If you just got a crested gecko, you’re probably pretty excited to start interacting with your adorable new pet! But if all your crested gecko seems to do is run away from you, it can feel pretty discouraging. You might wonder if your pet is just shy, or if you’re doing something wrong.
So why does my crested gecko run away from me? Your crested gecko is most likely stressed or not used to being handled by you. It may also just have a more reserved personality, or it may be taking time to settle into its new environment.
Read on to find out how to know if your crested gecko is stressed, and how you can help a stressed-out pet. We’ve also provided a great collection of guidelines to keep in mind whenever you’re handling your crested gecko.
How to Know if Your Crested Gecko Is Stressed
One of the main reasons that your crested gecko may be running away from you is because it’s stressed or scared. Here are some clear signs of stress in crested geckos:
- Jumping and running away
- Hiding or burrowing under substrate
- Behaving aggressively or trying to bite you
- Arching back to appear larger
- Opening mouth wide (gaping)
- Becoming brighter in color (firing up)
- Heavy breathing, growling, or squeaking
- Tail waving during handling
- Tail dropping
While you might think stress in a lizard isn’t a huge deal, it can become a big problem over time. Constant low-grade stress will affect your crested gecko’s immune system negatively and make your pet weaker and less healthy overall.
One sign of stress that you definitely need to watch out for is tail dropping, which is a defense mechanism where the tail falls off completely. This is a way for crested geckos to surprise their attackers; their tail will continue to flail around by itself while they flee to a safe hiding place.
If your pet is slithering or waving its tail in an S-shape during handling, that’s a warning sign that it’s about to drop its tail. Be sure to give your crested gecko some space and time to calm down in this situation.
Tail dropping isn’t dangerous for crested geckos, and they can live without a tail. If your pet drops its tail, you don’t need to take it to the vet or give it medical treatment. Be sure to monitor the area in case it gets infected, but it should heal just fine on its own.
Your crested gecko’s tail will not grow back, and it’ll take your pet a few days to get used to moving around without it. Don’t be too concerned if your crested gecko seems a little off-balance at first; it will quickly adjust to life without its tail.
Main Causes of Stress
Aside from not feeling comfortable with handling, the other most common cause of stress in crested geckos is an insufficient tank setup. Proper husbandry is essential to your pet’s wellbeing, so be sure to monitor conditions in the tank regularly. As a crested gecko owner, your goal should be to imitate your pet’s natural habitat as best you can.
You can do this by maintaining temperatures in a thermal gradient from 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit on the cool side up to 83 degrees Fahrenheit on the warm side. This range of temperatures will allow your crested gecko to regulate its body temperature. Temperatures that are too hot or too cold can lead to stress and health issues.
Additionally, you’ll want to maintain a humidity level of 50 to 60%. Digital thermometers and a hygrometer (which measures humidity) are some great tools to have to make sure that your crested gecko’s environment stays at suitable levels.
It’s also a good idea to provide two identical hides for your crested gecko, one on each side of its tank. This way, your pet has a place where it feels safe and secure regardless of whether it prefers to be on the warm or cool side of the tank. Crested geckos tend to be much more stressed when they don’t have access to hides.
Finally, don’t forget to stick to a regular cleaning schedule! Living in a dirty tank is not only uncomfortable and stressful, it can actually make your pet sick. Be sure to clean regularly and keep your crested gecko’s environment in top shape.
How to Handle Your Crested Gecko
The first thing to keep in mind is that crested geckos cannot form the same kind of bond with you that a cat or dog can. While your crested gecko may tolerate being handled, it’s never going to love you the way other animals do. It’s also essential to remember that each crested gecko is an individual with its own personality!
However, correct handling procedures do make a huge difference in the comfort level of your pet. Follow the guidelines below to successfully handle your crested gecko!
Give It Time to Adjust
After adopting your crested gecko, resist the urge to handle it right away and give your pet a full two weeks to get accustomed to its new environment. It’s very stressful for these lizards to move to a new habitat, so be patient and allow your crested gecko plenty of time to itself so that it feels more comfortable.
Avoid Sudden Movements and Loud Noises
Don’t make any sudden movements or loud noises. Crested geckos are easily stressed by sound and movement, so always move softly and slowly. You don’t want your pet to feel threatened or think you’re a predator!
Don’t Handle Baby Crested Geckos
Avoid handling baby crested geckos altogether. Due to their small size and tendency to jump and fall, it’s just not safe. Wait until your crested gecko has grown a bit more and reached at least three inches in length, or eight to 15 grams in weight.
Don’t Force It
If your crested gecko clearly doesn’t want to be handled, don’t force it. You’ll cause a lot of unnecessary stress to your pet, and you won’t be doing yourself any favors as far as getting your crested gecko to feel safe and comfortable around you.
Pick the Right Place
Choose an appropriate location for handling. For example, you might want to sit on the floor or on your bed in case your crested gecko jumps out of your hands. You’ll also want to make sure the room you’re in is closed off from the rest of the house–just in case your pet tries to make a run for it.
Handle for Short Periods
It’s not a good idea to take your crested gecko out of its tank and attempt to handle it for hours at a time. Instead, start by letting your pet walk over your hands for a couple of minutes, and then return it to its tank.
Over time, as your crested gecko becomes more comfortable, you can begin to increase handling time to 15 or 20 minutes. But your priority should always be to make sure your pet doesn’t get stressed or overwhelmed.
Don’t Be Nervous
There’s no reason to feel scared to handle your crested gecko! They very rarely bite, and the worst thing that could happen is that your pet gets nervous and poops on your hand. If you feel nervous, your pet is likely to pick up on that and get stressed out as well. Always remain calm and gentle during handling time.
One way to get your crested gecko to feel more comfortable with being handled is to create an association between your hands and tasty treats. If your pet knows it’s going to get something delicious to eat when it sees you, it’s much more likely to be comfortable with handling. Fruits like banana and papaya are great options.
Monitor Weight During Handling Time
Many crested gecko owners choose to handle their pets once a week when they clean out their tank. This is also a great time to weigh your crested gecko and check on its overall health and development. This doesn’t need to be an extremely thorough examination, but you’ll just want to take notice of weight loss or anything out of the ordinary since these can indicate illness.
A crested gecko that constantly runs away from you is most likely shy, stressed, and not used to handling. If you just adopted your pet, it’s likely that it’s still getting used to its new environment. Remember that crested geckos have their own individual personalities, and some are more receptive to handling than others.
Providing your crested gecko with a good tank setup is very important for their health and overall wellbeing, and it can help to prevent stress. Give your new pet two full weeks to itself to get accustomed to its new home before you try to handle it.
During handling time, don’t make sudden movements or loud noises. Don’t force handling time if your crested gecko is clearly feeling threatened, or your pet may drop its tail! You can try offering treats to get your crested gecko to feel more comfortable in your hands. Overall, be patient with your crested gecko and it should eventually grow to tolerate or even enjoy being handled.