Hissing is regarded as an aggressive behavior in leopard geckos. If you have recently adopted a leopard gecko or your existing pet has suddenly started hissing at you, you need to identify what is causing the aggressive behavior and why they feel they need to defend themselves. There are many reasons, from your pet not knowing you yet to incorrect temperatures and more.
If your pet is hissing at you, there are other defensive behaviors to look for, these include:
- Hiding if you come near the enclosure
- Hissing or screaming
- Rushing towards you with their mouth open
- Crouching with tail vertical
- Dropping their tail
If your pet is hissing or displaying any of these behaviors, reduce interaction to feeding and cleaning until they stop acting like this and settle down. Tail dropping is only done when they have very high levels of stress. This is a defense mechanism when your pet fears for its life.
If you have recently brought your leopard gecko home, then it is probably very stressed. Your pet doesn't know you and it doesn't know its new enclosure, which is why it may be hissing when you come near the enclosure. Defensive behaviors can be expected until your pet starts to settle down, which can take up to two weeks.
Many leopard geckos remain rather defensive and lively, though they can be trained to interact with you. Part of this training is done through feeding and cleaning. You will want to get your pet slowly used to the idea of you behind around before you try handling it.
The only interaction you should have with a new leopard gecko is when cleaning their enclosure and feeding. Your pet will start to calm down with you in the room. They will get used to you and over time will allow you to handle it, as you slowly gain its trust.
Displaying Dominant Behavior
Leopard geckos are very territorial, especially the males. Housing two males in one enclosure is a recipe for disaster. Hissing is an aggressive behavior, which may indicate it’s time to separate your geckos, putting each one in its own enclosure. Leopard geckos hissing at each other are showing their dominance, they may even fight.
Dominant behavior is also seen when introducing your gecko to a new enclosure or adding new decorations, they need to get used to it and will see it as a threat until they settle down.
Surprisingly temperature does play a role in how aggressive your leopard gecko becomes, which can result in hissing. Remember your pet is from dry and hot areas, where they get varying temperatures. Your pet relies on the warmth for digestion and to assist in regulating its body temperature. Your pet will be more lively when it’s comfortable and warm.
You need to have three temperature areas in your leopard gecko enclosure. A cold side, a warm side, and then a basking area, which should be located on the warm side.
75ºF - 80°F
70ºF - 85°F
90ºF - 95°F
If your temperatures are not at optimum and drop too low, your leopard gecko will become aggressive and lethargic, not to mention that their growth can be stunted. If the enclosure is too hot, then they will try and escape the enclosure or hide in their hides.
Use a digital thermometer that enables you to monitor temperatures quickly and accurately at a glance.
When it comes to mating season and you have a male and female in the same enclosure, then you can expect a high amount of aggression. Both the male and female will find breeding as a competition. They become very territorial and will hiss, wag their tails and even fight.
Females will fight other females during this time and they can seriously cause harm to each other, especially if they are biting. They can also become aggressive towards you at this time, hissing as you approach their enclosure.
If you don't intend having baby leopard geckos, then you will want to separate your geckos at this time, giving them both their own space until they calm down, you can reintroduce them later.
As a leopard gecko owner, it can be upsetting if your pet suddenly starts hissing at you or its tank mates, especially when your pet has been with you for months. There are a number of reasons why your pet is showing this aggressive trait. Knowing your existing pet, getting to know your new pet, and ensuring you provide them with optimum temperatures can help reduce this aggressive trait, reducing the risk of your pet hissing at you.