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Malaysian Cat Gecko caresheet and terrarium guide

Malaysian Cat Gecko caresheet and terrarium guide

Malaysian Cat Gecko (Aeluroscalabotes felinus)

Difficulty: Advanced

Malaysian cat geckos are small, semiarboreal lizards native to Southeast Asia. They prefer cool temperatures and therefore favor montane forests or, in lower elevations, habitats near moving bodies of water. They are primarily active at night and have an insectivorous diet.

Cat geckos are 4-7” long, with females being significantly larger than males. Different localities vary slightly in appearance, but generally speaking, they have a long slender body, slender limbs, triangular head, very large dark eyes, eyelids, vertical pupils, dark tongue, opposable toes, retractable claws, and a muscular prehensile tail carried in a curled posture. Coloring is cool to warm brown, with multiple shades not being unusual. Pattern includes a pale underside and a broad stripe from snout to ear/neck. Some individuals have one or two solid or interrupted dorsal stripes, while others feature white or black speckling.

These geckos are capable of living at least 10 years in captivity with appropriate care. They are highly sensitive to inappropriate husbandry and stress easily, which means that they should not be handled regularly as pets.

What You Need for a Bioactive Cat Gecko Terrarium

Terrarium Size

Due to their significant differences in size, minimum enclosure size recommendations vary by sex:

  • Males: 12”L x 12”W x 18”H
  • Females: 18”L x 18”W x 18”H

When it comes to choosing a terrarium for pet reptiles, keep in mind that larger is always better! If you do not know the sex of your gecko, err on the side of caution and opt for larger.

As a general rule, cat geckos should not be housed together in the same enclosure.


Technically speaking, cat geckos are capable of surviving without UVB lighting as long as they get enough supplemental vitamin D3 in their diet. However, this is not best practice, as UVB provides benefits beyond just vitamin D3 synthesis, such as: preventing illness, improving nervous and digestive function, and improving mental health. Furthermore, cat geckos are widely reported to be very sensitive to excess minerals in their diet, so relying on a supplement for vitamin D3 is more risky for this species compared to others.

In other words, we recommend installing appropriate UVB lighting as part of your gecko’s setup. The 12” Arcadia ShadeDweller-Arboreal UVB ProT5 Kit is likely to work the best for a cat gecko in a 18” tall bioactive enclosure. UVB exposure varies by distance from the source, so for this lamp and this gecko, there should be a “basking” branch available at 4” below the lamp for best results.

Your UVB bulb must be replaced every 12 months to maintain its output. Resist the temptation to use other (potentially cheaper) brands or fixtures — when it comes to UVB, brand matters!

Because this is a bioactive setup, you will also need a plant light to encourage healthy plant growth. We recommend the 16” Bio Dude Glow & Grow LED for this purpose.

Both lighting and heating should be on for 12 hours/day. If you wish to create a seasonal cycle for your gecko, provide 14 hours of light in the summer and 10 hours during winter, with gradual transitions in-between. Using a smart power strip synced with your local sunrise and sunset times can be very helpful for this!


Cat gecko temperature gradient:

  • Basking area temperature: 80-82°F
  • Cool zone temperature: 70-75°F
  • Nighttime temperature: 66-70°F

Ambient temperature should never rise higher than 82°F, or else your pet may get heat stroke! This species is very sensitive to heat and must have a cool retreat available at all times.

To create a basking area for your cat gecko, you will need a low-wattage white heat bulb like the 25w Exo Terra Daytime Heat Lamp and a horizontal lamp fixture like the Exo Terra Compact Top. Place the lamp so it fully overlaps with the UVB. If the basking area gets too warm, use a lower-wattage bulb. If too cool, increase the wattage of the bulb (note: the Exo Terra Compact Top’s maximum bulb wattage is 26w).

Use a digital probe thermometer like the Bio Dude Digital Thermometer / Hygrometer to track your temperature gradient, with one temperature probe secured in the basking area and one in the cool zone.


