Peticure

Human-like hands. Slender finger and a well-shaped palm.
Human-like hands. Slender finger and a well-shaped palm.

How much I pamper my geckos? A lot!!!

Both Jupiter and Nova have tiny hands, I say “hands” because they are utterly similar to human`s. Slender fingers, a well-shaped palm, soft skin, except instead of nails they have claws, really tiny ones, but they have. Well, they used to be tiny but after a while they grew, and grew, and grew, specially Jupiter´s.

The Claws

A gecko claws are special adaptation for digging, climbing little trees and walking on sand. Three activities that they do not do as much in their house, basically because they do not need to, they have enough hiding places, they have food, water and their needs cover, in other words, they feel safe and relaxed. When a gecko feels like this, just wants to stay like this. I suppose the length of their claws are a result of too much comfort, and because they are so healthy their claws are not even a little brittle.

Because Jupiter and Nova are different species of gecko, their nails growth-rate is different. Nova has already been with me almost a year but her nails are not as sharp and Jupiter´s. His grow incredibly fast and terribly sharp. At the beginning, I had the impression the long nail could be a bit harmful for him, because when ever he stood on a flat surface his fingers arched a little, something that did not happened when his nail were short. Apparently he does not mind at all, the only one that is really bothered by them is me.  You see, he likes to sit on my shoulder, walk through the length of my arms and jump from one hand to the other. I often end up with cat-like-scratches, and even though they do hurt as much they kinda leave marks.

Wearing Down the Nails

So I was determined to find a solution, as the matter of fact, I found several of them and the combination of them keeps my hands scratch-less. Firstly, whenever we go out on a walk, that is about every two weeks, I encourage him to climb trees and walk a considerable distance. Of course, not excessively long to exhaust him, but just the right distance so that his nails wear out a little, and besides exercising is always good for any kind of pet.

Secondly, I designed a house for Jupiter and Nova with two higher platforms. Both platforms have different hiding places and degrees of humidity and temperature, so that whenever they want to change sleeping place they have to use their claws to climb up or down. This also makes their house more interesting and less boring, because similar to humans, boredom might affect health. Basically, if geckos have a boring environment they will want to go out and explore, they have such a curious nature, but when they find out they are unable to do this, they will get stress out. And… well… “stress”, oh “stress”, one of the worst evils of our times.

And then the PETICURE, this is where I wanted to get from the beginning. I do not do this with Nova, for she does not need yet, but I have to sit down with Jupiter at least once a month or whenever his nails start scratching me. I use a fine nail file to go through all his nails, moving the file against the growing directions. It has to be very softly and carefully because I would hate to hurt him. He does not mind at all and since we have been doing this for a long time, he already knows the dynamic. However, geckos are not fond of strong light, so I cannot use a strong one, which makes the task a little difficult, but otherwise,  he will soon start moving around and just want to go away. Sometimes, it is just impossible to finish in one day, so we have two o three more sessions.

I know what are you thinking right now! “wow, so much work for such a little creature”. Actually I do it for me, because I really like bonding with them and, in fact is not that much work. If my dear reader, happens to have a similar care as mine, you’ll know that it does not take more that 15 -20 mins and you can do it while watching a movie or listening to music. So it is not really extra effort.

Cold Weather

And then it comes winter!!!! I cannot take them outside with low temperatures, it could totally be damaging for them. Remember they are cold blooded animals and they depend on the environment to regulate their body temperature. Also, where I live it get dryer in winter and they both require a degree of humidity. Both Leopard Geckos and African-Fatties have a hibernating cycle and they are even less active in winter, so taking them outside is not only damaging but forcing them to be active will make them rather cranky and in a very bad mood.  I do not want that! I want my sweet, cute geckos all the time!

Filing Jupiter’s nails started to become a rather challenging task so I had to think of another solution, and quick. I previously read that trimming a gecko’s nails could be a dangerous thing to do and that only a doctor should do it. I still agree with this and I do NOT suggest that anybody should to it. If you are not careful enough, you could end up with gecko blood in your hands and a pet that does not trust you anymore.     However, if you observe carefully, it is only the the very tip of the nail that scratches the deepest, so trimming that very end of the claw is about enough. Jupiter gets a little nervous with this because I have to hold him rather firmly and I must use a stronger light. Poor Jupiter, the things I do to him! I do not want to stress him too much so we usually do only 2 -3 nails by day, and I do not trim them all, only the sharpest ones.

