Iguanas as Pets Pros and Cons: A Guide to Help You Decide

Iguanas are large, arboreal lizards, native to the tropical areas of Central and South America. Their iconic frilled back, long tail, and the captivating gaze from their tiny eyes, make them one of the most distinct pet choices you could make. But remember, these creatures aren’t just about their looks!

In this post, we are going to share some pros and cons of owning an iguana as pet that will help you decide if an iguana is the right pet for you.

Iguana as Pet: Pros

Dogs are a man’s best friend – this is what we often hear. But would you readily believe it if I told you that an iguana could be man’s best friend too?

You have surely heard many stories about people treating their pet cats, dogs, birds, and even fishes as their best friends. Huge reptiles such as snakes and big lizards as best friends? – That is pretty uncommon.

If you’re a current or would-be pet owner who prefers typical pets, you might refuse outright when asked about having an iguana for a pet.  But you might never experience the joy and satisfaction felt by those who did decide to take on the challenge and make a difference.

Take a look at these reasons why an iguana would make a great pet:

1. Iguanas Have a Long Lifespan

Anyone would naturally want to have a pet that can be a lifelong companion or one that would be around at least for as long as their owners are able to care for them. As valued members of the household, these pets matter so much that their owners want to be able to share their lives with them for as long as possible.

Moreover, keeping a pet inevitably makes people invest their emotions, not just the money for the food, the medicines, and the veterinary services they require.

While mice, hamsters, or pogonas live for just a few years, iguanas may live for as long as 20 years, which is a bit longer than the life span of cats and dogs. In fact, the longest time on record of an iguana’s life span is 29 years!

2. Iguanas are Herbivores

If you own a pet, you regularly have to go to a pet store to buy pet food. It is pretty simple and easy if you just have to buy kibbles and treats for your dog or cat. But, what if you are raising carnivorous pets with specific food requirements?

For instance, what if you need to specifically buy mice, worms, bugs, crickets, and other small living things? If you buy these kinds of pet food, you are also most likely to hold them in your hands and place them in your pet’s cage in order to feed them. You may be feeding your pet, but it may also somehow feel like you have no care or concern for the small animals in the lower tier of the food chain.

In the case of raising iguanas though, you do not need to go to a pet store for their food. You can simply harvest greens from your backyard or buy from the local grocery as you do your shopping for the household. Buying food for your pet just became simpler with just one trip to the grocery.

3. Iguanas Usually Connect and Get Along With their Owners

Unlike other reptiles and snakes, iguanas interact with their owners.  Some would even sleep next to them, which is evidence that iguanas can have a close relationship with their human companions.

Though iguanas are generally calm when they are held or carried by their owners, some would twist or bite when held by unfamiliar hands. In this case, owners should be careful when allowing their iguanas to be held by other people.

The good point about this is that iguanas recognize their owners, and this further enhances their connection to each other. In other cases though, some iguanas are so tame and domesticated that anyone can hold and pet them. They would even let their owners dress them up with funny or cute outfits.

4. No Hair or Fur

If you are allergic to animal hair or you are asthmatic, you know quite well what it is like to be in a home with a furry pet. Even if you wanted such a pet, it would be too risky to keep one.

Iguanas, on the other hand, being reptiles, would make great pets too – and the greater thing about them is that they have none of the animal hair that would cause you asthma attacks or allergic reactions.

5. Iguanas are Diurnal

Diurnal animals are those that are most active during the daytime – just like us humans! This makes iguanas a wonderful choice for a pet, especially if you are home during the day. There’s a certain comfort in having your reptilian companion active and alert while you go about your daily tasks.

6. Iguanas are Strong and Durable

Iguanas boast a strong and durable build that’s nothing short of impressive. They are sturdy animals with powerful legs, a robust body, and a tail that can withstand some rough handling – a trait especially beneficial for families with young children.

7. Great Educational Source for Reptile Life and Behavior

Children can learn a lot from iguanas when they take care of these reptiles. When properly guided on how to keep and raise iguanas, they will learn about the kind of environment these reptiles live in. They will know about the right temperature iguanas require, the rain forests and lands they may have come from, how they are bred, and how to effectively provide them with everything they need to survive.

Because these animals are distantly related to the dinosaurs, taking care of and learning more about them will give children a very interesting motivation to study about prehistoric animals. They can learn how to trace back and understand iguanas even more.

Iguanas are also good subjects to bring for Show-and-Tell, to discuss in research papers, to be studied in science group discussions, and to use in other activities relating to biology or ecology. Make sure, however, that the pet iguana has already been tamed before introducing him to a group of people.

