Reptiles: Leopard Geckos
Why They’re Easy…
These beautiful, patterned lizards are known for their gentle disposition and tolerance for handling, says Connie Packard Kamedulski, the owner of Animal Fair, a pet shop in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Also, they don’t grow longer than 7 to 10 inches, so you won’t end up with a small dinosaur on your hands—unlike some reptiles we know (see Do Turtles Make Good Pets?). Adults can be fed every other day and left alone for a weekend. And since they tend to designate one corner of the cage as the bathroom, keeping their home clean is relatively easy.
…OK, Not That Easy
Leopard geckos eat live crickets and mealworms (available at pet stores); the worms can be bought in bulk and kept in the refrigerator for weeks. To stay healthy, these guys need a heater under the tank, along with a humid shelter, such as a plastic hideout (available at pet stores) filled with damp mulch. (It could be worse: Other lizards, like bearded dragons, also require a special UV-lighting setup.) Like many reptiles, leopard geckos can carry salmonella bacteria on their skin, says Julie Morris, a veterinarian at Morris Animal Hospital, in Granger, Indiana, so hand washing after handling is a must.
Life span: 10 to 20 years.
Start-up costs: Baby lizards begin at about $30; plan to spend $200 or so on a habitat.