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Photo: Steve Marsel

Geckos “R” Her

At last, a pet that can lick its eyeballs

Kati Wrubel started her gecko emporium, Kati’s Cresteds, back when she was a poor single-mom grad student in Texas. Now she has a doctorate in behavioral neuroscience and is pursuing postdoctoral studies at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. But Kati’s Cresteds is still going strong. Wrubel and her 12-year-old daughter, Eve, regularly travel to pet shows around the Northeast.

Her wares are decidedly appealing—speckled and colorful in many cases, with huge eyes, oversized feet, and a weird, almost prehistoric look. (If dinosaurs could fit in your hand, they would be something like this.) They’re a sensual delight as well. No, really: they’re cool to the touch and surprisingly soft, “like velvet,” Wrubel says. And they have intriguing habits, such as licking their eyeballs. They have no eyelids, so they use their long tongues to keep their eyes clean and moist. Cresteds, Kati’s specialty, are distinguished by a saucy bit of fringe and a sweet nature. One little crested named Milo walks around her table at shows wearing a tiny sombrero.

To be sure, the gecko biz can be demanding. “Making sales is hard work, and I am on my feet six or seven hours a day at a typical show,” she says. Then there are her fellow reptile vendors—guys in camouflage hats who stand with their arms crossed over their chests, primed to display 12-foot snakes. Their swagger doesn’t faze her. She sets herself down at her table and flashes a winsome smile. “I pride myself on customer service and approachability,” she says. “I try to keep it fun.”

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