Clearly, there are a lot of benefits to becoming an iguana pet keeper. Why not prove to yourself that you can do it?  Visit your local pet store and choose the iguana that calls out to you – it might want to be part of your home.

Iguana as Pet: Cons

You need to have at least the basic knowledge about iguanas that will help you decide whether you would really want to have one for a pet or not. This is something you need to seriously and thoroughly think through because having any kind of pet is a commitment and will require time and effort from you.

Having a pet is not done simply because it is what all your friends are doing or telling you to do. Especially when it comes to iguanas, it is not really the easiest kind of pet to maintain.

Here is some vital information about iguanas that should help you consider not getting that iguana in the first place, no matter how cute or cool it may seem.

1. Iguanas Require a Big Investment

The possibly affordable cost of an iguana is just your initial expense. After that, you need to invest in a special cage for it. Iguanas will require this special type of shelter because they need to live in a space with a special heating device. Moreover, you need to maintain not just the iguana itself, but this special cage that you will purchase for it.

On top of the heating device, you need to carefully select plants, shrubs, or small trees that may be placed inside the cage. The iguana’s home should resemble its natural habitat as closely as possible.

There should also be enough for it room to climb and move about. Every now and then, you also need to check the temperature changes to adjust the heating device as needed.

Iguanas are herbivores, so you only need to feed them vegetables. However, these have to be the ones that are high in calcium and abundant in vitamins to ensure their health. You also need to vary the types of vegetables you give them, so that they do not get used to the same kinds of food every day.

If you cannot afford the budget, the time, and the commitment to ensure that you provide the iguana with all these necessities, then perhaps getting one as a pet is not for you.

2. Iguanas are High-maintenance Pets

Iguanas may look too small and stationary to cause you trouble. However, that is just how they seem. Even if they are often seen or presented as quiet, inactive, and small, they also need to be treated with attention, care, and respect just like other pets.

Iguanas should not be bothered when resting, picked up carelessly, or ignored like some piece of furniture. Gentle interaction, balanced with allowing them peaceful solitude, will keep them calm and tame.

Their cage and resting spots need to be scrubbed and washed regularly. You also need to take the time to tame them so that the iguana will eventually become manageable, responsive, and comfortable around you.

These practices should be observed daily in order for the iguana to be conditioned early. It is also best to start them off when they are young. You may find it hard to tame or train them once they have grown too old already and have become too restless.

3. Iguanas are Not for Cuddling

You cannot pet and hug your iguana and baby them like you do with dogs, cats, or bunnies. Although you can allow them to rest on your shoulder or on your arm, you still have to be careful and make sure that they are already tame enough by the time you try this. 

If you try having this kind of physical contact with an untamed iguana, they are likely to resist by biting or scratching you to avoid contact. In which case, it is also important that you discuss with your vet what first aid steps you should take should an iguana attack you. This is, clearly, another important factor you need to consider before getting an iguana.

4. Iguanas are Not Socially Adequate

No matter how hard you try and no matter how friendly your other pets are in the house, you are not likely to see any kind of friendship between your iguana and other pets.

Iguanas become defensive because they perceive other animals as predators. Even if it is a friendly dog or a fluffy rabbit kindly approaching them, your iguana might coldly run away, or worse, attack.

In terms of size, iguanas are not as big as dogs or fully-grown cats, especially the younger iguanas. Moreover, their colors are not always bright, and they may blend in with their surroundings. Because of this, they may end up getting trampled, trapped, or injured when the bigger pets are playing or running around.

Children may also step on them or unknowingly injure them when closing doors or cabinets. This is why you might find iguanas by themselves in quiet and inconspicuous corners or spots in the house, particularly those that are higher than your line of vision.

5. Iguanas can be Tough to Train

Unlike dogs, iguanas aren’t wired to be people-pleasers. In fact, they’re the exact opposite. Being solitary animals in the wild, iguanas are pretty independent thinkers. They don’t rely on others for survival, which means they’re less likely to respond to your attempts at training them in the way a puppy might.

6. Iguanas are Not Suitable as Pets for Small Children

When your child expresses any desire to have an iguana for a pet, do everything you can to pacify them and convince them it is not a good pet to have at their age. Carefully explain to them why this is so – highlight the fact that reptiles are much more complicated to maintain and that they are not friendly to children.

Encourage them instead to learn how to properly care for more typical pets, and tell them that they will do better with them than with iguanas.

Now, consider the points above and decide whether to get an iguana or not.

Filled under: Lizards

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