You’re wondering whether or not you can hold (and maybe pet) your new green anole.
After all, they’re far from typical animals like dogs or cats that enjoy being pet.
These cold-blooded lizards have a different mindset and instincts altogether, so the newbie owner is left wondering.
You just want to please it, right? Perhaps some petting on the side? Or a pat on the head to make it happy?
Let’s talk about handling, taming, and green anoles behavior in general.
So, do anoles like being handled?
Sorry to burst your bubble, but the majority of green anoles don’t like to be held.
This lizard is tiny compared to bigger cousins like the bearded dragon, iguana, or even the house gecko which is a lot more “brave” compared to the green anole (even though it has a similar size).
Typical green anole behavior traits are alert, skittish, defensive, agile, reactive, scared, flighty, shy, and isolated.
As you can guess, most anoles don’t like to be handled, especially older adults that aren’t used to human hands and fingers. They’ll run away as soon as you get close.
Some anoles may even hide when you hover over the top of their tank. It’s not surprising to see it jump from branch to branch, attempt to climb on the walls of your terrarium, or even constantly “hop” every time you get close to it.
But there ARE some anoles that seem like they enjoy being held.
You can search the web for proof, such as this one:
And then there are those feisty ones, like this:
These anoles were likely raised from birth with human intervention (regular hand feeding, taming, and handling). Or they were trained to be calm around humans through the use of trust-building with food.
Regardless, there are always exceptions.
Some anoles caught from the wild can be tamed. Others will always be skittish. It’s just their personality. Just like humans, each anole is different.
How to handle a green anole
Handling the lizard properly will help prevent injury.
The worst you can do is make it drop its tail, which signals extreme distress and will destroy any trust you’ve built up over time.
This is anole handling 101: NEVER attempt to grab or handle your lizard by the TAIL. If you have kids or little ones that are the primary care keepers, this should be taught right from the start.
Some anoles will drop their tail a lot easier than others. If they feel like they’re caught by a predator by the tail, it’ll dismount and be left squirming back and forth as a decoy.
Even though the tail regenerates slowly over time, it still instills fear into the lizard and makes taming and handling it much more difficult. Avoid any contact with the tail.
You can also recognize a green anole that’s recently had its tail detached because it’ll be a lot darker (the tail) compared to the rest of the skin.
Natural, never-before dropped tails are green in color just like the rest of the body. The color difference is noticeable.
The proper way to handle a green anole is as follows:
- Put your fist near the lizard. Keep it in a fist so if it tries to bite, it can’t get a hold of anything.
- Slowly put your fingers out.
- Pick it up from both sides of the rib cage using your index finger and thumb with your dominant hand. Use your other hand as support.
- Gently lift it from the perched object.
- After taking it out of the tank, hold it with your thumb on top with your other fingers on the bottom. You should be firm, but not overly firm.
- Don’t apply too much pressure. This can injure a bone.
- When you’re done handling it, gently move your hand back into the tank and release your thumb. It’ll jump off to the nearest object (or not if it enjoys your company).
Remember: NEVER grab it by the tail. Pretend the tail doesn’t exist.
Note that green anoles may try to bite. If it puts its entire jaw around your finger, let it do so. It’s unlikely to do any damage but it may startle you. To remove its bite, slowly move your finger out of the jaw.
Do NOT pull your finger out quickly. This can break its jaw!
It may gape its mouth and warn you. If you’re afraid of getting bitten, then don’t handle it. These lizards don’t always appreciate being handled anyway.
Whether you want to continue to hold it or not is your choice. If you have small fingers or sensitive skin, it can lead to cuts or blood being drawn.
Don’t handle an anole if you have a wound, scab, or exposed skin. They carry and transmit pathogens that can cause infections such as Salmonella.
Always wash your hands after handling, as with any pet.
These lizards are extremely fragile all around, and their tails break off easily.
So even though you can hold it for short periods infrequently, don’t make it a habit (unless of course, you have an anole that enjoys being held). An easy way to tell is the behavior of it while being handled.
And the lizard will quickly turn brown (or black).
If your lizard is docile when out of the tank, you trained it well!
Some people even have their lizards fall asleep on their shoulders. Congrats.
Taming your anole
With patience, it’s possible to tame a lizard.
This is best accomplished when the green anole is still a baby to establish good, positive associations with human hands. Practice regular hand feeding and holding for brief periods, letting it know that the hand only brings good things.
If you’re attempting to tame an older lizard, it can be hard. Be vigilant and continue to hand feed and hold for brief periods. Over time, it may learn to accept the hand and be handled frequently.
Remember that if you can never tame your anole, it’s normal. These lizards are scared and skittish by nature, so it’s not your fault if you can’t get it to like behind held.
Even if you hand feed and handle daily for a month, it’s possible that no progress is being made. Conversely, some anoles may be extremely calm and docile out of the tank.
It’s all dependent on how it’s conditioned to respond to humans and their individual personalities.
How do you calm a green anole?
When your anole becomes stressed from handling, put it back into its habitat.
Only handle it for small durations at first. Then increase it to longer ones.
When it’s brown and dark from handling, it’s a sure sign that it’s suffering. Move it back into its tank and let it rest.
Different anoles have different stress tolerances. Some will turn brown quickly.
Others will be able to handle anything and stay that pretty lime green. Regular handling may help get it used to your hand
Do green anoles bite?
Yes, green anoles will bite. You should expect it to bite when you attempt to handle it.
Remember not to get surprised when it finally does because you may end up yanking your finger or hand out of its mouth and hurting it in the process.
Anoles will bite even if they’re tamed. Sudden movements, unfamiliar environments, and even the slightest triggers can make it open its mouth at you as a fair warning.
Also, NEVER pull your finger out of the jaw if it bites. This can easily break the jaw if you pull it out. Their mouths are small so they rarely do any major damage.
But it could startle you the first time around. So be careful. The trick is to wait for it to let go or gently wiggle your finger out with slow movements.
Don’t handle it if you’re scared or have open wounds on your skin. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after touching them.
Do green anole bites hurt?
This is a subjective question and depends on the person.
If you have a wound or sensitive skin you shouldn’t be handling one in the first place.
Green anole bites can be startling and painful depending on the size of your finger, where it bites, and how big the jaw is.
Some anoles bite harder than others, so don’t assume they all feel the same. Some will even bite and note let go so that they’re supporting their entire body weight just by their teeth on your finger!
Whatever the case, don’t handle an anole if you’re not comfortable with it. Expect a bite if you do.
You’re now ready to tame your green anole!
I hope this information helps you establish positive associations and behaviors with your lizard.
Like any individual, some green anoles like being handled (perhaps they appear to be). Others don’t.
It completely depends on how it’s raised and personality.
If you have any questions, feedback, or tips on anole handling, leave a comment and let me know.