While many owners enjoy spending time with their reptiles and bonding with them, experts are still not sure if reptiles form bonds with humans. Most of the needs of reptiles are limited to eating, drinking, breeding and surviving. Unlike other domesticated pets like dogs and cats, reptiles don’t depend on human interactions. While dogs and cats actively look for human interaction and can develop separation anxiety without it, this isn’t the case with reptiles.
Still, many reptiles don’t have a problem with being handled. We know that Bearded Dragons enjoy being pet by their owners. The same is true for other reptiles like Corn Snakes and Leopard Geckos.
Can Reptiles be Trained to be Pet?
Like dogs and cats, some reptiles can also be trained to be handled. While they may not be as affectionate or cuddly as a small furry mammal, training can still have them be more receptive to being handled or pet.
Here are ways to do that:
Handle Them Frequently
There are two main types of behavior commonly seen in reptiles – fear and aggression. If they feel scared they will try to hide or bite you. Handling them from a young age can help them get used to and possibly even trust human interaction. Regular handling will help keep them from being afraid and attacking you.
Before you start handling them, make sure to find out how your pet likes to be held. Different reptiles will like to be pet in different ways. For example, turtles generally only like to be gently pet on their shells and don’t like to be picked up. For snakes, they can be held as long as you support their body well. Snakes when held will start exploring your hands and arms and eventually find a spot comfortable for them.
Sometimes reptiles may take a few weeks to get used to their new home and being handled. The important thing is to be slow and see how the reptile is responding to being held. Once you see that they are not afraid of being held, gradually increase the frequency and length of handling them. Some reptiles may not like being held for a long time and handling them should be kept brief.
Give Them a Comfortable Living Space
The most important part about caring for reptiles is giving them a proper living space. This includes keeping them in a right-sized enclosure/cage, climate, and adding decorations that mimic their natural home. For turtles it can include giving them a proper substrate that allows them to burrow. Some reptiles like Green Iguanas and Sulcata Tortoises need to be kept in a large outdoor enclosure.
Giving them the enclosure they need and feeding them a balanced diet helps keep your reptiles happy. Happy pets are more open to being pet. Without a comfortable enclosure, they may become stressed and could become aggressive if you try to handle them.
Take them Out of the Enclosure
Some reptiles like lizards and tortoises can be taken out of their enclosure. They can be allowed to move around in closed areas like a room or taken out into your yard. Let them explore things and enjoy their environment. While having them outside, you can see how they react to being petted.
When taking your reptile out of the cage, it is very important to keep a close watch on them. Some reptiles are escape artists and will look for opportunities to escape. Snakes and some other reptiles should never be left outside a cage because they will almost always try to escape. If you take them out, pet them and keep them in your hand. Holding them while you pet them should keep them from escaping.