Are Leopard Geckos Smart…Or Dumb?

Leopard geckos are not known for being the sharpest tools in the shed. In fact, they are often described as derpy by those who keep them. While they may not be the most intelligent reptiles out there, it’s hard to definitively label are Leopard Geckos smart or dumb?

When compared to other lizards that excel in problem-solving and learning, leopard geckos seem to rely more on instinct. So, if you’re curious about their brain power, let’s delve into what makes leopard geckos tick.

Reptiles may not be known for their problem-solving skills like some mammals, but they do possess unique forms of intelligence. One key factor is their ability to adapt to various environments and survive in diverse conditions. This requires a certain level of cognitive flexibility and resourcefulness.

Reptiles have impressive sensory capabilities that help them navigate their surroundings and find food efficiently. Their keen sense of smell, vision, and even heat detection contribute to their overall intelligence in terms of survival strategies.

Instinct Vs Intelligence

When reptiles respond to specific stimuli in their surroundings, we can observe intelligence in action. Take the King Cobra, for instance, which demonstrated intelligence by drinking from a water bottle rather than solely relying on instinctual behaviors. Distinguishing between intelligence and instinct is crucial in discussions about leopard gecko cognition. 

leopard gecko care

While it’s instinctual for geckos to identify prey or detect mates, true intelligence shines through when they learn from repeated experiences, such as repeatedly falling off a ledge and eventually figuring out why. Despite challenges in studying reptile intelligence.

Leopard geckos are smart reptiles that can learn and adapt to their surroundings. They can solve problems and recognize their owners. While they may not be as clever as dogs or cats, leopard geckos can still bond with humans and show intelligence through their actions. 

They have a good memory, remembering when they are fed and where they hide. They are curious and like to explore new things. Overall, leopard geckos may not be the smartest animals, but they are intelligent and make interesting pets for reptile lovers.

Does Recognizing Sex Pheromones Make Leopard Geckos Smart?

Male leopard geckos can detect female sex pheromones, which is often cited as a sign of their intelligence. However, this ability is simply instinctual and not a measure of their overall smarts. 

Just like humans can sense pheromones within our own species, leopard geckos rely on instinct rather than intellect in their mating behaviors. This territorial behavior during mating should be seen as natural instinct rather than a display of advanced cognition.

Some Leopard Geckos May Recognize Their Owners

There’s a lot of debate about whether baby leopard geckos can recognize their owners, but many people believe they can. This ability is seen in other intelligent reptiles, so it’s a good way to test a leopard gecko’s smarts. While some leopard geckos may be able to do this, don’t expect all of them to catch on without plenty of food rewards. 

leopard gecko lifespan

Even though not all baby leopard geckos may reach this level, the ones that do show recognition definitely demonstrate higher intelligence compared to other reptiles.

What About The Brain Cell Study?

Some people may view the discovery of leopard geckos growing new brain cells as a sign of intelligence, but that’s not entirely accurate. While this study is exciting for science and suggests potential benefits for treating brain injuries or aging, it doesn’t necessarily mean these lizards are smart. 

Just like we wouldn’t consider their tail regeneration as a measure of intelligence, we should maintain our perspective even when discussing different types of cell growth. This research highlights the impressive ability of leopard geckos to regenerate damaged cells rather than their cognitive prowess.

Have Leopard Geckos Been Part Of Other Studies?

Leopard Geckos haven’t been studied much, but there was one study on their ability to follow other animals’ gaze. This skill, called gaze following, is common in social animals but not so much in leopard geckos and other lizards, which are usually seen as antisocial. The study found that leopard geckos can follow other animals’ gaze, which makes us wonder if this is due to intelligence or instinct. 

It’s hard to say. It does show that leopard geckos are observant and might have some level of intelligence. They need to pay attention to their surroundings to track another animal’s gaze. While this isn’t groundbreaking, it highlights how much we still need to learn about leopard geckos and reptiles.

