Reptiles are not for everyone, and the highly intelligent iguana is a commitment you should not take lightly. Unless you are willing to give him your all, an iguana is not for you. It will by your responsibility and duty to care for him for up to twenty years or more.
It has been asked what kind of person should own an iguana. That is difficult to answer, but here are some guidelines that may help:
You should consider an iguana if:
- You want companionship. A living creature you can nurture and care for. One who looks forward to seeing you and being with you. One who loves you unconditionally.
- A best friend that has a long lifespan. Right now the record of the oldest living iguana is thirty-two years old, but twenty years is considered a long life for most.
- You have allergies and cannot consider your typical furry pet. He is naturally clean and hygienic.
- A clean and hygienic pet that can be housetrained. This allows you the freedom to snuggle and take him places with you without worry.
- One who can be left alone for hours and will be happy lounging in a sunny window and just watching the world go by.
- A silent creature that is not outright needy or demanding. You don’t have to take them on daily walks, they won’t jump on you, pester you for attention, beg at the table, whine or bark.
- He is territorial. Once an iguana is happy with his home and claims it as his own, he won’t want to leave it, in fact he will guard it and fight for it. As they mature, they can be trusted in a variety of outdoor situations. With proper training, you will be able to bring them you anywhere, riding in your purse, on your shoulder, or walking on a leash.
- A definite conversation piece and highly unusual pet.
Iggies have special needs, and before you adopt one these are things to consider:
- They need adequate lighting and heat, so you need to perfect their indoor environment. This means the expense of proper enclosure, special lighting and a nice décor for them to live within. Keep in mind they come from a climate close to the equator, humid, hot and the days are long.
- Allowing them freedom and keeping them warm and under lamps can be a challenge at first. They like to explore and not everywhere is a as warm as there enclosure of 95 degrees.
- They need a fresh selection of highly nutritious greens, vegetables, flowers and fruit. Plan on spending five dollars or more a week on food. Having a garden during the year is a good idea.
- They are intelligent deserve daily interaction. They will depend on you and look forward seeing you. They are king of the lizards and like to have attention poured on them. They have an ego that needs to be fed to keep them happy and content. If you are not the kind of person that will pour out affection, an iguana is not for you.
- They will grow to be five to six feet long from nose to tip of tail and weigh 11 pounds or more. The first 4 years of their life will see the most growth.
- If you are a younger adult, consider where you will be in ten years. Will you have time to devote to your best friend? How do you think your future significant other will feel about a 6 foot iguana roaming around the house? How do you think your iguana will feel about him or her? These are questions you need to ask yourself. Don’t make this decision lightly.
- Exotic vets are expensive and you need to choose your vet wisely.
- Males go through mating season once a year. They will fight with their reflections, guard their territory and search for signs of a rival iguana. Some rooms will have to be off limits and mirrors shrouded to avoid unwanted destruction.
- Females will lay eggs with or without a male. They are not as territorial and will be more likely to escape at this time to look for a male. Females should be spayed to avoid egg binding and health issues.
- Airlines will not allow a reptile on board. They only way to fly with them is to put them in cargo on your flight. This means shipping them in a box. You must have proper permits to do this. Their mental state is not the same as ours and iguanas like to be in dark hiding places. As long the proper box is used and there is added warmth, they will arrive safely. I would never consider anything but a non-stop flight.
- Iguanas will become attached to you and can die of a broken heart. Don’t expect to leave your iguana alone for a long time with a pet sitter. A few days, maybe a week, living in his own home, will be OK, but moved to a new environment, with a stranger for weeks on end may not be a good idea.
I assisted someone who was trying to find a home for his twelve year old. I explained to him that he was all he ever knew. That his iguana loved him, protected him and was imprinted emotionally to him. If the transition was to be successful he would have to make a gradual change. Daily visits from the prospective owner, then daily visits to his home, introducing him slowly and methodically. Most people won’t do this, they will just sell them and move on. This is not good for the iguana and if not rehomed properly, can lead to them dying of a broken heart. Iguanas love deeply.
I find it the most difficult of all aspects of caring for this creature to be:
- Keeping them under the proper lighting of UVA and UVB.
- Keeping them at the correct temperature all day and night.
- Not being able to spend every moment of the day with her!
Ideally an outdoor environment in the Spring and Summer is the most desire able place for an iguana. But for the rest of the year he will have to reside indoors. Make it easy both of you, by investing in an ultimate habitat that will make both your lives better.
I don’t recommend:
A young child having one as a pet, they can’t be left in the tank, and need interaction and training to become a good pet. Iguanas have razor sharp teeth and a powerful tail that can inflict pain and damage. They are instinct driven and you need to “read” the signs. Small children are not capable of truly understanding what the consequences may be. Jumping around them and teasing them can be interpreted as being aggressive. Many iguanas my pull back and attack. It’s not worth the risk.
There is a reason that you see more bearded dragons, chameleons, and tortoises in the reptile stores these days. Iguanas are smart and need one on one attention. They grow to be very large and need more and more room. They outgrow their habitats quickly and a lot of thought needs to go into outdoor enclosures and areas of the house need to be devoted just for them.
Although they are self –centered, once you show them love and respect, and become the Alpha, they will love you like no other pet on earth. Their loyalty, appreciation and dedication is a bond that cannot be broken.