If asked to name some intelligent animals, there’s a big chance that you’d probably not include geckos on your list.
To debunk this unfair assumption about these tiny beauties, we’ll explore the myth of the “dumb lizard” and discover just how intelligent these reptiles are.
From problem-solving skills to social behaviors, we’ll dive into the fascinating world of geckos and uncover their true cognitive abilities.
Get ready for some surprising insights on these scaly creatures as we answer the question: Are geckos smart?
As anyone who’s ever owned a lizard can attest, these creatures are far from dumb. Research shows that reptiles, geckos included, are quite intelligent.
For years, people thought geckos were rather simple creatures, existing to eat and mate. However, a recent study has shown evidence of self-recognition among geckos through the skin and fecal chemicals.
Self-recognition is no small feat, and it’s often associated with higher cognitive abilities.
In another experiment, scientists presented geckos with new and familiar prey items. Surprisingly, these scaly critters exhibited neophobia.
Neophobia is also a cognitive process that allows organisms to avoid potential risks when presented with an unfamiliar option. Additionally, discerning what’s new and what’s familiar is a sign of problem-solving as well.
So why have we always considered geckos to be dumb? It’s likely because they don’t show many of the outward signs of intelligence we’re used to seeing in other animals.
That said, just because we can’t readily see their intelligence doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Careful observations will prove that geckos are smart.
As we’ve established, geckos can show different signs of intelligence. However, most of the skills they possess are mainly survival instincts.
The ability to recognize their owners is, as such, unnecessary. So the quick answer is that, unfortunately, your gecko can’t recognize you.
Don’t be discouraged, though! You can help your gecko learn to become familiar with you by following a few simple tricks.
For starters, geckos typically use their incredible sense of smell to differentiate between their friends and enemies. They also use their noses to distinguish themselves from other geckos they come across in the wild.
In other words, you could use your gecko’s love for sniffing his surroundings to your advantage. After all, it’s an inherent instinct that’s not going anywhere.
Keep it natural. Geckos have a sensitive nose—not as strong as a dog’s, for instance, but it’s still highly perceptive to surrounding scents.
To get your gecko to recognize you, it needs to familiarize itself with your natural scent. Your body’s odor is a consistent smell that your gecko can slowly get used to as you spend more time with it.
When you use powerful scents, such as aromatic soap or sweet-smelling shampoo, it’ll trigger your gecko’s defense mechanism. The reptile will most likely show signs of aggression, too, like biting or hissing to deter you and protect itself.
And you don’t want that! You want to teach your gecko that its owner, you, is someone they can trust and be safe around. With more time spent together, your pet will eventually form a bond with you and won’t fear you.
That’s provided that you switch to unscented soap and hygiene products. Additionally, make sure that you never pet your gecko while wearing strong perfume or cologne.
Your pet will instantly recognize how different that fragrant smell is from the natural odor you normally emit. Since they can’t identify your face or hands, your scent is everything to help your gecko be familiar with you. So, don’t change it!
As with most scaly reptiles, these creatures will certainly show basic emotions—but nothing more.
Among those emotions is pain. After all, any reptile can perceive pain due to its anatomic and physiologic structures. It’s also how they’re able to detect when their body is in danger or is hurt.
This characteristic shows that geckos are indeed smart, to a certain extent. They can even display certain behaviors to let you know when they’re in pain and need your help.
Frequent hiding is one of the most probable signs, for instance. In case a gecko is distressed or hurt, it’d hide more often than normal. Not just that, but it’ll stay in hiding for extended amounts of time as well.
Another heartbreaking red flag to look out for is your gecko shrinking away from your touch. It might start biting you too, so you’d leave it alone. Squinting and screaming are other signs that your gecko is hurting.
Talking to a vet is the sensible action to take when your gecko is in pain.
A vet will help you identify the cause of your gecko’s pain and what you can do about it as the reptile’s caretaker. A real professional will let you know how to prevent the issue from happening again, too.
In the meantime, you can care for your gecko as you normally would. Just do your best not to stress it out more than it already is. That means less handling, petting, and giving your reptile friend some space till a vet can see it.
In case you’re keeping two or three geckos in the same tank, isolate the injured one in a substrate of its own till you’re sure it’s fit to return to its tankmates.
Not quite. It’s actually pretty common for gecko owners to fall into this Anthropomorphism trap, and it does more harm than good to your reptile pet.
Remember that geckos are quiet, solitary creatures that like to keep to themselves most of the time. And most owners, especially beginners, forget or don’t know about this.
So they end up petting their new scaly pet more frequently than the gecko could handle. When in fact, the gecko would prefer you leave it alone. They don’t experience complex human feelings, like loneliness, so don’t worry about leaving your pet unattended for hours, even days at a time!
As long as you provide your pet gecko with the habitat, food, and water necessary to survive, the reptile is more than happy hanging out alone in his tank.
Again, no. Geckos are reptiles that prefer solitude over company. They seldom get along with other geckos.
Rarely has an owner of two or more geckos reported that they got along and no issues arose.
That could also be because geckos can be territorial in their free space. This statement rings twice as true for keeping geckos of the same gender together.
Two male geckos will most definitely fight over resources and stress each other out. They won’t stop injuring and hurting one another until one or either of them dies.
The same goes for keeping two females together too. Although, you can take certain precautions to ensure a peaceful cohabitation. It won’t be easy though, and there’s no guarantee the two girls would cooperate in the first place.
In the end, geckos don’t need the company and it provides them no value to bunk with a tankmate. If you must have a second gecko, simply house it in a different substrate away from your first one.
Reptiles, including geckos, don’t get depressed per se. However, they get stressed out when they’re subjected to certain factors.
Those factors can vary greatly. From being introduced to a new environment to being held in an inhospitable tank, those elements and more can cause immense distress to your gecko.
As a result, it’ll certainly show signs of such stress so that you’d be able to help it recover. Put simply, keep a keen eye on your pet gecko so you can pick up on these symptoms early on and address them right away.
Aside from the signs we mentioned earlier, such as hiding a lot and screaming, there are many other clues you could look out for too. Those may include some or all of the following:
- Not wanting to eat
- Sudden lethargy
- Less frequent movement and climbing
- Sleeping off most of the day
- Lack of excitement and playfulness
- Closing eyes more often, even when awake
To a certain extent, yes, geckos do like music. But there are many factors to consider before playing your favorite playlist to your gecko.
For starters, not all geckos are the same. Depending on the species you have, some won’t care much for the music at all, such as crested geckos, for instance. While others, like house geckos, you could easily introduce to music if you like.
Simply consider a few tips first:
- Never play loud music to your gecko. Keep the volume at a minimum and stay clear from musical notes that might startle the sound-sensitive reptile.
- Opt for nature sounds when you can. Although many people aren’t fans of new-age music, geckos seem to enjoy them.
- Soft and melodic is the way to go. That can include Jazz, country music, and the Blues.
In the end, you can experiment with different genres till you find one that your gecko doesn’t mind so much.
Are geckos smart? Geckos are far from being the “dumb lizards” they’re often made out to be. They exhibit many intelligent signs, such as neophobia and self-recognition.
Of course, there’s still much we don’t know about gecko intelligence, but the progress that’s been made in recent years is promising.
Either way, geckos are a wonder to observe and own!
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.