The Case For Leopard Gecko Intelligence

One can highlight the impressive cognitive abilities of a leopard gecko by pointing out their capacity to recognize their owners and respond to various stimuli. This may not imply that these creatures are Nobel Prize contenders, it does indicate a certain level of intelligence. 

leopard gecko morphs

Why Do Some Leopard Geckos Seem So Dumb?

Let’s shift our focus to the flip side. We’re about to uncover additional evidence indicating that leopard geckos may not be the most intelligent creatures. In fact, we’ll delve deeper into various reasons that shed light on why leopard geckos might not possess high cognitive abilities, while also exploring factors that contribute to their perceived lack of brightness. 

Leopard Geckos Have A Small Brain

The size of an animal’s brain is often linked to its intelligence, along with the brain-to-body mass ratio. Humans, for instance, have a relatively large brain compared to their body size. On the other hand, leopard geckos do not excel in either of these aspects. As expected, these geckos have a small brain relative to their body size, limiting their cognitive abilities. 

Despite this disadvantage, it is worth noting that even small lizards like the little green anole have displayed remarkable learning capabilities and greater intelligence than leopard geckos. Having a small brain does not necessarily equate to being less intelligent.

Inbreeding Hasn’t Helped Leopard Gecko Intelligence

Leopard geckos rank just below bearded dragons in popularity as pets, with some even arguing that they may be more popular. The excessive demand for these geckos has led to unethical breeding practices, including inbreeding to produce them quickly. 

Despite being considered intelligent reptiles initially, continuous generations of inbreeding have hindered their cognitive development.

Poor Spatial Awareness

It may not come as a surprise after viewing the video, but leopard geckos are not recognized for their keen sense of space. This means they may casually stroll off edges, tables, or even your hand. When interacting with them, it is important to ensure your hand is positioned underneath to prevent them from venturing off the nearest edge.

leopard gecko habitat

Leopard geckos can withstand falls from significant heights without issue, although it is best not to put this to the test. This behavior alone does not determine intelligence in an animal, but the knowledge that a leopard gecko will wander off a surface without intervention does not exactly portray them as highly intelligent creatures.

Leopard geckos may not be the brightest among reptiles, they still make wonderful pets. Their charming struggle to catch mealworms can be endearing and entertaining to witness. Keep in mind that due to their limited intelligence, it’s important to supervise them at all times when they are out of their enclosure. 

Despite their small size and lack of spatial awareness, leopard geckos are relatively easy to care for compared to other reptiles, making them a great choice for pet owners looking for a low-maintenance companion.

The debate over  Leopard Geckos smart or dumb is complex and multifaceted. While they may not exhibit intelligence in the traditional sense, they are highly adapted to their environment and possess unique behaviors that serve them well in the wild. Their ability to navigate their surroundings, hunt for food, and communicate with other geckos showcases a level of sophistication that should not be underestimated. 

Labeling them as either smart or dumb oversimplifies their capabilities and overlooks the fascinating intricacies of these reptiles. To truly appreciate leopard geckos, it is important to recognize and respect the intelligence that exists within their specialized adaptations.


How long do leopard geckos live?

Leopard geckos have an average lifespan of 10-20 years in captivity, with some individuals living even longer. Providing proper care and a suitable environment is crucial in ensuring their longevity. Factors such as diet, temperature, humidity levels, and habitat size play a significant role in the overall health and lifespan of leopard geckos

Can leopard geckos eat fruit?

Leopard geckos are primarily insectivores, so their diet should consist mainly of insects such as crickets, mealworms, and roaches. While some fruits can be given as an occasional treat, they should not make up a significant portion of a leopard gecko’s diet.

Do leopard geckos bite?

Yes, leopard geckos can bite, but it is not very common. Leopard geckos are generally known for their docile and gentle nature, making them popular pets for beginner reptile owners. If a leopard gecko feels threatened or stressed, it may resort to biting as a form of defense.

How much are leopard geckos?

The cost of leopard geckos can vary depending on factors such as age, morph, and breeder. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $100 for a standard leopard gecko. Rare morphs or color variations can fetch higher prices ranging from $100 to several hundred dollars.