Geckos are dandy little reptiles that take their hygiene quite seriously. They’re meticulous about staying squeaky clean, to a point that surprises most pet owners.
Watching a gecko licking its body is not weird at all. In fact, it does that frequently to stay healthy and fresh. Still, you might be wondering; why is my gecko licking his bum?
The answer is simple. The gecko’s cloaca, or vent, is right at its bottom. And that’s the opening where the little reptile gets out everything, from eggs and fecal matter to the waxy substance used in marking territory.
Keep reading to know what’s normal about this process, and what might be a cause for concern.
Most of the time geckos lick their vents to clean up unwanted substances, and that’s considered healthy behavior.
On certain occasions, the gecko might be impacted, its lower body is itchy, or it has a parasitic infection.
That would increase its focus on the vent, and it would seem to be licking its bum all the time. That is certainly a red flag, and you should always take it seriously.
The following are the most common reason, and also the ones that you should pay attention to.
Most mammals have ways to keep themselves, and their offspring, clean. This keeps them from:
- Getting sick
- Repelling potential mates
- Masking their pheromones
- Inviting predators
Geckos are no exception to that, but they have the added challenge of limited dexterity. That’s why they resort to licking their vents and bodies to get a nice bath.
This isn’t necessarily a regular activity every other day or so. Geckos are known to freshen up whenever they feel the need to.
Then again, it wouldn’t be several times a day. That’s when you should monitor your reptile pet more closely.
Geckos are quite particular about their bathroom habits. They often pick a suitable spot to defecate, which is normally pretty far from their living quarters and hides.
As soon as they leave the area, they’d start cleaning themselves of any remaining fecal matter. Yes, this sounds pretty gross! But try to focus on the results.
Adult geckos often take longer to digest solid food than baby geckos. Hatchlings would go several times per day, while older reptiles go once or twice a week only.
It’s important to know this, as more frequent but licking in adult geckos shouldn’t be explained away by toilet decency.
Also, more frequent defecation is a sign that the gecko might have a digestive issue, so it should be monitored for a while.
In their natural habitat, geckos rarely come across human contact. Come to think of it, they aren’t used to rubbing elbows with any other creatures either.
That’s why geckos might find petting from their human friends endearing, but at the same time, a good reason for a quick shower. Don’t take that the wrong way though.
Interestingly, even after courtship, the couple would go on and lick themselves meticulously. The finicky little reptiles are non-compromising when it comes to these matters.
Claiming territory is a normal activity for the males of most animal species. Few of them pay attention to their personal hygiene after spreading their excrement all around their place.
Geckos, as expected, do find that a quick clean-up is necessary after distributing their biological matter in the enclosure. They’d do that every other week or so, and more if the substrate is changed, or a hide is added.
This clean-up is actually important, and not just for being a dandy. The material geckos use to mark their areas of dominance is often waxy and sticky.
If it clings to the reptile’s vent, it would clog it and keep all kinds of excrement inside. Clearly, this is unhealthy, and a quick clean-up is thus necessary.
The process of laying eggs in geckos is similar to that in chickens. The eggs come out of a cloaca, which is a path that’s separate from its alimentary canal.
The eggs are often surrounded by viscous substances that should be removed. And that’s exactly what a female gecko does.
This isn’t a very frequent activity, as geckos produce 1-6 clutches per year, depending on the species.
Geckos shed their skin routinely whenever they grow in size. That’s because their skin isn’t flexible like a human’s, and it doesn’t heal after damage in a similar manner.
Many reptiles follow the same route of shedding their old skin and flaunting a new body suit. The main difference between geckos and snakes in that regard is that geckos don’t shed all of their skin at once. They do it piecewise.
Additionally, geckos are known to eat their own discarded skin. This provides them with more nutrients while growing, and keeps potential predators from following their scent trail.
The last thing geckos do after shedding is to give themselves a nice lick, from top to bottom!
Geckos feel the pains of impaction the same way any other animal suffers from constipation. It causes them discomfort and limits their mobility. In some cases, it could be life-threatening.
It’s worth noting here, that female geckos can get impaction from retaining their clutch of eggs for too long. This usually happens when they can’t find a suitable spot to lay their eggs. This too is a serious condition.
Geckos are known to lick their bums when they feel congested to ease the pain or to coax the remains blocking their vents out.
This is a nasty health issue that happens when the gecko stays impacted for a long time. Cloacal prolapse happens when parts of the reptile’s intestines pop out of its vent, driven by all the pressure.
This is a certainly situation that calls for a visit to the vet. You don’t need to try to return the prolapsed part inside the vent, as that needs expertise and specialized tools.
Also, it’s not advisable to leave the prolapsed part protruding for too long, as this would subject the gecko to inflammation and infection. Not to mention the pain it already feels.
Geckos are prone to get infected by various parasites coccidia and pinworms. This is a particularly serious matter for old or weak geckos. Immuno-compromised geckos are also easy prey for these microorganisms. This is the case when they’re anxious or already sick.
The main symptoms of these parasitic infections include the following.
- Weight loss
- Deteriorating tails
- Loss of appetite
- Runny or smelly excrement
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s recommended to take a sample from the gecko’s stool and get it analyzed at a specialized lab.
The vet would then decide what’s the best remedy for the gecko.
A gecko licking its bum could be the result of an injured or chaffed bottom. Licking alleviates the pain a little bit and responds to rashes.
These issues usually take a few days to clear. If they don’t, you can seek veterinary help.
Most often, you’d see signs of affected skin in the area, and you’d be able to tell when the problem has subsided.
A gecko licking his bum can be pretty odd! Then again, it has plenty of reasons. Most of the time, there’s no reason to worry about the reptile pet’s well-being or intentions. However, there are a few occasions that call for close monitoring.
Occasional licking of the vent isn’t a huge deal, and it keeps the gecko clean and healthy. On the other hand, excessive licking often means that something is off.
Fortunately, most issues can be resolved through simple measures, and maybe a visit to the vet.
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.