If you are finally sure about getting a leopard gecko, you have to take note that you will deal with its licking or jumping and a bit of filthy stuff like farts and poop. Fortunately, you would not have to deal with poop as big as a dog’s. What is more surprising is that your leopard gecko is likely to defecate on the same spot!
Despite many leopard geckos defecating in the same spot of their tank, no studies can provide a certain explanation for this behavior. The most accredited theory is a hardwired way to avoid revealing their presence to predators in the wild. Other reasons to defecate in the same spot might be 1) stress relief, 2) comfort, and even 3) hygiene.
To know why your leopard gecko may (or may not) poop on the same spot, keep on reading!
Before we proceed, here is a little trivia.
There is an array of terms pertaining to the dumping of excrement clusters by animals restricted at a particular site. Specifically, for leopard geckos and the rest of the lizards, researchers often use scat piling.
Currently, no known studies could confirm if leopard geckos defecate only in a specific spot in the area they live in the wild. However, many believe that leopard geckos may poop in one spot to avoid predators.
If you think about it, a wild leopard gecko has broader ground coverage than a captive one. So, it would be more sensible to say that it would never go back to where it came from just to poop. Right?
It turns out that even with the extensive area available to roam around, a wild leopard gecko may not necessarily stray away too far from its burrow. Remember, this gecko species is known for its territorial behavior, so it is reasonable to say that it has its invisible domain.
With this train of thought, you would lean towards believing that a wild leopard gecko may pile its poop on the spot near its burrow. However, no research has been conducted on this topic because of the location of its natural habitat.
Aside from its invisible domain, there is another more rational reason for a wild leopard gecko to defecate in a certain area. While it is not backed up by research, a logical reason that could explain why wild leopard geckos may defecate in the same place is to avoid predators.
The particular behavior could be a hardwired trait as a survival mechanism. Knowing that leopard geckos are prey to many bigger predators in the wild, they may have developed this behavior to fake their location. With many of their threatening predators that heavily rely on scent, their scat pile may serve as a decoy to mislead the attackers, for example.
There may be uncertainty that wild leopard geckos scat pile in nature because of the lack of direct studies. However, we and most owners noticed that some of our geckos do poop on the same spot inside the tank.
When you have the chance to ask experienced and intermediate leopard gecko owners, most (if not all) would answer you that their leopard geckos poop in one spot. Others would even say that despite pooping once every few days or multiple times a day, their geckos would still go back to the same spot to defecate.
Leopard geckos have been named by many reptile owners to be fussy. You might even hear from them that even if you did not train your gecko to defecate on a specific site, it would most likely train itself because of different possible reasons.
Why do captive leopard geckos defecate on the same spot?
Here are other theories regarding such reasons.
- For stress relief
- For comfort
- For hygiene
As neat animals, leopard geckos could get triggered seeing poop all over the place inside their enclosures. So, having a designated area that they can consider dirty may be a way for them to avoid unnecessary stress.
Everyone loves comfort, and that includes leopard geckos too. Imagine having your poop all around your house. Would you feel comfortable? No.
Likewise, with poop everywhere in their enclosure, leopard geckos would not only feel stressed out but also uncomfortable. So, with a specific area to poop, they may feel comfort in the rest of their tank.
Leopard geckos could be pooping in one spot all the time to keep the rest of their enclosure clean. If you must think about it, it does make sense.
Despite them being famous for their neatness, not all leopard geckos poop in the same place.
Why do captive leopard geckos defecate in different spots?
Here are our theories on this behavior.
- New to the environment
- Temperature changes
- Tank rearrangements
- For no apparent reason
Newly adopted leopard geckos may not feel at home immediately after adoption. Hence, as they slowly get to know their owners and explore the new tank, they could poop in multiple places until they have established their permanent spot.
In case you did not know, leopard geckos need the warm side of their tank to aid and promote the digestion of food. Perhaps, the warm side could also help them defecate.
A gecko owner I once talked with shared a surprising occurrence. One night, a power outage shut down the tank’s heating system. The following day, the electricity was back. She noticed that her gecko’s poop was in the cool area, a different spot than usual.
Changing the enclosure’s configuration almost always happens when you do a total makeover and clean the tank. Apparently, by doing so, you could be removing the remaining traces of the gecko’s poop that your reptile used as a marker.
As a result, changes in the tank’s layout and cleaning might change the leopard gecko’s pooping location.
Introducing something new to your leopard gecko would indeed affect it in some ways, including the possibility of changing the spot where it poops.
While one would expect a recently fostered gecko to poop anywhere, it is also possible that a gecko that has been in the household for years would decide to poop on a different spot.
In a story shared to me by a gecko owner, he described his leopard gecko as broken. After observing his gecko defecate consistently in one spot for more than six months, it decided to poop on a different place out of the blue. This confused him as he made no changes. Then on, he told me that every morning has become a daily quest to find the poop.
With the lack of research on leopard gecko scat piling, I was digging to extract information from similar studies in other lizards. These data could assist in formulating educated guesses for leopard geckos.
After foraging for information, we found three lizards that have undergone observational studies regarding scat piling, namely: Australian skinks (genus Egernia), Thick-tailed geckos (Nephrurus milii), and Western banded geckos (Coleonyx variegatus).
In novel observational research conducted by a team of scientists, they have hypothesized three possible reasons for scat piling in Australian skinks: imitating conspecifics, avoiding parasites, and giving social signals .
In the habitat-selection experiment conducted by the team of Shah, they found that these geckos scat pile. However, they could not provide a conclusion on whether the action fulfills any social role or not .
The pair of researchers, Carpenter and Duvall, found that these geckos would presumably defecate on a particular spot away from their burrows and, most importantly, far from the hideouts claimed by members of the same species .
Leopard geckos are deemed as naturally tidy lizards by most gecko owners. As a new gecko owner, you can expect your gecko to use a specific area to poop once it has acclimated.
Despite the absence of available information, wild leopard geckos are conjectured to scat pile to avoid predators. Meanwhile, captive leopard geckos could be defecating on the same spot for stress relief, comfort, and hygiene.
While most leopard geckos have chosen their favorite spot to poop, some have not, perhaps because of the following reasons: new to the environment, changes in temperature, changes in the tank, and no apparent reason.
While studies about scat piling in leopard geckos are scarce, accessible data from research on Australian skinks (genus Egernia), Thick-tailed geckos (Nephrurus milii), and Western banded geckos (Coleonyx variegatus) can aid in making an educated guess regarding the case of leopard geckos.