caused by long-term environmental issues. If the temperature or humidity isn’t perfect in your gecko’s enclosure, you’ll want to fix that as soon as possible.  Not only will that keep your gecko happy but it will help its body relax out of the fight or flight mode.

Reason 4: They’re Hurt

The last reason your leopard gecko might bite is that they’re hurt.

Unexpected pain can cause your pet to lash out and bite unexpectedly. Biting can be a way that your pet keeps you from touching a sensitive area that hurts.  It can also be an involuntary response to the pain they’re suddenly feeling from being handled.

Although you might think your leopard gecko is perfectly healthy, there are plenty of hidden illnesses that pet reptiles can suffer from.  Internal parasites aren’t easily seen but can cause your pet serious stomach pain. Respiratory infections are another thing geckos can pick up in captivity that won’t always be obvious to owners.

If you think your gecko is biting because they’re hurt, try to figure out what’s going on with your pet.  Or better yet, take them to see the vet as soon as you can.

How To Prevent Your Gecko From Biting You

No matter why your gecko is biting, there are a few things you can do to prevent it.

Move Slowly

One of the best ways to prevent a bite response in your gecko is to always move slowly with them.

Moving too quickly can trigger your pet’s prey response and they’ll see your fingers as something to hunt. By moving your hands slowly towards them, they’ll feel calm and relaxed.

When you have your gecko out of their enclosure, you’ll want to keep exciting and fast-moving stimuli to a minimum. Something may end up surprising them and cause them to bite you.

Handle Them Regularly

Regular handling is another sure way to reduce bites or prevent your gecko from ever biting you at all.

Handling is never something to rush, but, once you get on the same page as your pet, you should try to handle them once a day.

Since leopard geckos are nocturnal, it’s best to handle them in the evening. Daily handling will teach your gecko what to expect and when to expect it.

This routine schedule may reduce stress or surprise nibbles.

Use Tongs To Feed

We mentioned that hand-feeding can cause your gecko to bite.

Feeding your pet with tongs is a great way to prevent biting. Tong feeding is still preferable to free feeding your gecko because it is stimulating for them.  Plus, they’ll still associate your presence and voice with the positive reinforcement of meals.

Tong feeding is an art and takes practice.  You’ll need a pair of tongs and some patience. This video explains how to tong feed your gecko their bugs.

Watch Their Body Language

The last way to prevent a bite is to try and watch your gecko’s body language.

Leopard geckos aren’t the most expressive creatures, but they still have signals.  When geckos are stressed or threatened, they’ll usually start to breathe quickly and become flighty. Some geckos might vocalize and even stand on their hind legs.

What Does A Leopard Gecko Bite Feel Like?

If you’ve never been bitten by a leopard gecko, you might be wondering how it even feels.

Leopard gecko bites aren’t very aggressive. Leopard geckos are small, and so are their teeth.  Even though your pet has tiny teeth, they’re pretty sharp. When a gecko bites you, you might feel a pinching sensation. Since gecko teeth are sharp, the bite may sting a little.

Luckily, gecko jaws aren’t strong and shouldn’t cause any bruising or serious damage.  If you’re not convinced, take a look at the short video below.

Do Leopard Gecko Bites Hurt?

Leopard gecko (and other species of gecko) bites may just be more surprising than painful.

Usually, when a gecko bites you, you’re not expecting it. The initial shock of the bite might catch you off guard and hurt a little bit.

Geckos are small and not very strong, so their jaws won’t clamp down very hard on you. You probably won’t have any bruising or soreness after the bite. On the entire scale of animal bites, gecko bites aren’t bad at all.

Do Leopard Geckos Draw Blood When They Bite?

Even though geckos have gentle and relatively weak bites, they can still draw blood.

While it’s not common, don’t be surprised if your gecko’s bite does break your skin. After all, they need to be strong enough to catch and chew a variety of insects. Even though their teeth are small, they can still pierce through human skin.  So, if your gecko is feeling frisky, they may draw blood when they bite.

What To Do If Your Gecko Bites You

If your gecko bites you, we promise it’s not a big deal!  Here are some steps that you can take the next time your gecko chomps on your hand.

Don’t Panic

The first thing you’ll want to do if your pet gecko bites you is to stay calm!  Don’t panic!  a gecko bite is not an emergency for you or your pet.  Staying calm will give you time to think through your next steps.  It will also keep you from accidentally lashing out and hurting your pet in a creative moment.

Clean Your Wound

If your gecko bite does break the skin, you’ll want to clean the wound.

You can wash the wound with antibacterial soap or something stronger like hydrogen peroxide.  Your gecko’s mouth does contain bacteria and by cleaning the bite, you’ll be ahead of any potential infections.

Let Your Gecko Calm Down

The next thing you’ll want to do if your gecko bites you is to give them some time to calm themselves down. Don’t try to keep handling your gecko after an incident. Set them inside their enclosure and let them calm down.

If they bit you, it means they were feeling stressed or threatened. Giving their body time to wind down is the best way to prevent any further injuries.

Think About What Can Change Next Time

Finally, you can think about the incident.  Why did your gecko feel the need to bite you?  What can you change for next time?

Figuring out what is pushing your pet to this aggressive action is important. Once you know what’s making them so uncomfortable, you can start to take steps to fix it.  Even though it may not be an immediate solution, you’ll start to make headway soon enough.

Final Thoughts

Leopard geckos really are one of the most docile and handleable pet reptiles. Even so, these little lizards are still animals that may bite in a pinch.

Luckily, gecko bites don’t hurt and aren’t painful after the initial sting of the bite. If you can figure out why your leopard gecko bites, you can take steps to prevent it in the future, which is a win-win for everyone involved!