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Green Iguanas 101 Basics

story and photos by Nicole Barton

In recent years, green iguanas have become popular pets because of their exotic appearance and the fact they can be purchased at just about any mall pet store. Because green iguanas are scaly and cold-blooded, not warm and cuddly like puppies or kittens, some people tend to not develop an emotional bond with them. Once the novelty has worn off the green iguana often becomes a “throwaway” pet, finding its way into the closest supermarket dumpster or local park where it becomes quick prey for cat or dogs or perishes from exposure. The “lucky” ones are found and taken to local animal shelters or rescue groups. Reptiles are fascinating creatures and caring for one and observing its habits and behavior can be very rewarding. But like any pet, it does take work.

Most people don't realize that green iguanas are not easy pets to care for. Adult males can reach up to six feet in length (including tail) and can become aggressive during mating season. Females can produce infertile eggs, even without mating, which can cause serious health problems and lead to large veterinarian bills. On the positive side, it's not unusual for captive iguanas to live over twenty years, so it's a pet that you can appreciate, grow up with, and include as part of your family for a long time. No animal should be treated as disposable, so before inviting a green iguana into your home, make sure you're prepared to be a responsible and dependable custodian.

If you're thinking about adopting a green iguana here are a few key points:

  1. Green iguanas ARE expensive to care for. Most pet stores will tell you otherwise, but iguanas require indoor and outdoor cages, lighting, heating and regular veterinarian visits.
  2. Green iguanas DO require regular human interaction. If you want a pet that is comfortable around people then holding your iguana once a week won't cut it. Not only is this cruel to the iguana but you will wind up with an anti-social pet which no one can enjoy.
  3. Green iguanas WILL take up a lot of your time. You have to prepare their morning meal, which usually takes about 10 minutes. Because they require so much fresh produce you need to visit the grocery store weekly. They need frequent bathing, nail trimming and help with shedding. Also, cage cleaning needs to be done daily and can be smelly.

If you're interested in a green iguana, consider adopting one from a local animal shelter or reptile rescue group. There are thousands of abandoned iguanas in need of good homes. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem and treat any animal like you'd want to be treated by providing food, shelter and affection – iguanas included!

For more information on green iguanas visit or email the author at .

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