Image Credit : Thor Hakonsen Photography
Aeluroscalabotes felinus got his common name because of its habit of curling up with its tail around itself when it sleeps, similar to a cat. The cat gecko is a lightly built gecko, typically red-brown in color with white spots on its body, and solid white under its chin, and sometimes to the belly.
Unlike most arboreal geckos Aeluroscalabotes felinus does not have toe pads (setae) which allow it to climb sheer surfaces. It instead relies on small retractile claws, and a prehensile tail.
- Scientific name : Aeluroscalabotes felinus
- Distribution : Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand
- Average Size : 0.18 m (0.6 ft)
- Life Span : 10 years or more
- Difficulty : Advanced
The more natural you can make your Cat Eyed Geckos enclosure, the better and happier/healthier your animal will be. Cat eyes are a semi arboreal species which means their enclosure should be more tall than it is wide. A 0.3 W x 0.3 D x 0.45 T meters (1 x 1 x 1.5 feet) is suitable for a single cat eye. Cork flats, rounds, vines and clean branches are best in a cat eyes enclosure. Live plants help to sustain humidity. Ensure if you are using live plants that you have removed all the original soil (in case of previous fertilizer use in soil) and replace it with peat moss/organic potting soil free of any perlite, vermiculite or other additives.
Safe plants that thrive in high humidity enclosures are: Maiden hair ferns, pothos, baby tears, and bonsai trees (ficus). They will take advantage of climbing cork bark surfaces and any hiding places you provide them. It is recommended for female to be kept in a 0.45 W x 0.45 D x 0.45 T meters (1.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 feet) exo terra for when males are introduced for breeding this allows them to have their space as they are a solitary animal.
A variety of décor can be used as hides for Cat Eyed Geckos. Under plants, leaf litter, cork bark rounds/flats and decorations have been regular hiding places for my cat geckos. It is essential to have several hides for this species as they will spend the entire day in their hides sleeping. One hide should have damp (almost dry) sphagnum moss filling it creating a ‘bed’ for the cat gecko. While other hides should be humid with damp sphagnum moss or soil.
Substrate should consist of a high humidity medium such as sphagnum moss, peat moss or tropical soil for optimum humidity. The first layer of their substrate should be hydroballs to allow water to drain from soil into this easy to drain medium. Second layer should be coco husk wood chips to further allow water to drain from soil. Third layer should be organic potting soil or better yet peat moss, and it is optional to place sphagnum moss on top of the soil in some corners and sections to provide a place to retire from heat or moisture. I pack down soil in case the gecko were to pounce on a cricket this reducing the chance of getting a mouth full of dirt and risk impaction. Substrate should be damp, but not dripping or dry. Sphagnum moss also provides a hide for them to retire from heat.
Lighting – Heating
Being a nocturnal species, Aeluroscalabotes felinus do not require UVB lighting or heat lamps (depending on your room’s temperature). However if you have live plants in your enclosure (highly recommended) you will require UVB lights for the enclosure. This species is found in montane forests or lower elevation areas next to bodies of water and prefer cooler temperatures.
General rule of thumb: 21-24 °C (70-76 °F) for 9-10 months out of a year. Anything greater than 28°C (83°F) will cause problems for this cooler temp species. Cat Eyed Geckos benefit from a cooling period that aides in breeding. These temp drops should take place late November through until late January then temps go back to normal. Winter temps should be: 18-21 °C (66-70 °F) during the day, and 16-18 °C (62-65 °F) during the night. They can tolerate temps in 10-11 °C (51-52°F) range however these should obviously be avoided.
Misting in the evening is essential as a nocturnal species will drink at night. Cat eyes are unique in the sense as to how complicated their water requirements are. This species is prone to what are described as kidney stones (yet to be confirmed) by many keepers. These said stones are avoidable for the most part by reducing mineral intake. It’s best to use distilled water or reverse osmosis water. Both can be costly so it’s best to consider that before purchasing this species. Cat eyed geckos will mostly drink water droplets off plants, décor and water droplets on their face from misting. You may provide a water dish of distilled water however it is unlikely for them to drink from it. Regular misting is the best way to achieve hydration as they hydrate via humidity as well.
