The Gecko Conundrum

House Gecko

The gecko.

The gecko perfectly embodies the strangeness that is Hawai’i. To understand what I mean, you need some background information about these small creatures and my experiences with them.

First, you need to know that I have cats. Two of them. One of them is content to spend her days sleeping on my bed and occasionally gracing us with her presence when she wants food or to have her head scratched. The other one doesn’t like me to get too far out of his sight. He follows me around the house when I’m home, talking to me (the way cats do) and periodically poking me to make sure I’m still looking at him. He’ll lounge on the floor, showing off his belly, and look back over his shoulder, again to make sure I’m looking. He’s a ham, to put it nicely.

He has also discovered the fun of bringing me presents.

Ah, cat presents. You never know what they might bring, be it the lovely piece of string or the lovely piece of bug.

Caspian isn’t too bad in this regard, mostly because if he brings a string, it’s because he wants to play, and if he brings something he, well, found in the house, it’s because he doesn’t know what it is and he wants me to see it. Everything comes down to me paying attention, you see.

In the past week alone, Caspian has presented me with a caterpillar, a beetle and lizard. The caterpillar was especially interesting because the only things he ever found in Virginia were spiders and crickets, which both have legs. He liked pulling the legs off of them and leaving the body. Confronted with a legless thing, he didn’t know what to make of it, so there was a lot of poking at the poor caterpillar and yelling at it to make it move.

(As a side note, I would like you to know that all Caspian-findings are released back into the “wild” of the back porch.)

Caspian was especially excited about the lizard, and he didn’t so much offer it to me as a present as race me to see who could get to it first. I won, the lizard (a terrified brown anole) went back outside, and Caspian was sulky for a good solid hour.

This brings us back to the geckos.

Caspian found his first gecko tonight. He didn’t bring it to me, but  he sent an entire shelf of stuff (that I needed to put away anyway) crashing to the floor near the stairs, so I went to investigate. Caspian looked a little poofy (i.e. startled), but kept going for the thing that he was chasing: a tiny gecko.

I’ve been trying for weeks now to keep the geckos out of my house. When I find them, they are carefully taken outside (after much chasing and scooping the tiny things into my hands). I’ve been told not to do this.


Well, geckos are considered very good luck in Hawai’i. Not only do they feature in Polynesian folklore, but they eat the large, nasty cockroaches we have here. Yay for geckos right?

Well, it’s also considered extreme bad luck to kill a gecko. Not that I’m hung up on good luck and bad luck, but it’s one of those cultural taboos. Plus, I wouldn’t hurt the geckos anyway, especially since they eat the roaches.

But that brings me to the conundrum: Geckos in the house are lucky. You’re not supposed to turn them out of your house. It’s bad to kill them. The cat will find them and he will eat them (or Princess Leena upstairs will take it from him and eat it– she’s more of the hunter than he is). This will obviously kill the gecko.

How is this supposed to work?

I’m not sure, either.

I’ve decided that just putting them outside is the safest thing for everyone involved, and then hope that they eat the roaches before the insects come into the house. So far it’s working, but seriously, I’ve probably had to catch a gecko every couple of days since moving here.

I’ve learned that there are 7 (or 8, depending on where you look) species of gecko in Hawai’i. So far I’ve seen the common house gecko and the stump-toed or four-clawed gecko (pictured above in J’s hands). These two species are very, very small. Hard to catch. And they jump kamikaze-style from things so you can’t get them cornered. Oh, the fun of it all.

If you want to read someone else’s experiences, or about some of the local folklore about them, try this guy. It’s decent reading.

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