Aeluroscalabotes felinus — Cat Gecko
Also known as:
Cat-eyed Gecko, Malaysian Cat Gecko
This is an extremely distinctive gecko, and one which I was very happy to see this year after having struck out on last year's trip to Malaysia. This was a young one, only about half the size of a fully grown adult. I only got this one photo before the gecko, disturbed by my presence, slipped off the vegetation, fell to the ground, and disappeared into the leaf litter. When I told my Malaysian friend Kurt, he could hardly believe that a Cat Gecko had gotten away from me, as they are famously slow-moving.
A few days later I found this fully-grown adult. Cat geckos typically react to disturbance by closing their eyes and hunkering down, so it's not easy to get a photo of one with its eyes open. They are gentle, soft, sleepy creatures.
I've heard a variety of explanations for why they are called Cat Geckos. Some say it's because their eyes have a cat-like vertical pupil. Others say its because of their slow, cat-like gait. Others say it's because their vocalization sounds like a meow. Others say it's because they sometimes sleep with their tails curled around them, like cats. Others say it's because they have retractable claws.
I tracked down the original description of this species, which assigned the specific name felinus. Tragically the author did not explain his choice of name. He does mention the retractable claws though, so maybe that was on his mind?