How To Tell If Your Pet Reptile Likes You

Reviewed By Tom •  Updated: 05/01/21 •  4 min read
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Exotic reptile pets can like their owners, but it wouldn’t be accurate to say that they’re as affectionate as classic pets.  Trying to compare them is like trying to rank apples against oranges. Reptiles are a vastly different class of animal than openly affectionate animals like dogs and cats or even birds–it just isn’t a fair match. Instead, signs of affectionate reptile behavior can be very, very subtle. If it’s your first time owning a reptile (especially for those coming from owning a highly expressive animal), it can be difficult to determine if your cold-blooded pet likes you, but you can do it as long as you know what to look for. 

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Can Reptiles Display Affection?

Reptiles are cold-blooded animals that have an even frostier reputation. Unlike a dog that will run to the door when you get home or a cat that will purr in your lap, reptiles aren’t the kinds of pets that can “love” in the traditional sense. However, it’s not from a lack of willpower or desire on their part.  The one crucial difference responsible for the significant gap in a reptile’s ability to display affection compared to classic pets is intelligence

Reptiles have much smaller and more primitive brains than other animals such as mammals and birds. The result of which notedly limits their emotional range to those associated with survival. Beyond the basic instinctual feelings of hunger, feeling threatened, and being on the lookout for danger, your pet reptile is likely thinking about little else. There are a few exceptions, however, as certain reptile species are more intelligent than others. Tortoises and certain lizards such as bearded dragons have a notably higher capacity for affection and have been told to engage in affectionate behavior towards their owners.

3 Ways To Tell If Your Pet Reptile Likes You

Instead of the affectionate behavior we’ve come to expect from dogs and cats, reptiles show their liking by letting their defenses down. Since reptile emotion is so closely tied to basic survival instincts, the best that most reptile owners can hope for are indications that their pet feels safe and secure. 

They’re relaxed and calm when you’re around

The first and foremost sign that your reptile likes you is that they are relaxed in your presence.   If they felt even the slightest bit threatened, they would likely dash away and hide or assume a defensive or aggressive position. What this looks like can vary depending on the reptile species. In most cases, your reptile will continue doing whatever it was before you entered the room: basking, sleeping, exploring, etc. They may stir slightly, but may otherwise be unaffected by your presence.

They aren’t desperately trying to escape their tank

Reptiles are naturally curious creatures, some more so than others. Snakes and lizards are notorious for testing the confines of their enclosures (snakes, in particular, have a well-earned reputation of being expert escape artists). However, this behavior can go beyond the realm of curiosity and actually be a red flag that your reptile is unhappy. If their “explorations” are insistent or even physically harmful to your pet, it could be a sign that they’re genuinely looking for a way out. By contrast, a happy pet that enjoys its human companion will routinely explore its surroundings with mild, unurgent interest.  

They allow you to handle them

The bond between a pet and owner is at its greatest during physical interaction. Handling is a great time to both build that bond and determine your reptile’s affinity towards you. The first indication that your reptile pet likes you and perhaps even enjoys handling, is how readily they allow themselves to be picked up. If they scurry away or even become aggressive, that’s a surefire sign that your relationship could use a bit of work. Then there’s the matter of holding. If they immediately try to squirm out of grasp, the love isn’t quite where it needs to be yet. A friendly reptile will allow themselves to be held and should be relaxed in your grasp.

Find Affectionate Reptile Pets For Sale

Just because reptiles may not be as outgoing as classic pets doesn’t mean that they’re not capable of being affectionate.  These cold-blooded creatures simply showcase their love for their owners in a unique way. The ways reptiles show their affection are signs indicative of being happy and content in their home. Bearded dragons, ball pythons, and a number of other specific species have a reputation for being more affectionate than your average reptile. You can find these and other reptiles for sale at online reptile shops such as XYZreptiles.

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Tom has always loved to write since he was little - he wanted to be either a writer or a veterinary doctor, but he ended up being a professional writer while most of his works are based on animals. He was born in San Francisco but later moved to Texas to continue his job as a writer. He graduated from the University of San Francisco where he studied biotechnology. He is happily married and a soon to be father!