Can a Reptile Actually Be An Affectionate Pet?

Reptiles may be cold-blooded but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are cold-hearted.  Despite popular belief, certain reptile species have the capacity to be an affectionate pet. There are plenty of feel-good stories of reptiles following their owners around or snuggling up on someone’s chest for a nice nap.

Do Reptiles Have Emotions?

There is a debate amongst herpetological enthusiasts whether reptiles can experience love, affection, or pleasure. One thing that all can agree on, however, is that reptiles do have emotions. Reptile emotions, however, are extremely basic and center around survival such as caution, hunger, or defensive behavior.

In comparison to domesticated cats and dogs, reptiles are still relatively standoffish. The cause is less disinterest in their owners but that reptile brains are not developed enough for such emotion. That being said, reptiles do more than think about their next meal. Snakes have been known to show curiosity and excitement, some lizards love being stroked.

Which Reptiles Make Affectionate Pets

The more intelligent reptiles make for the most affectionate pets. Particular species can not only recognize their owners but will react to their owners’ presence.

Bearded Dragons

These medium-sized lizards are told to have a propensity to show affection to their owners. They have been said to snuggle on their owner’s chest or nuzzle in the crooks of arms and necks as they fall asleep. In addition to being very well-tempered, they are so intelligent that they can even be trained to perform tricks like fetch.


One of the most intelligent of all reptiles, tortoises are slow and steady in their displays of affection. These acts may be relatively minute, but they certainly exist. Tortoise displays of affection towards their owners include following them around, nudging them with their head or arm, or following their owner’s motion with their eyes. They also display a full sense of curiosity.


These prehistoric-looking lizards may not be the most social, but they are known to enjoy having their heads rubbed and their backs scratched. To get to this point, however, requires the building of trust. Keep your pet green iguana fed and warm to access their cuddlier side.

Ball Pythons

Snakes have the most limited capacity for affection, but the larger pythons will show more of it than the smaller colubrid snakes. These snakes enjoy being handled and will instinctively curl around any appendage offered to them. Their behavior is likely due to an instinctive search for warmth, but it’s easy to think that it’s because they like you.

Can a reptile actually be an affectionate pet? The Verdict

Although reptiles may not have the same capacity to love or show affection as mammals, that does not mean they are incapable of bonding with their owners. For those of us who like a less hands on and complicated relationship with a pet, there is now a third option besides cats and dogs. You can find affectionate reptiles for sale at both mainstream and niche pet retailers, online and in-store.

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