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How to tame a Tokay Gecko

Updated on July 16, 2011
Tokay gecko first day home
Tokay gecko first day home

Gekko Gecko - The "Pit Bull" of the lizard world

The fierce reputation of the "Pit Bull" of lizards is well earned. They will not hesitate to bite the hand that feeds them, often grabbing on and refusing to let go despite all of your best efforts. Tokay's however are quite readily tamed to the point of being able to handle them free of gloves. I was first introduced to this notion while taking a tour of NERD where I saw owner and Kevin McCurley transform into the Tokay Whisperer. I almost couldn't believe my eyes when I watched him reach calmly into one of the lizard's cages, and pick up a beautiful morph without gloves and it hardly even barked at him, let alone tried to bite! Kevin spoke a little bit about how they are tamable it just takes patience and time.

A few weeks later I bought a tokay and committed to taming him down to the point of being able to handle him without having to use gloves. I learned a few things along the way.

  • It will be 1 step forward and 4 steps back. Just when you think you've made progress you will get bit.
  • Their bite is truly worse than their bark. If you're going to hand tame a tokay you'll get bit at some point. While it's not horribly painful it hurts.
  • Murphy's law is in full effect when it comes to dealing with a tokay gecko and avoiding getting bit.
  • Slow and deliberate movements are essential for your fingers to escape unscathed.
  • They are faster than they look and not at all opposed to taking a flying leap.
  • Don't try to handle them inside when you first start. You'll get bit, they'll run and then you get to spend a few hours trying to dig them out.
  • Gloves are your best friend to start with.
  • They are never truly trained. Yesterday mine was perched comfortably on my shoulder and when I turned my head he latched onto my ear. About 15 minutes later he decided he was ready to let go.

You read all that and wonder why anyone would want a Tokay gecko. They are great animals, with lots of personality not to mention beautiful. They are well worth the time it takes to tame them down, but you must remember they will never be "puppy dog" tame as that is not their nature.

Would you consider getting a Tokay Gecko?

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Tokay geckos require great patience as they are quick to bite
Tokay geckos require great patience as they are quick to bite
We've come a long way since this first picture of my latest hand taming of a tokay was taken.
We've come a long way since this first picture of my latest hand taming of a tokay was taken.

How to tame the Tokay

I mentioned before two things - slow deliberate movements and gloves. When you get ready to tame your Tokay these are essential. I'm not sure which is more important, but you'll need both to get very far.

Picking up the Tokay Gecko

When you pick up your gecko grab it just behind the front legs. Use a firm not crushing grip. It will squirm and try to get turned around to bite your hand. If you're not used to picking them up gloves are a good idea because you'll probably misjudge how determined they are to bite you.

Avoid grabbing the lizard by the tail. Like many of their cousins the Tokay has a special defense mechanism in which they drop their tail as a last ditched effort to escape the clutches of a predator.

Freedom to run

After you pick your lizard up hold very still and let it do what it wants. Chances are it will just hang there, terrified, from your glove (or arm) for a good 15 to 20 minutes and then suddenly let go. If you are inside it will let go and be off to the races climbing into or under something that is virtually impossible to get it out of. If you're outside (on the lawn preferably) you should be able to chase it down and pick it up before it get away. Once you pick it up again return it to it's cage for the day.

Skip a day

I handle my Tokay every other day. Even now when he can be free handed I find he is less jumpy if I take a break between handling him. But don't skip more than a day if you can help it. They revert back to their natural instincts of biting and be scared to death of you in very short order

Be patient and be consistent

Don't expect to have it tamed in one sitting. Some take longer than others but in general 8 to 12 days is an appropriate amount of time for it to take. Like I said before if you skip to many days working with the animal you'll lose a lot of progress you've made.


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    • profile image

      malachi henry 3 years ago

      i have a beautiful male psychodelic morph tokay that is very aggressive in his cage but once i get him out he is very friendly. Why is that?

    • profile image

      Joshua 4 years ago

      I just caught 2 tokays 1 was so gentle and fiendly but the othr one died because he keeps biting a lot of things, now i got another one given to me and now im trying to tame it. Its quite hard to tame, it bit me in my finger twice.

    • Glenn Wong profile image

      Glenn Wong 5 years ago

      Finally she ate it after I hand fed the mealworm to her. LOL.

    • Glenn Wong profile image

      Glenn Wong 5 years ago

      Just caught one in the wild. She bit me when I first handle it.... And why she doesn't eat the mealworms I gave her??

    • profile image

      MagenDaSwede57 6 years ago

      We have seen very docile and rather bitey Tokays, and yes, the females seem less aggressive than males. A couple of taming tips:

      When approaching a gecko (caged, loose, leashed), keep your hand as low as possible. Slide the flat hand palm-down slowly toward the gecko. If it barks, stop and talk gently. Typically, the hand can slide under the gecko until you have it in position to lift it up. Trying to overhand-grab even the gentlest gecko can startle them.

      We have been bit and successfully released the jaw clamp using a hair dryer on lowest settings aimed (away from the eyes!) at the jaw and neck. This works well with snakes, too. Has anyone discover a "trigger point" on the lizard to get it to release on its own?