Cat geckos need a high humidity environment to stay hydrated and healthy. To be specific, they need 65-80% during the day with spikes up to 90-100% each night. Keep track of your humidity levels with a digital hygrometer like the Bio Dude Digital Thermometer / Hygrometer, with the probe secured to a branch in the middle of the enclosure, preferably in a shaded area.

To raise humidity in your gecko’s enclosure and provide a source of drinking water, use an Exo Terra 2qt Mister to wet things down every morning and evening, preferably when it’s dark. If you need help increasing humidity, you can intermittently run a cool mist humidifier at night.

To reduce the mineral concentration in your gecko’s environment, use reverse-osmosis or distilled water for misting, not tap water, spring water, or softened water.


A thick layer of bioactive-compatible substrate is essential to creating a bioactive cat gecko enclosure.

First, layer ~2” of clay balls or Bio Dude HydroGrow drainage material and place a layer of tight mesh on top to help prevent soil from getting into the drainage layer.

Next you will need a soil-like mix that will nourish your plants and handles lots of moisture well. If you want to make your own, you will need a base mixture of 50% organic topsoil and 50% peat moss or coconut fiber, around 6 quarts total for a 12”x12” footprint and 18 quarts for an 18”x18” footprint. Mix that with leaf litter, sphagnum moss, and an appropriate amount of 6qt Bio Shot to inoculate your soil with beneficial microfauna. This layer of soil should be as deep as possible.

Alternatively, you can let The Bio Dude do the work for you with The Bio Dude’s Terra Fauna bioactive substrate kit! (This is strongly recommended for bioactive first-timers.)

To make the substrate functional, make sure to add tropical CUC organisms like powder blue/orange isopods, dwarf isopods, and springtails. Earthworms make an excellent addition as well.

Decorating the Enclosure

Enclosure décor is more than just making your setup look good. It’s also an important part of providing environmental enrichment, which enhances your pet’s quality of life by providing opportunities to express natural behaviors. Given that cat geckos are a semiarboreal species, you will need enrichment items like small cork flats and hollows, twigs/small branches, and foliage to give them ample opportunities to explore and hide. Don’t be afraid to clutter it up! Although it seems counterintuitive, the more opportunities your pet has to hide, the more comfortable it will be out in the open.

Live plants in particular are critical to helping your mini-ecosystem function properly. Moss works especially well with this species! Other ideas for plants include philodendron, aglaonema, arrowhead vine, calathea, creeping fig, and ferns. One nice thing about using live plants with cat geckos is that they’re small and light enough that you shouldn’t have to worry about your pet damaging the plants.

Feeding Your Cat Gecko

Cat geckos are insectivores, which means that they need to eat a varied diet of insects in order to get proper nutrition. Feed juveniles daily, and adults every other day. They don’t need much, just 2-3 bugs slightly smaller than their head or an equivalent quantity.

The key to providing a healthy, balanced diet for any reptile is VARIETY! Here’s a quick list of foods that are safe to feed to your cat gecko:

Best insects: crickets, dubia roaches, discoid roaches, snails, isopods, hornworms, silkworms, black soldier fly larvae


As mentioned earlier, cat geckos are extremely efficient at absorbing minerals from their diet, so it’s easy to give them too much.

All feeder insects should be gutloaded with a high-quality, plant-based gutload formula and hydrated water crystals for 2-3 days prior to feeding. Once per month, dust the insects with calcium powder. There are many options, but MinerAll Indoor is a good choice for calcium, and Bio Dude Bug Grub can be used for gutload.

Drinking Water

Although it’s likely that your cat gecko will most readily drink water droplets produced by misting, that’s not an excuse not to have a water dish in the enclosure. The dish should be small, shallow, and kept clean at all times. Scrub out the dish weekly with veterinary-grade disinfectant to discourage bacterial growth.


Care information courtesy of ReptiFiles.


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  • Josh Halter


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