When you see your crested gecko licking its bum you might think it’s an alarming and strange behaviour.
It’s likely that you’ve seen other animals do this; we often see cats licking their bodies, for example. The most frequent body part that crested geckos lick is their eyes.
After all, they don’t have eyelids, which means they even sleep with open eyes. Naturally, small particles like dust can get onto the eyeball.
Crested geckos deal with this by moistening their eyeballs and removing particles that shouldn’t be there. Bum licking, however, is a different matter and one that many new gecko owners worry about.
So, why do crested geckos lick their bums? The main reasons for this are cleanliness and hygiene. Bum licking can occur after specific actions like shedding, excretion, territory marking and mating and as strange as it seems to us is completely normal behavior for Crested Geckos.
In this, article, we’ll discuss in detail the reasons why your crested gecko might be licking its bum so that you can recognise why your pet might be doing it.
Licking bum for hygiene reasons
You’ve probably already noticed what clean creatures crested geckos are. Unlike other animals with feathers or fur that can gather dirt, crested geckos have a leathery coat that they like to keep in a good condition.
The best cleaning tool for your crested gecko is the tongue. It’s long, moist and can reach all over the body.
Geckos are naturally clean animals. As a crested gecko owner, you need to help your pets’ cleanliness by maintaining their habitat. The terrarium should be scrubbed and disinfected then rinsed at least once a week.
Your crested gecko’s cleanliness is also linked to the substrate type you use. Using something like organic peat or paper towels that are disposable will help your gecko’s waste decompose naturally and keep things clean.
Licking its bum after mating
Crested geckos are typically nocturnal and they usually mate during their waking hours at night. Unlike mammals that have a penis, geckos have two “half” penises called hemipenes. They only use one when they mate, so the other is a kind of backup!
After mating occurs, the male crested gecko’s hemipenis protrudes. Typically, it takes a few hours for it to go back into its pouch. During this time, the crested gecko will lick himself.
There are two reasons why this occurs. First of all, the hemipenis needs to be well lubricated in order to go back into the pouch with ease. Secondly, the gecko needs to clean it of foreign particles and residue that remain after mating.
It’s also possible to see male crested geckos lick their hemipenis when they are wanting to mate or just to clean the genitals. So, if your gecko is solitary and hasn’t mated but you see him licking his hemipenis, you don’t need to be unduly alarmed.
Licking its bum after excretion
This is arguably the most common reason for a crested gecko to be licking its bum. After having a bowel movement, he will ensure he is clean again using his tongue. This is similar to why cats lick their bums too!
Due to their diet, crested geckos can get diarrhoea sometimes. If geckos eat food that is a soft or puree consistency, their stools can be very loose. It’s a good idea to provide a balance of foods like roaches, crickets, fruit and even waxworms as a treat. For more information on Crested Gecko diet please have a look at my Crested Gecko feeding guide.
If your pet has loose stools or diarrhoea and already has a balanced diet, you should visit a vet to check for parasites in the stool.
When your crested gecko is healthy and has healthy bowel movements, he will be able to clean himself easily.
Licking its bum during or after shedding
Like other reptiles, crested geckos shed their skin as they grow. When they’re younger, they grow more quickly and shed more often. Babies and hatchlings will shed around once per week while fully mature adults will only shed once a month or less.
If you’re worried that you haven’t seen your crested gecko shed for a while, the chances are it has shed and eaten the skin before you noticed. Shedding often occurs at night.
Eating the skin is common. It can be nutritious for the gecko but is something that they do in the wild so that predators don’t know where they’ve been.
There will be signs that shedding is about to occur as your crested gecko will have discoloured and dull skin. It might be possible to witness him tear it off then eat it. During this shedding and eating process, crested geckos clean and lick their bum to ensure no skin is retained here.
Without proper shedding, geckos can have problems including issues with the blood supply that can damage organs and cause necrosis. You can help your crested gecko by removing any retained skin gently.
Other crested gecko licking behaviours
When it’s mating season for crested geckos, you might see them licking surfaces to discover if there are mates close by. Males mark their territory during this time and they do it for two reasons: letting potential mates know they’re available and for claiming an area.
On their tail base, crested geckos have femoral pores that produce pheromones. These are chemical messengers that communicate with other animals of the same species. Animals detect most of these by smell. We’ve known about these powerful messages for a long time. In Ancient Greece, it was well known that female dog secretions from being in heat attracted male dogs.
In crested geckos, their pheromones communicate to the opposite sex to find mates. When male crested geckos have marked their territory with their pheromones, they will lick their bums so as to clean away any leftover secretions and clean their vent.
Crested geckos are curious about their surroundings and will even lick you. While you might think this is a sign of affection or love, it’s really just instinct and curiosity. Crested geckos learn a lot from their environment by their tongue, including what’s edible and what isn’t.
If your crested gecko doesn’t lick
Although bum licking seems a little bizarre to us, if your crested gecko isn’t doing it, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Not licking might indicate stress or an illness so it’s best to get him checked out if he’s not doing any licking at all.
As we’ve seen, there are many reasons why your crested gecko could be licking its bum. If you notice him doing it, try and think about the reasons above to see if you can pinpoint why. The chances are, he’s just keeping himself in the best of health.
However, if you notice that he is licking to excess or if you see any other worrying or unusual things like inflammation or swelling, make sure you take him to see a vet.
To conclude, if your crested gecko has just shed, mated or defecated, him licking his bum is completely normal.
My name is Andy Baines and I am the owner and writer here at Super Crazy Pets.
For the last 20 years I have been the carer/parent of many exotic pets, from reptiles to amphibians I have cared for and looked after them all.
I created this website to share my knowledge of looking after pets with other fellow owners.
My works and articles have been shared on many online publications including The Spruce Pets.
You can read more about my story by visiting the about me page.