When I tell people that I’ve talked to animals such as hermit crabs, snakes, fish or lizards their first question is generally, “But what could they possibly have to say?”
The answer is — a LOT! Animals of all kinds have opinions about their world, even if their world is as small as a terrarium.
One such opinionated being is Martin — a Leopard Gecko. Martin came to live with my client, Doreen, when Martin was given to Doreen’s husband by a client. As with all animals who come into her house, Doreen took Martin under her wing.
I had been talking to Doreen’s animals for many years, so Doreen knew that communicating with Martin to find out what he wanted and how he felt would be very helpful.
Doreen wanted to know how Martin liked his food. Martin said that he really liked the meal worms they’d been giving him. But his FAVORITE food was the crickets! It was so much fun to hunt them down and eat them Martin said. He loved the chase and would start stalking them as soon as crickets were put into his cage. Martin thought is was great that he could eat a few and still have others hopping around for hunting later. Doreen said that everyone in the family had noticed how much fun Martin had stalking the crickets and they loved watching him and cheering him on!
Doreen wanted to know how many crickets Martin wanted at a time, since they’d tried different numbers of them. Martin indicated to me that 6-10 crickets at a time was OK . . . but if Doreen gave them to him on a regular basis, 5 or 6 was enough. Doreen said she’d be sure to give Martin the crickets regularly, since he enjoyed them so much.
When I asked if there was anything else Martin liked to eat, he showed me something soft and squishy feeling that was whitish in color. Martin said it popped or smashed in his mouth, which he found enjoyable. It really didn’t seem to be fruit, but I couldn’t figure out what else it might be . . . Doreen said she’d do some research to see if she could figure it out. When I talked to Doreen the next time, she said that she figured out that Martin was talking about the moisture beads that come with the crickets. She’d checked to be sure they wouldn’t be toxic for Martin (they aren’t) and she had observed Martin chewing on them and seeking them out, so she figured that was what he was referring to.
We asked Martin how he liked his terrarium. He liked the plants and he really liked the heat lamp — it kept him nice and warm, which is important for a reptile. However, Martin said that when he was chasing down the crickets, he got warm on his own —so they could turn down the heat lamp a little when the chase was on. Doreen said she’d keep an eye on that.
We asked if Martin liked the location of his terrarium. Martin said he did — he said he felt like everyone paid attention to him, that they were always watching him, which he liked. I asked Doreen where his terrarium was (my feeling was that it was in a busy room, at the center of “the action”) — Doreen said Martin’s terrarium was in the family room next to the TV! Martin said he liked it when the family would come over and talk to him, but didn’t like it when someone tapped the glass. Doreen said she talked to Martin all the time. She said she would remind her children not to tap on the glass.
A few months later, Doreen and her family moved to a new home and Doreen wanted to check to see how Martin liked his new location. Martin asked if he could be moved to a “busier” spot in the new house. Martin felt like he was no longer at the center of the action and wanted more attention. Doreen admitted that he was no longer in the family room, but hoped that she’d be able to get him resettled there soon, after they finished getting settled in their new home.
Martin also said that he felt cooler in the new location than the old — it didn’t feel drafty when he showed it to me, but somehow not as warm. My feeling was that Martin’s terrarium was against an outside (rather than interior) wall — Doreen said this was correct and that would account for the decreased warmth. I suggested that she get a warmer bulb for his terrarium, which Doreen said she would do and she would get Martin moved to a better spot as soon as possible.
Doreen’s family is settled now in their new home and Martin’s terrarium has been relocated to a “busier” part of the house. He has a warmer bulb in his heat lamp and is continuing to enjoy the hunt for his favorite food, the crickets. Doreen and her family are giving Martin lots of attention. Martin is, again, a happy gecko!
“My biggest concern was that all of my animals have been mammals and I had no idea about reptiles! So, talking to Martin seemed like the best way to learn about Martin. I really did learn a lot from him. Martin knows my voice when I am in the room talking and he will come to the side of the terrarium and visit with me. Talking to Martin has been the best bonding for us!” — Doreen L., PA
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