Did you know that geckos are reptiles that are found on all continents? Well, except Antarctica. These colorful lizards enjoy habitats from rain forests, to deserts, to cold mountain slopes. I recently discovered one when I went on an expedition with my human companion to a pet store. There was one crawling around in a glass enclosure and this curious critter caught my eye. Well, it has peaked my natural curiosity as a cat, so I had to learn more about it.
I discovered there are over 1,600 different species of gecko but only a few are commonly kept as pets including Leopard geckos, Tokay geckos, Day geckos, African fat-tailed geckos, and Crested geckos. For the most part, I’m told, geckos are pleasant docile pets, but they prefer not to be handled too frequently as it can stress them out. When stressed a gecko can drop their tails, but not to worry they grow back but sometimes in a different shape or color. Most geckos are nocturnal, which means they are active at night. The one I saw was a day gecko which is diurnal or active during the day. Diurnal geckos have round pupils. Nocturnal geckos have vertical pupils, just like cats.
All geckos are excellent climbers. Their toe pads have tiny filaments that allow them to cling to almost any surface. I can do that too, but I must use my claws and sometimes gravity works against me. But geckos are small, which makes them excellent escape artists.
Unlike cats who can spend hours a day grooming using our rough tongue, taking a bath is more interesting for geckos. Geckos have skin that is covered with hundreds of thousands of hair-like spines. These spines trap air and cause water to bounce off. With this built-in water defense, one would think it would be hard to get clean. However, as the water bounces off it takes dust and other contaminates on the skin with it. In addition, they clean their clear eyelids or eyelid-less eyes with a quick lick of the tongue.
Geckos will eat anything that is small enough for them to overpower or capture and consume. Insects such as crickets and grasshoppers are their mainstay dietary choice in their native unrestricted environment. Geckos will also consume arthropods such as spiders, centipedes and small scorpions.
Due to their small size, geckos have several natural predators around the world, with the snake being the main predator of the gecko. Other animals that prey on the gecko include large spiders, birds and some mammal species.
Geckos are believed to be the only lizards that vocalize. Depending on the kind of gecko, the noise might be a squeak, click, croak, hiss, or a “barking roar.” Some species only make sounds during their mating season. But some types of gecko are noisy fighters over food and/or territory.
It was exciting to meet a gecko, even if it was through glass. They are fascinating critters. Maybe you too will get to meet one, one day soon. You are probably already familiar with the most famous Day gecko, from Geico commercials.