Iguanas have become the ‘pet du jour’ and there are literally thousands being kept as pets around the country. Unfortunately, many pet stores sell baby iguanas to people (who often have little or no knowledge of what they’re getting into) without giving them any information on feeding, habitat or care – other than what extras they can sell. If you’ve recently bought or are thinking of buying an iguana, this article is for you!
Iguanas are the most popular of the lizards to be kept as pets, although leopard geckos and bearded dragons are also becoming very popular. While they used to be considered a “fad” or “niche” pet, they’ve actually become quite mainstream – it’s estimated that there are more reptile pets in the UK than there are dogs and cats!
Iguanas are fairly inexpensive to buy and aren’t difficult to care for; however they are fairly high maintenance, with specific habitat and feeding needs. Veterinary care and cage requirements are the two most expensive things to keep in mind with a pet iguana. Their food and housing needs are quite rigid, and failure to care for them properly can bring on many health problems.
Another thing many don’t take into account is the fact that a well fed and well cared for iguana will grow quite large – as long as six feet long! That means it requires a very large cage, something many people don’t take into a count when they buy an 8 inch long juvenile lizard. They also have a long life span and if not properly handled and tamed while young can become quite aggressive when older.
Obviously, then, it’s important that you know how to care for and house your iguana. You need to keep it’s cage sanitary – they do have a tendency to use their water dish as a toilet, so it’s important that it’s kept clean. You also should keep your iguana away from very young children, pregnant women and the elderly, as they can spread salmonella poisoning which can be life-threatening to those with weaker immune systems.
The “iguana iguana”, or green iguana, is the most popular of the pet iguanas. The green iguana is a vegetarian who likes to climb. They need a large, tall cage with branches and vines that they can climb. They’ll also need places where they can sit and bask, either in direct sunlight or under special heat lamps and lights that provide UV rays which are necessary for their health. Of course, it’s also important that the iguana is protected from any bulbs or heaters – you don’t want them getting burned!
As mentioned, it’s also important that you know how to properly feed your iguana. As a vegetarian, feeding them food that’s too high in protein (like crickets, meal worms or cat food) can make them extremely ill and even lead to kidney failure. It can’t be stressed enough that iguanas should NEVER be fed any kind of meat or animal protein. A diet that contains about half greens (like collards, dandelions and turnip greens) mixed with about half other vegetables like yellow squash, green beans, bell peppers and sweet potatoes will provide the nutrients that your iguana needs. Some plants from the garden are okay too, as long as you are absolutely sure that there is no chance of contamination from pesticides or herbicides. My iguana loves to eat a hibiscus flower occasionally! They can also have a little bit of fruit as a treat – bananas, mango, and melons are all good choice – but it shouldn’t be more than 5% of your lizards total diet.
Of course, like all creatures, you’ll find that your iguana has it’s own preferences when it comes to food – some love collards but won’t eat mustard greens, for example. Try to give your pet a variety of healthy foods when it’s young so that it can develop a taste for a more varied diet – variety provides more nutrition. As your pet iguana grows, learn everything you can about its behavior and needs – remember that its very health and existence depends on you.