DO THEY REALLY BOND? ARE THEY REALLY “COMPANION PETS”?

March 2, 2019
by Dave of Dave's Skinks

The short answer is YES.

I had a fire skink briefly. It was a nice display pet but hated to be held. He was super fast. And one time bit me so hard on the hand I really never wanted to be make attempt at bonding any more. Some reptiles are nice display animals. Others truly value their hooman (human) companion. I wanted one who would value our friendship.

I’ve personally worked with all mentioned below except the Tegu. I’d rank the following 6 as the best reptiles to bond with:

1) Bearded Dragon
2) Crested Gecko
3) Fat Tailed Gecko
4) Blue Tongue Skink (anything but Tanimbar)
5) Tegu
6) Leopard Gecko

My reasoning for this ranking is a bit subjective, but I’m happy to go into why. First off, lizards are better reptiles to bond with over snakes because they’re more advanced on the evolutionary development chart. Lizards have eyelids, they can show emotions in their facial muscles, they can mimic you. I also don’t know of stories about a pet lizard trying to kill their owner – sorry all those python and cobra fans out there.

Flat out, Bearded Dragons are the best to bond with. They’ll let you mess with them. You can put hats on them, put them in funny positions for a photo op. They’ll give you ‘looks’ – it’s great. Except, everyone’s’ got them. They only live for roughly a decade, as opposed to Leopard Geckos and Blue Tongue Skinks’s where it’s uncommon to get multiple decades out of them. But the biggest drawback is their skin and nails. It’s genuinely unpleasant to touch, like jagged sandpaper – NEXT.

The crested gecko is so cute, but SUPER dependent. In order to bond, they need to be hand fed. And once you hand feed them, that’s the only way they will eat. If I go on vacation and the poor animal will literally starve itself rather than eat from a bowl, that’s a pet that’s not for me – personally.

Fat Tailed geckos are sweet! They like people better than their more popular cousin, the Leopard Gecko, but they’re small, and I like my reptiles less likely to parish from an unforgiving accident related to their size. They also only come in brown – for a reasonable price.

Blue Tongues, we’ll come back to.

Tegus are super cool. They’re nicknamed the puppy-dogs of the lizard world. They are a large species of lizard and with that, minimizes how many homes are truly adequate for them. With their size comes a large brain. That brain can be used to love you or fear you. If you don’t have enough time to dedicate to a Tegu for its entire life, I would not recommend getting one at all.

Last on my list are the Leopard Geckos. I’ve kept tons of these over the years and can truly say they make a great pet, especially for kids. They are feisty and seem to tolerate being handled more than out right enjoying it, but rather quickly do they recognize the hand that feeds them and not afraid to shoot you a smile when you walk in the room.

So why do I consider Blue Tongues the 4th best reptile to bond with? These are a medium sized lizard, so they have a fairly good sized brain. Like the Tegu, it can be used to fear you if there’s inadequate interaction, but like the Leopard Gecko, become overjoyed when you enter the room. If I work with any one daily, especially George and Dinobot, they clearly recognize their name. Beyond that, it takes some time, but they learn “no”, “stay on the couch”, “do you want food?” and a few other command tricks. If they want out, they’re not afraid to scratch on the glass and make eye contact until I let them out. If they are walking around my home, they’re not shy about always keeping an eye on me, or out right nuzzling up against my leg like a cat, or park themselves underneath my hand for some good-boy pets if my hand is at the right height.

I tell folks these stories and all they want are the videos. Sadly, it’s a bit like the Florida sheriff on The Simpsons, with his cool hat trick that only happens when no one is looking. Fortunately my girlfriend can share a verified story. Carl was asking for his release when I was at my day job. She let him out. He did a lap around the apartment. Looked up at her with these sad and confused eyes. She told him, “Daddy’s not home”. He proceeded to crawl on top of my gym shoes and wait. To me, this is all the evidence in the world blue tongues have intelligence and indeed bond with their owner. If you don’t seem to have this type of relationship with your animal and want one, seriously ask yourself if you have the time and patience to bond with them. If you leave them in a view-less drawer for all but one hour a week, to me, that’s pretty obvious why they appear dumb and angry all the time. If you’re going to get a blue tongue, plan on making time for it. They can be a best friend to you and truly deserve all the love in the world.

Honorable mention goes to The African-Spurred Tortoise. .. I said reptiles.