Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Reptiles > Can Reptiles Be an Affectionate Pet? Types, Facts & FAQs (With Pictures)

Can Reptiles Be an Affectionate Pet? Types, Facts & FAQs (With Pictures)

close up photo of a turtle eating a banana

Some people love reptiles and have, or would like to have, a reptile as a pet, while others find the idea scary. Most reptiles are cold-blooded animals, which makes people think they can’t be affectionate toward their owners.

Of course, a lizard or a snake won’t appear visibly “excited” to see you as much as a dog would; but it is thought that reptiles experience emotions and can develop affection toward people in their lives. Does that mean that reptiles can be affectionate pets?

Many reptiles can be excellent pets if you know how to handle them properly. Although they most likely won’t be affectionate as cats and dogs, they still make great companions that can bond with you and show some form of devotion.

Keep reading to learn more about reptiles, their emotions, their bonds with humans, and if they make affectionate pets.


Do Reptiles Have Emotions?

Image By: artellliii72, Pixabay

Reptiles are certainly capable of experiencing basic emotions. For example, fear and anger dominate in snakes due to the conditions these reptiles experience in the wilderness. Most times, you can notice when a snake is exhibiting one of these emotions as a scared, angry snake is likely to hiss, shake its tail, try to fight, or escape.

While there’s no scientific evidence of how reptiles express and feel affection or love, they can certainly experience pleasure. This behavior is easily noticeable when a reptile in captivity becomes familiar with its owner.

The reptile may approach you, allowing you to hold it or looking for a gentle stroke. Some reptiles may even try to climb onto you, crawl up your arm, or lean into you. Each reptile has different reactions, so this will vary from animal to animal.

Can a Reptile Bond With You?

A reptile can bond with a human, but the process will take time and patience. Unlike animals like cats and dogs, reptiles need more time to give you their trust. However, most reptiles become pretty attached to their owners over time.

If you care for your reptile and keep it safe and well-fed, the reptile will be able to recognize you and will typically enjoy your company. While the bond between reptiles and humans is somewhat limited, it still exists, which is why reptiles can be affectionate pets—as much as their nature allows it.

How To Bond With Your Reptile?

baby lizard in humans hand
Image Credit: Laurent Duval, Pixabay

Bonding with your reptile takes time, determination, and patience, but it’s not an impossible task. However, it can be difficult to bond with a reptile if you don’t have experience handling such animals.

Here are some tips that will help you bond with your reptile and encourage a positive relationship:

  • If possible, adopt the reptile at a young age: Adopting your pet reptile at a young age will allow your reptile to get comfortable with you from the very beginning of its life. However, some reptiles require special care during their first years, which is something to keep in mind.
  • Pay attention to the reptile’s body language: When you’re with your pet reptile, pay close attention to how it behaves around you and watch its body language. If your pet shows signs of fear or aggression, it’s best to allow it to calm down before forcing other interactions between you.
  • Offer food and treats: A great way to win your reptile’s trust and strengthen your relationship is to offer food and treats. However, remember that most reptiles don’t eat every day, so plan treats according to your pet’s eating schedule.
  • Allow your retile to adjust at its own pace: Never rush your reptile into any interactions with you, as that could backfire and make your pet nervous and aggressive. Allowing your reptile to adapt and adjust at its own pace will make your relationship much better.
  • Bathe your reptile: Many reptiles like bath time, so you can use it as a bonding activity between you and your pet.
  • Handle your reptile carefully: While each reptile has a different personality, most of them love it when you hold them—provided you’ve built up some trust—and handling your pet is necessary for developing your bond.
  • Create an exciting yet safe environment for your reptile: Your pet reptile will feel more comfortable in an interesting, safe environment where it feels close to its habitat in the wilderness.
  • Once comfortable, allow it to explore its environment: Taking your pet outside under supervision will improve your trust and allow your reptile to feel comfortable in your home.

How Do Reptiles Show Affection?

While reptiles can’t show affection the same way as dogs and cats, you can still notice affection coming from your pet reptile. Here are some of the most common signs of an affectionate reptile:

  • It will show excitement when you’re around
  • It won’t be scared or startled when you get close
  • The reptile will allow you to hold it
  • It enjoys spending time with you
person with a small turtle on their palm
Image By: Rodrigo Pereira, Unsplash

new bearded dragon divider

The 4 Most Affectionate Reptiles

Some reptiles are more affectionate than others, which means they’re a better option for people looking for an “affectionate” pet reptile. If you’re looking for a reptile that does show affection, it might be best to choose one of the following:

1. Leopard Gecko

Leopard gecko
Image Credit: Reinhold-Leitner, Shutterstock

These reptiles are known for having a calm nature, which is why many people love to keep them as pets. Their small size allows you to easily manage them, and once comfortable enough; your leopard gecko will likely climb all over you.

They don’t need much space due to their small size, so they’re excellent pets for first-time reptile parents.

2. Bearded Dragon

green bearded dragon in hand
Image Credit: Leena Robinson, Shutterstock

These reptiles are typically quite friendly and enjoy spending their time around humans and being handled and held. As these quirky reptiles get to know you, they’ll likely climb onto you and try to reach your shoulders or head.

Bearded dragons have long lifespans that can be over 15 years. They are easy to maintain and don’t require any special care, making them excellent pets. These reptiles feed on vegetables and are most active during the day.

3. Chinese Water Dragon

Chinese Water Dragon
Image Credit: InspiredImages, Pixabay

These reptiles are typically easygoing and laid back, which makes them great pets. They are commonly friendly around humans, and due to their long life expectancy, which can reach 15 years, they’ll be faithful companions for years.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Chinese water dragon might not be the best pet option for people who haven’t dealt with reptiles before. Their care needs are more complex than other reptiles and you need some experience to handle these animals.

4. Corn Snake

White Corn Snake
Image Credit: Tapeworm, Pixabay

Corn snakes are an excellent choice for first-time reptile parents as they’re friendly and easy to take care of and don’t require special conditions to develop. Due to their nature, these snakes will often be nervous when you try to hold them at first. However, they relax in time and allow handing once they feel comfortable.

5. Argentine Black and White Tegu

argentine black and white tegu lizard
Image Credit:, Shutterstock

This large lizard is another excellent option for people who want a pet reptile. They are social, friendly, and love to be around people. These lizards are also intelligent, and you can even teach them simple tricks. However, they can frequently act hostile if they don’t socialize enough—something to keep in mind.


Final Thoughts

Reptiles can be somewhat affectionate, although there’s no scientific evidence proving their affection towards humans. Of course, you can’t expect a lizard or a turtle to be as hyper-excited to see you as a dog would. However, these animals still show their devotion toward their owners in their own manner, which is why many reptiles make excellent pets.

Featured Image Credit: Marina Scalon, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets