Is our lizard lonely?

My wife has a pet bearded dragon lizard, Moby. She’s had Moby for probably 11 years, since before my wife and I met.

My wife used to take Moby out of her cage (a 55 gallon aquarium) and play with him every couple of days, walk around with Moby on her shoulder, take him on errands, take him out on the front porch while she read, and so on. Througout all of this, Moby’s expression and demeanor always remained roughly the same: neutral. Completely docile and apparently content enough, but that’s about it.

Since our daughter was born about 15 months ago, Moby has garnered considerably less attention. To be clear, my wife still takes good care of him, making sure his tank is clean and warm and that he always has fresh water and plenty of food. But the days of having him run around the house or generally playing with him in a more pet-like manner are, at least for the time being, over. He spends the vast majority of the day alone, doing whatever house-kept bearded dragons do when nobody’s looking.

Does Moby care? Does he care, in any sense, whether we live or die, provided he gets the care he needs? Does he miss those heady summer days on the porch basking in the sun? Does he have any memory at all? Is he lonely? In short, is there any reason we should feel guilty about giving him less “companionship,” while still attending to his basic health and needs?

He is way up there in age. His behavior may change because of that.

That said, it is unlikely that reptiles get “lonely” as we see it. Instead, they DO thrive better with frequent attention and physical/visual stimulation, like most animals.

I’m going to disagree that most animals ( kept as pets ) thrive with frequent attention. Social or semi-social mammals ( cats, dogs, ferrets ) and birds ( psittacines and the like ) absolutely do. I’d venture to say that most reptiles and amphibians do not. Some become easier to handle for sure ( which is useful for them as well as us ), but I’m not at all convinced that it enhances their mental well-being in any serious way. Doesn’t always detract, either. But there are a number of “exotic” pets that do better with as little interference as possible, because they never really adjust to the attention and the stress outweighs the positives.

I’m not going to speculate too much on bearded dragons, because a mellower, more people-tolerant lizard you’re not going to find. It is remotely possible that individual bearded dragons might actually prefer some occasional handling ( or at least the opportunity to get out of their enclosure ) through habituation or whatever.

But in general I suspect the great majority of lizards are probably incapable of being lonely in any anthropomorphic sense. Which is not to say some might not thrive better in numbers, if that is what they are used to in the wild.

I don’t think beardies get lonely, except when they want to mate. :slight_smile:

Basking in the sun, though, I think he might miss. My beardie loves the sun, and I think it does wonders for them even given that they have UV light in their cage. My beardie seems to get upset when I take her away from the sun.

ETA: My beardie gets a bit less attention than she used to previously, when she was the only pet. At first it was very hard for me to adjust to not feeling like she was lonely; however, she’s never given me any indication she is, behaviorally.