Wait! what did I just said? “Poor Jupiter”? In which world is that true. He is a prince in his palace and I love him so much.

Leopard and African Fat-Tailed Geckos, Part 1: The belly

Five minutes ago I sat down to write about the geckos, how to properly take of them and why are they amazing creatures, but it is simple impossible for me to type in “Leopard Gecko” or “African-Fat Tailed Gecko” and not click on the images tap in Google and let my eyes and heart melt with those alluringly cute pictures. Each image more appealing than the last one, all of them with lovely faces, stunning colours and patterns, and they tails gracefully curled.  Scrolling and scrolling I just wished to extend my hand and caress their velvet but rough skin and look into their adorably curious eyes. I was in the middle of a “Awwww so cute” when Jupiter, as if he knew what I was thinking, took his tiny head out of his hiding place and looked at me as if saying “Pet me, please“. Of course, my little prince, right away!

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And then… here I am in front of the computer with Jupiter on my shoulder, I suppose, both him and Nova are the rightful companions for the writing of this blog.   As I grabbed the little one on my hand I noticed his belly was unpleasantly cold, I supposed that’s the reason he wanted some petting. Now, this is a very important detail that I am going to use to start explaining the importance of taking good care of a gecko belly.

Geckos are reptiles, and as it is widely known, reptiles are cold blooded animals. I am not saying that they are emotionless, it means they lack of capability to regulate their own body temperature and that they depend on their environment to do so. Jupiter and Nova have both their own well-regulated heating pads but they also have several hiding places with different temperatures and humidity. Sometimes, maybe they think it is hot and choose colder places and fell asleep in them, but a long time in them cause their belly to cool too much.

They are rather smart animals and they will usually move back to the heat (or maybe that is just instinct ), but if I have the chance I use this opportunity to pet them and bond a little bit more with them. They enjoy the human touch very much, as we are warm and if they feel safe with a person, they will just stay there for a quite a period of time, until they feel like changing place or they fell asleep again. In my case, after about 20 to 30 minutes, Jupiter will always try to move around or find new places to sit, but little Nova will always curls herself up and start nodding. With skin so soft, I just love it when she does that.

Keeping their belly warm, not only makes them happy but also help them with digestion. Good digestion keeps them healthy.   Every now and then I massage them just by placing my warm-finger under their belly and applying just a little pressure. Less often, I used a warm-moisten cloth to do so.  They love it and stay enjoying the massage for a while, besides their belly is so white and the skin is so thin that it is possible to know their inner condition.  By then way, a warm-moisten cloth is recommendable for any other aid they required, such as aid in shedding skin or simply cleaning them after taking a walk outside.

Geckos do not usually get sick,  but when they hunt they are not careful enough to swallow only the prey, they might as well ingest sand, soil or other substrate particles. When feeding them it is important to help them avoid this. However, if they actually get impacted, massaging their belly is imperative and if that does not help then you will probably need to take them to the doctor. Jupiter has always been healthy and he does not love hunting, he likes it better when I hold the cricket for him in the tweezers, so there is no problem with him. Nova, on the other hand, is an intrinsic hunter, the moment she sees the cricket, she just jump onto it, and the poor cricket doesn’t stand a chance.  Although it is so entertaining to watch her feed, I must be extra careful.

Nova´s Belly  Jupiter´s Belly

Leopard geckos have longer legs, which help their belly to be higher above the ground, but African geckos have short legs and sometimes while walking they might get scratched a little. Their substrate should not have anything that might hurt them, or if you take them out side, it is important to first check the area where they are going to walk. Depending on the injure, they might heal on the next skin shed, but it can also take a few months. As I mentioned before, their belly are very white, but it they are recovery from a scratch they will have darker areas.

When I first brought Nova, she had a few scratches, but with the proper care she healed and she is a happy gecko with a healthy belly just like Jupiter. And you will always be happy and healthy, I promise.