This blog post was Co-Authored by: Emily Erickson

Can My Cold-Blooded Reptile Have a Warm Personality?

Seeing the word “personality” and “reptiles” in the same sentence seems far too out of place doesn’t it? Not for us; here at New England Reptile Shows, we have truly seen personality traits come to life within our animals both on and off the stage!

What Defines Personality?

In humans, personality traits are characteristics that influence a person’s behaviors in how they react to different situations. While personality traits in reptiles cannot be measured by a verbal test, or with traditional paper and pen, there have been tests by scientists that have reached unclear and complex conclusions.

General Behaviors

Try not to confuse the general behavior of reptiles with personality traits; there are many behaviors that are typical in the animal world that are seen every day, including:

  • Adaptive Behaviors: In a change of environment, all animals can learn to adapt by modifying their behaviors to seek out food, heat and security.
  • Noisemaking Behaviors: Some reptiles can vocalize as a self-defense mechanism.
  • Hunting Rituals: The behavior in which a reptile uses for hunting is virtually identical among various reptilian species.

Does my Snake Have a Personality?

It is very possible based on recent studies to be able to tell the difference between your pet reptiles based on their individual personalities. Many snake owners have suggested that their pets have a bond with them, and enjoy their time together. I believe that this is true based on personal experience. When our Red-Tail Boa, Charlie, had become part of the family, Eric (my husband) grew quite fond of him, making it a point to hold him and spend time with him every day. At first Charlie just wanted to get away, a typical snake behavior, but in time he seemed to enjoy being held and pet and also seemed to enjoy the warmth and comfort of being held. After a year of being under our care, Charlie went away for a week to mate with another Red-Tail Boa. When we picked him up, he smelled Eric and went toward him as fast as he could and nuzzled Eric’s face for over ten minutes. When anyone else tried to hold him he went right back to Eric. He was displaying a very outward personality trait of missing Eric, and being very fond of him. Charlie responds differently to different people, tolerating most, avoiding some and seeking the comfort of Eric in particular.

Other Examples We Have Seen

Many people believe that personality in animals is entirely intelligence-based. We find the to be true, especially in our Red Iguana, Bruno, whom we’ve had for a little over a year now. I have become very close with Bruno, over the past year while working with him every day. I talk to him and pet him every morning. Some mornings he’d rather not be bothered, and so he turns around and “gives me the tail”. Other times he seems to enjoy the attention and comes closer to me. During shows, I can visually see when he is afraid or anxious and when I come close to him he nuzzles me, climbs half way onto me and seems to seek comfort in my touch. I feel very strongly that even though he cannot vocalize how he feels, he can tell me with his eyes and general body language. I see a very distinct personality difference between him and our other Iguana, Robin. Robin is a young blue Iguana who, just like a young kid, loves to run around and get into things. He is very curious, but is generally afraid of new situations. However, I have seen over the past couple of months that he is becoming more trusting, and used to us.

I have also noticed that different Iguanas like different foods. For instance, almost all iguanas share a love for bananas, but Bruno prefers watermelon over bananas. Bruno also finds lighter colored greens more appealing than Robin does. While most iguanas love bath time, oftentimes completely relaxing to soak up the water, Robin wants nothing to do with it.

Our leopard geckos also seem to have individual personalities. For instance, Lisa hates being pet and prefers to stay near Leo, while Spot seems to enjoy being held and pet and prefers to be near Ivory.

I feel that reptiles, even though they are cold-blooded, certainly have the capacity to warm up to their owners; it’s just a matter of being patient, building up a trust, and learning more about them each day.

Tell us about your pet reptiles! Do they have personalities?