Cat eyes require high humidity and greatly benefit from morning and evening misting. Humidity should be: 65%-90%. Misting is best provided through a fine mist misting system for a fine mist. We used to hand mist all of our Cat Eyed Geckos and found much better results once hooking their enclosures up to a MistKing. Misting is detrimental to this species overall health and should not be taken lightly.
Recently acquired cat eyes may not eat for the first while or until they deem their enclosure suitable. This may take up to as long as a month. Like mentioned before, this is a finicky species. Even once settled in cat eyes may go close to a week or two without eating a noticeable amount of food. Cat eye gecko adults will consume 3-6 appropriately sized bugs every 2 or 3 days. They should have a variety of: Isopods (their favourite), crickets, dubias, snails, phoenix worms, hornworms, silkworms, black soldier fly larvae and the occasional butterworm.
All prey items should be within the size of the distance between the geckos neck. Oh, and don’t be shocked if you find that expensive hornworm uneaten wandering in the cat eyed geckos tank for days…Did I mention their finicky eaters?
Handling is very limited when it comes to the delicate Malaysian Cat Eyed Gecko as they stress very easily. Handling should only be done when necessary (examining health of the animal). Even though this species (like many other species) hides stress rather well, they cannot tolerate stressful procedures or extended lengths of being out of their enclosure. When handling, do so very delicately. Their tiny limbs are very fragile. It is best to place your hand in front of the gecko, and gently coax your hand under their chin while gently touching their back end to encourage them onto your hand.
Never try to manipulate your gecko by picking them up in-between two fingers or by the tail (they can detach their tail on command as a predatory response, they will regrow). Cat eyed geckos are adorable and slow moving creating false expectations to new gecko owners that this species is the perfect pet for handling. Do not fall for this illusion, the less contact with this animal, the better.
Isopods and springtails are the best cleanup crew for cat eyed geckos apart from your weekly ‘spot’ cleaning. Since Malaysian cat eyed geckos eat twice a week they produce very little waste. I have had geckos not produce any stool for months as he simply did not want to eat (picky eaters even if you offer their favourite-isopods). I take a paper towel or facial tissue and look around on the soil or décor for any fecal material to clean up providing the soil cleaners haven’t gotten to it first.
The Isopods and springtail combined create what’s called ‘bio’-active soil, essentially making it self-sustainable. Taking furnishing out and washing them is often advised against as the chemicals and regular tap water used to clean the furnishings can be more harmful than good to cat eyed geckos.
Cat eyed geckos will complete a single shed every month or every other month. They will shed their entire skin in one go and eat their shed making it often difficult to determine if your gecko has shed this month or not. Humidity plays a large factor as to how often your cat eyed gecko will shed. Lower humidity will undoubtedly cause shedding complications resulting in shed stuck on toes, tail and other extremities. This can eventually lead to cut off circulation and loss of that digit. This is easily avoided by proper humidity, hydration and surfaces to aid in shedding (not rocks but tougher surfaces like exo terra bendy vines).
Potential Health Problems
Cat eyed geckos are said to be prone to kidney stones. These are commonly seen in cat eyed especially is being offered a high mineral diet (including regular tap water). These stones can be fatal if not passed. I have had animals that have only been offered distilled water as their hydration and very rarely supplemented food items and they still passed what are said to be kidney stones. Kidney stones appear as very hard, rounded urates. Often white or off white in colour. I have seen these ‘stones’ passed with stool and on their own.
Cat eyed geckos are also prone to kidney failure and fatty liver disease. Keeping your animal hydrated with proper water requirements is key to avoiding any kidney issues. Also only use plants that are reptile safe as toxins can cause acute kidney failure. While some animals are genetically prone to chronic kidney failure, which there is not cure and it will be a slow death. Fatty liver disease is simply caused by a high protein diet and is also fatal and untreatable. To avoid this, offer low protein foods to your feeder insects prior to feeding (veggies and fruits as opposed to high protein commercial food diet).
The information contained in this care sheet reflect the opinions and methods of the mentioned breeder, based on their expertise and long-established experience.