Best Reptile Pets for Handling: Scaly Pets for Beginners & Kids

I didn't have any pets as a kid – I was told that, because we were living in a city apartment, cats and dogs simply weren't an option

So, the 7-year-old version of me started to wonder: 

Well, if I can't have a puppy or a kitty, what about a lizard? 

Naturally, my parents were less than thrilled about the idea of me having a pet lizard – and pretty shocked that I got the idea in the first place – and so, reptiles were quickly added to the list of animals that I couldn't own. 

But you know what? 

Even decades later, I still think that reptiles can make excellent pets – if you pick the right species, that is. I get that reptiles aren't typically considered social animals, but they can still make for a fascinating pet. 

So, if you're seriously considering getting yourself a reptile pet that you can interact with, here are my recommendations for the best reptile pets for handling!


 Last Updated: May 1, 2020

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​1. Frogs

Frogs can live a happy life in a relatively small space, they don't ask for much and thrive with minimum attention – and their terrarium can make for a stunning indoor feature. 

And yes, some pet frog species are open to being handled, although you shouldn't make it a regular habit because of their sensitive skin. 

White's Tree Frog and Pacman Frog are good examples of pet frogs that can tolerate your sudden declarations of love.

The Green Mantella is another species to consider if you'd like a pet frog, but keep in mind that, due to their delicate skin, they shouldn't be handled. However, they are incredibly active during the day – and watching them go about their day is plenty of fun.

2. Lizards

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Lizards are typically the first reptile pet that comes to mind to most people: 

They don't carry that innate fear that snakes commonly do, but they still have that cool, dinosaur-like appearance – and depending on the species, they even enjoy being handled regularly. 

Both Giant plated lizards, and Mali Uromastyx are great examples of reptiles tame enough to be petted and handled. Star Agama, on the other hand, is mainly a "display lizard," as it's not fond of handling.

3. Chameleons

There's nothing more fascinating than seeing the chameleon's crazy eyes and the ability to change colors in action. But uniqueness and beauty aside, chameleons are not cuddly pets – in any way, shape, or form. 

There are exceptions to the no-handling rule, and you could give them a shot by opting for a captive-bred species, but don't say that I didn't warn you: 

Chameleons are pets that you can look at and enjoy while keeping your distance; handling will only stress out these funky-looking creatures. 

Some species, like the Meller's Chameleon, are so susceptible to even the slightest stress levels that it's nearly impossible to care for them in captivity.

Whether you're a first-time reptile owner or want to get one of these fascinating pets for your kids, the best reptiles for handling can be an excellent addition to your family's dynamic. 

But I highly recommend that you do your research first and visit your local pet store or reptile-friendly veterinarian to ask for advice. Making an informed purchase is the first – and arguably most important – step to developing a beautiful future relationship with your pet reptile.

Test yours and your pets  intolerance and allergy levels!

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I'm a devoted pet parent to two lovely creatures – Charlie the Cat and Jimmy the Dog – a full-time deputy pet store manager, and an animal shelter volunteer. I've gathered knowledge about pets for almost a decade, and it all started in a small store called Jack's Pets.

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