Why Does A Crested Gecko Lick You, Itself and Other Objects?


One of the interesting facts about crested geckos is that they don’t have eyelids. So, they can’t close their eyes. As a crested gecko owner, you’ll quickly see that your crestie licks its eyeballs (a lot). But they not only will lick themselves but also you. So why does a crested gecko lick you?

Crested geckos are curious and explore their environment with their tongues. It will explore you (your skin) by licking it. The reason for this might be that your skin smells of food or that it contains salty sweat. This is different from licking their eyeballs to moisten them and remove debris.

A crested gecko will not only lick you but will mostly lick itself. The most common thing you’ll notice is that it licks its eyeballs. But crested geckos will also lick other objects like plants and the glass sides of a terrarium. Lastly, a male crested gecko will sometimes lick its hemipenis.

In this article, you’ll learn how a crested gecko’s tongue is used to taste and smell. You’ll also learn more about the reasons why they lick you and themselves.

How Do Crested Geckos Taste With Their Tongues?

Crested geckos have an organ, the Jacobson’s organ, on the roof of their mouth. This organ is part of the olfactory system of a crested gecko. As your gecko licks something (like you), odor particles will come from outside into their mouth. The particles can be moisture or airborne.

When the particles reach the Jacobson’s organ, the chemical compounds will bind with receptor molecules. In turn, sensory messages will be sent to the brain of your crested gecko. This will allow your gecko to interpret the tastes.

Why Does a Crested Gecko Lick You?

A crested gecko will lick you because it is curious and interested in their surroundings’ taste and smell. There are several possible reasons why your crested gecko licks you, but the most common reasons are:

  • wet or sweaty skin: crested geckos lick water from plants and other objects in their terrarium to drink. Some geckos won’t even touch a water bowl. For example, if your skin is wet after bathing, your gecko may lick you like it would lick water from a plant.
  • interesting smell or taste: crested geckos are sometimes picky eaters and they know what they like. You might have handled fruit or other tasty food that has left a residue on your skin. Your crested gecko can smell this and might want to lick you to get a taste.

Don’t misinterpret the licking as a form of affection. Unlike other pets, reptiles don’t have the complex ability to show affection or emotions. 

It can be easy to think that licking is a sign of your crested gecko being loving and tender. But this is far from the truth. Your crested gecko is determining your taste.

Don’t be afraid, crested geckos will seldom bite you and usually know that you’re not food. Even if a crested gecko would bite, it would hardly hurt.

Crested geckos do have many small teeth but their bite can be compared more to that of fish than that of other reptiles, like snakes.

Why Does a Crested Gecko Lick Its Surroundings?

Your crested gecko will lick not only you but also its surroundings. And just like its the case with licking you, licking its surroundings (air, plants, glass) is solely your gecko being curious. A crestie will want to see if the object is edible and licking it to confirm this.  

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When the object is wet, the licking is also a way to drink. In their natural habitat, there are no water bowls. Wild crested geckos will usually drink by licking up water droplets on plants. This is why it’s recommended to mist the plants so your crested gecko can lick the droplets.

Why Does a Crested Gecko Lick Itself?

Licking the eyeballs

As soon as you get a crested gecko, you’ll see that it lick its eyeballs. Crested geckos don’t have eyelids and can’t close their eyes as we do. This means that they have to sleep with their eyes open and that dust and other small particles can end up on the eyeball.

A crested gecko will lick their eyes to remove any particles on the eyeballs and moisten them. 

If you notice that your crested gecko doesn’t do this, you should seek a vet’s advice. It can be a sign of stress and is not normal behavior.

Licking the hemipenis

Male crested geckos will lick not only their eyes but also their hemipenis, their genitals. Licking of the hemipenis can indicate that they want to mate, but it can also just be your gecko cleaning its genitals. 

When your male crested gecko has mated, it can also lick the hemipenis. Licking the hemipenis in such a case is a way to make it easier to retract the hemipenis.

Related Questions

Why is my crested gecko staring at me?

Crested geckos are prey animals and have the instinctive behavior to be alert to danger. When they hear a sound or see something, they can stare at it to determine if they’re in danger. Staring at you is a way for your crested gecko to see if you make sudden (threatening) movements so it can react.

Can crested geckos close their eyes?

Crested geckos can’t close their eyes or wink. They will sleep with their eyes open and it can be difficult to determine if your gecko is sleeping or awake. Sleeping crested geckos will have their crests down and have small slit pupils.

Why do crested geckos lick their eyes?

Crested geckos lick their eyes to moisten them and to remove small particles from the eye. Crested geckos don’t have eyelids, so their eyes aren’t protected from these particles like our eyes. Your gecko isn’t licking the eyeball itself but a transparent membrane on it.

Want to Learn More?

If you want to learn more about crested geckos as pets, please read the following articles.

If you’re interested in getting crested geckos as pets you should also definitely read our article about baby and juvenile crested gecko care or (adult) crested gecko care.


Kevin N.

Kevin is the owner of My Crested Gecko. He wrote this blog for many years and has been a geckos enthusiast his entire life, but only became an official "geckophile" five years ago when he acquired one as a pet! Kevin knows how to care for hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, and degus in addition to crested geckos which are more than happy with him every day!

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