    • petsnakes profile image

      petsnakes 6 years ago from United States

      TK - I'm not grabbing it in the picture. The animal was just cradled in my hand.

    • profile image

      scotty webb87 6 years ago

      Having probs with a wc tokay still not eating 3 weeks its been.still seems to be pooing and drinks a lot. Temps and humidity are perfect any tips on how to get him to feed

    • profile image

      TK 6 years ago

      Don't EVER grab a tokay the way you did in the pic. If the tokay reacts less violently to it in the future it doesn't mean it's suddenly tame, holding a tokay is not theraputic for the animal and has no benefit for the animal. Just because it "gets used to it" to the point it won't bite again doesn't mean it likes being held. Grabbing a tokay like you did does nothing but the hurt the gecko.

    • profile image

      Hammym 6 years ago

      Aquired a tokay under the belief it was a leopard gekko! Taming went well for approx 3 seconds then I put my hand in the cage.Ten mins later he finally let go, since finding out about Tokays its all become clear; I can look but don't touch! He has become a family faviroute, we all love his attitude, thank god he's only 14 inches.

    • profile image

      Mico 6 years ago

      My uncle just got me two tokay geckos that he caught in their farm (male and female). They truly are aggressive. I just put my finger and tapped it on the glass vivarium and Rex (the male) bit me. Tyra (the female) on the other hand is less aggressive. I feed them mealworms, crickets and cockroaches.

    • profile image

      kw 6 years ago

      i got my tokay (Luna) from the 2011 reptile expo in myrtle beach and from the first day i could hold her without gloves shes a beautiful morph and i dont see how there aggressive at all shes never even opened her mouth at me

    • jamiesweeney profile image

      jamiesweeney 6 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Great hub huh? I like this one very interesting.

    • jhadden profile image

      jhadden 7 years ago from Monroe, CT

      I purchased an older pair of Tokays who were caged together since birth but never handled. My husband and I are experienced reptile owners, but never had a tokay. We left there thinking we were going to tame them, but the guy at the store laughed at us. Well, we had them for over a year before I got the nerve up to even try. They are so cool, but they are so nasty! Anyway, long story short I got one of them to be tame without ever getting bit. Once I got him out of the cage and on to my chest, I put a small towel gently under and loosely over him. If he ever went for a bite, I used the towel to block his mouth. I also used a pair of tongs but EXTREMELY gently and just to hold his mouth from opening while I took him out of the cage. I do not recommend anyone trying this unless they are experienced with reptiles. They can easily take a finger off. But, once he was out, I would gently pet his head until he became so calm he was almost comatose. I think he actually enjoyed it a little, though he'd never let me know that. Anyhow, I am very sad to report that he died not too long ago. I am not really sure how old they were when we got them, so it could have been old age. Tame or not, they are extremely beautiful and very cool to watch. The best thing about them is the way they bark like dogs. And sometimes mumble and it sounds like they are talking or groaning. It is so cute! I love them and can't wait to get another. I heard if you get them as babies, they are easier to tame. You just have to keep at it, be gentle, safe, and patient.

    • profile image

      Karl 7 years ago

      Is it true that tokay geckos are expensive in southeast asia? I mean i saw it in youtube. Malaysian and indonesian are buying it in millions. Lol. I was wandering why. Anyone wants to answer that? :0

    • profile image

      King 7 years ago

      My tokay escaped out of its cage. now i find hard times looking for it. any tips on how to catch it or lure it just in case?

    • profile image

      jefferson 7 years ago

      i have a tokay gecko.

      he is in the terrarium, i wanna tame her but im scared.

      i will try my best to tame her, i will treat her as my baby.

      you guys are right. i think the keyword here is "PATIENCE"

      -from Davao, Phiippines.

    • profile image

      fredster 7 years ago

      yeah.. the tokay gecko are really common here in the Philippines..

    • profile image

      Wendy 7 years ago

      Well, my father caught one for me in the forest. Yeah, like literally CAUGHT. It's a really young one. I was very excited getting that gecko but on the first day, it bit my father and he bleed -a lot. I wanted to try handling one of them but I have no experience . Mind giving any tips?

    • profile image

      Jun 7 years ago

      Here in my house in the Philippines there are a lot of tokay geckos here hahaha and they have beautiful morphs they just live at the roof of our houses or the walls outside hahah.

    • profile image

      trevor 7 years ago

      i just bought a tokay the other day at a reptile expo in mars pennsylvania. the guy there told me that they were very easily tamed down and that the bite didn't hurt very bad. i was pretty angry when i found out it did hurt. then i decided that i was okay with it because he looks neat and its a good learning expierience.

    • profile image

      bob 8 years ago

      mine as never bit me if i call her name she comes back

    • profile image

      angela 8 years ago

      uh, why would you want one of these things, silly!

    • profile image

      jp 8 years ago

      ye they're really mean. my brother got some and they bite him all the time. i tried to pick one up but it didn't let me

    • profile image

      jack 8 years ago

      hi i am 12 years old and i have a tokay gecho and you are right about being the pit bull of the lizards. they do leave a nasty bite. the guy at the pet store when he tried to get the tokay gecho out it bit him but he had a glove on then it jumped out of the cage. my dad makes me keep it outside because he sais its like a minature aliggator.


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