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Why Do Lizards Eat Their Tails? (Nutrition or Hunger?)

If you have seen or heard that lizards eat their tails you may be wondering why this may happen and if it’s normal…

Why do lizards eat their tails?

A lizard will eat its tail if it drops, or is torn off for several reasons such as its nutrition, survival, or general hunger. The tail contains nutritious healthy fats that the lizard can benefit from. This is because some lizards store fat there, such as Leopard Geckos.

So, now you know. But, can a lizard grow its tail back? If they can will it be the same as before? Can a pet dog eat a lizard’s tail? Keep reading for these answers, and so much more…

3 top reasons lizards eat their tails:

Why do lizards eat their tails?

A Chuckwallas lizard (from the iguanid family), on a rock with its tail showing.

So, now you have a few ideas why a lizard may eat its tail, Therefore, in this section, I will give you more information on each one:

01. Provides nutrition

One of the main reasons a lizard may eat its tail is its nutritional benefits. Whether this is a conscious or a subconscious decision it holds a good source of healthy fats for them. Some lizards, like Leopard Geckos, have a fat tail to store fat.

This is helpful to these lizards because it helps them survive when food sources are low. Therefore, when it drops off or is torn off by a predator, they can consume it to claim these useful nutrients.

02. Avoid detection

Like other animals, lizards are conscious that other predators are on the lookout for them. And, eating their tail, in this context, is beneficial. Why? Well, it avoids their predators detecting their presence.

A predator could smell or find its tail. And, this could potentially put them on their trail to their new hideout. This si is similar to other animals like cats that, in the wild, bury their feces and food after eating to avoid detection.

03. Hunger

Lizards will eat their tail out of hunger or avoid hunger. This is because lizards are not always guaranteed regularly scheduled meals like they are in captivity.

Therefore, to avoid hunger they have to eat what they can when they can. This is not just lizards, but retiles, and other wild animals that hunt to survive.

In a domesticated environment, we can be picky because we have large food stored away as and when we need to eat, unlike animals in the wild.

Can a lizard’s tail grow back?

A liard’s tail can grow back. And, they use this as an interesting and effective defensive strategy. Because they can afford to lose it to distract a predator so they can escape with the knowledge that they can regrow it.

However, they cannot grow a new tail over and over again. There is a limit to this. As you can imagine this is a handy trick to have when your aim each day is food and survival.

Will a lizard’s tail keep on re-growing forever?

A lizard’s tail cannot keep regrowing forever. After a certain limit, they will not be able to regrow the tail. Therefore it’s within a lizard’s interest to only use this ability to lose its tail sparingly.

Therefore, it will only drop its tail if its ripped off by a predator, or if it fears without dropping it may lose its life to its predator.

Does a lizard’s tail grow back the same?

When a lizard’s tail regrows it is unlikely to regrow back the same. In fact, is bordering on impossible. The new tail is often shorter, with different patterns. And, some regrown tails are stubby and not the same at all.

Therefore, a regrown tail is not ideal for a lizard. So, this is all the more reason to not release it unless it really has to. This may be why you have not witnessed this yourself before. Meaning, it’s not an everyday occurrence, are you with me?

Can cats eat a lizard’s tail?

Cats should not eat a lizard’s tail. Given a chance they may try to eat it. But, cats can be affected by a parasitic liver fluke. This is why they should keep away from it and as a lizard owner be cautious if you have them in the same room together.

There may have been cats that have eaten, or chewed on lizard tails and still lived. But, this doesn’t mean that they are not dangerous for them. And, those cats may have been lucky that day.

Can dogs eat a lizard’s tail?

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Dogs should not eat lizard tails or lizards in general. This is because of the risk of bacterial infection, or salmonella. Also, if dogs are left to hunt lizards they may promote to other harmful reptiles like snakes or Bufo Toads, which are known to be toxic.

The idea is to avoid your dog playing with reptiles in general because of the potential dangers on offer. Also, there is no reason for a cat to hunt these lizards in the first place, right?

Do lizards feel pain when they lose their tail?

The theory is lizards do not feel pain when they lose their tail. They will not enjoy losing their tail but this is believed to be due to the inconvenience, and the time it takes to grow back.

A lizard benefits from having a tail for many reasons such as balance and storing fat. And, in the time of regrowth, it loses this.

Can a lizard live without its tail?

A lizard can live without its tail. For example, if their tail is lost by a predator attack, there is a long period, maybe months while it grows back. During this time they are tailless.

The lizard’s quality of life is degraded without their tail though. As discussed earlier, they will lose their full balance, and for lizards like Leopard Geckos, they won’t be able to store large fat stored in their daily.

Is the common Gecko’s tail poisonous?

The common Gecko’s tail or body is not poisonous or venomous. However, they can carry liver flukes or harmful bacteria. Therefore they should be kept away from pets and hands washed if they are handled.

Many people that see a common gecko in their home freak out and assume it’s poisonous because of fear. But, this is not the case. But, some caution is still required.

How do lizards cut off their tails?

Lizards can cut off their tails by contracting their muscles in a certain way to put pressure on it. Once this pressure is applied to the right weak spot the tail can be removed.

In a defensive situation, this can be done very fast so that the lizard can hopefully escape from its predator. And, depending on the lizard species, they can then focus on regrowing their tail back over the next few months, or more.

Do lizards die after losing their tails?

Lizards do not die after losing their tails. They are designed to use their muscles to reduce blood flow. In fact, not much blood is expected due to this clever process. And, therefore stops them from bleeding out from this injury.

Then once it comes off, depending on their species, their body will focus on regrowing another tail.


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