Green and Red Iguanas Don't Make Good Pets — and Here's Why
Before you adopt a rude, miniature dinosaur, we have some facts about green and red iguanas that might make you rethink that purchase.
Green and Red Iguanas Don't Make Good Pets — Here's Why
If you've ever played the alphabet game, the odds are good that you chose "iguana" for the letter "I." After all, iguanas are one of the most well-known lizards next to bearded dragons.
But just because they're famous, doesn't mean they make good pets. They're actually one of the worst pet reptiles a new keeper could buy. Before you adopt a rude, miniature dinosaur, we have some facts about green and red iguanas that might make you rethink that purchase.
Green and Red Iguanas Are Way Bigger Than People Realize
First, you can't tell us that the face pictured doesn't look like something straight out of Jurassic Park. Remember how that movie ended? Sure, iguanas are way smaller than a T-Rex, but they're still unreasonably large lizards for most pet owners to keep.
Female iguanas are usually around 5 feet long from head to tail and weigh up to 10 pounds. Males can be over 20 pounds, and some have topped 7 feet in length. Imagine a grown man trying to fit in a twin-sized bed. It wouldn't work too well, even for just a night. He'd need a lot more space than that for everyday life, and so would a full-grown iguana. Having a pet iguana is like having a cold-blooded roommate who never grocery shops and doesn't pay rent.
They Pretty Much Need a Room of Their Own
If you get a baby iguana, the first year or two of ownership isn't that bad. They can fit in an average-sized enclosure that won't break the bank. Except they don't stop growing at age 2. By the time they're 5, they'll need an enclosure that's more than 8 feet long. At 7 years old and beyond, an enclosure measuring 9 by 9 by 3 feet is the bare minimum.
That's practically the size of some New York City apartments. Enclosures that size aren't sold at Petsmart, either. You'll have to either build your own or purchase one from a specialty reptile retailer. They're mostly custom-made, and you'd be lucky to find one under $2,000.
You Might Need a Permit to Get One
Depending on where you live, owning an iguana might be illegal. You can check the full list of animal laws here.
Suffice it to say, no pet is cool enough to justify breaking the law.
If They Don't Have Enough Heat, They'll Fall Out of the Sky
It's not funny, but it's basically true. Pet iguanas are kept in temperature-controlled rooms, but in the wild, they just have to cope with the elements as best they can — which is to say not very well.
They can't produce their own heat, so when temperatures drop into the 40s, iguanas become immobile. If they happen to be perched on a tree branch when this happens, they'll fall off. They're still alive, but they won't snap out of it until the temperatures warm up again. Did we mention they're considered invasive pests in Florida?
Providing That Much Heat Will Bump Up Your Electric Bill
Unless your name is Frosty the Snowman, your house is a lot warmer than 40 degrees. Still, iguanas prefer to have a basking area that stays around 95 degrees around the clock. The rest of their enclosure should never drop below 75. They also need UVB light exposure for 10 to 12 hours a day.
Setting aside the cost of buying light bulbs and giant electric heating pads, having all those heat lamps and gadgets plugged in 24/7 will run your electricity bill through the roof.
Green and Red Iguanas Both Can Carry Salmonella
This one's true for all reptiles. We don't usually consider it a deal breaker, but when a pet is so large it takes up an entire room, it's harder to avoid potential contamination.
Hand-washing is a given, but iguana owners also need to thoroughly disinfect any surface their iguana walks or climbs on around the house.
It's Possible to Be Allergic to Iguanas
Allergies to dogs and cats are more common, but it's also entirely possible to be allergic to reptiles, iguanas included. Symptoms can include wheezing, congestion, asthma attacks, rashes and hives, among others.
If allergies turn out to be an issue, it's much tougher to rehome a massive, ornery green lizard than it is to rehome a cuddly kitten.
They're Unpredictable, Especially as Adults
Whoever thought it was a good idea to hand a kid an iguana at the beach should get their parenting license revoked. Both green and red iguanas are incredibly difficult to train, and many of them are never fully tame. If they feel threatened, they'll bite or strike out with their long, powerful tail. It's strong enough to break bones.
Kids who move quickly and are likely to startle them could get seriously hurt by a full-grown iguana, and even a bite from a baby is unpleasant.
They Don't Play Well With Others
You know how bunnies prefer to live in pairs? That's not the case with iguanas. We have no idea how the species is still around because iguanas aren't too fond of other iguanas. Males become extremely territorial, and all iguanas attack each other if they feel threatened.
Keeping two male iguanas is impossible, and even keeping two females together will result in perpetual stress and fighting.
They're Not Particularly Cute
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We say the beholder needs to get their vision checked if they look at this face and consider it sweet.
That is a dinosaur if ever we've seen one, and not even a cool one.
Feeding Them Gets Expensive
Finding the right food for an iguana isn't too hard. Iguanas are herbivores, so fresh fruit and greens are their main diet, plus commercially produced pellets. Pellets aren't enough to meet all their nutritional needs alone, though, so providing fresh produce is a must. That gets pricy.
It's also time-consuming because iguanas eat all of their food whole. Owners have to cut up their food like they would a toddler's, except instead of getting a nice hug after dinner, they get whipped in the face by a giant, green tail. You're welcome?
And Cleaning Up After an Iguana Is a Ton of Work
Cleaning a bearded dragon enclosure is a pain. First, you have to put the beardie in a separate enclosure, remove all decor, dump out the substrate, disinfect the glass and every dish, add new substrate and put everything back in. It's messy and annoying, but doable.
Imagine doing the same with an enclosure fit for a zoo. Good luck telling your boss you can't come in today because you're still trying to get the stench of lizard out of the living room.
Committing to Iguana Ownership Is Like Committing to Being a Parent
Green iguanas can easily live more than 20 years if properly cared for. Yes, two decades. If you adore iguanas, we guess that's a good thing. The fact remains that it's a time commitment equal to that of raising a human being to adulthood.
Unlike iguanas, small humans are allowed in every apartment. If you move with a kid or two, it's no big deal. Try telling a new landlord that you're bringing a 6-foot lizard, and let us know how that goes.
Iguanas Are Pretty Mean
If they're so much work, their amazing personalities must make up for it, right? Wrong. Iguanas are jerks. Owners have to handle them regularly from a young age for them to become tame, and they remain unpredictable for life. Each iguana has a unique personality, and their attitude can fluctuate drastically in different seasons and conditions.
Often, they're relatively friendly when they're young, growing into hormonal, aggressive, potentially dangerous curmudgeons as they age. By our standards, both green and red iguanas seem like a nightmare to keep. If your idea of a good pet is violent, hard to care for and expensive, however, you should totally get one.
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