How to tame an iguana
If you have an iguana for the first time, you’re about to discover a whole new world of pet ownership. You will discover that reptiles are not as sociable by nature as dogs, cats, or small rodents. They don’t have much interest in interacting with humans, which they usually fear. Even so, with a lot of patience and perseverance, you can manage to tame your iguana so that it comes to enjoy your presence and is happy to see you.
You must make sure that the terrarium has the necessary temperature, humidity, and lighting conditions for your iguana to develop with vitality. If any of these factors are not as they should be, she will most likely become lethargic, lose her appetite, and become ill, which would make any domestication advice useless. Also, study everything related to nutrition so that she lacks nothing and can grow up healthy.
Surely you have chosen a healthy iguana, with a healthy green color, well active, alert and with a good appetite. She should show some reaction when you approach, such as looking at you, standing up, exposing the fold of skin under her throat. A newly acquired iguana that does not respond in any way is certainly sick, very stressed, or depressed. You must take it to a specialist vet in the first week, along with a stool sample. Parasites are very common and it is really easy to eliminate them.
Once your iguana is healthy and its terrarium is in good condition you can start to build up a relationship with her to try and create a trusting bond between the two. The smaller it is, the better, because it will be easier for you to handle and tame your iguana.
Tips for taming your iguana
- Usually, iguanas extend the crease under the chin when they see you; this is an attitude of defense or aggression. If they are angry, they usually move their head back and forth, open their mouth and shake their tail.
- If she only extends the crease, then you can try to touch her. It is better not to lift her at first, but instead put your hand at her height inside the terrarium in a far corner and then bring it closer in a horizontal movement. In the meantime, speak to her in a calm and gentle voice. If she lets you, you can stroke her head or also offer her a tender leaf that she likes, like a dandelion. Never approach your hand from above, as some predators will attack and become very frightened. Repeat this procedure for a few days or weeks, depending on your iguana’s reaction. When it realizes that you are not trying to harm it and it no longer gets scared, it can be lifted carefully. Then lift her for a little while every day to tame her.
- It is important to go quietly and firmly. If she succeeds in scaring you with her demonstrations, she will quickly learn what she must do to dissuade you and will do so with increasing intensity until she becomes aggressive. A 10-12 inches iguana cannot hurt you very much, so you should not be afraid. On the other hand, do not lift it if it struggles too much; you will stress it more and have to squeeze it to hold it, which is not nice for it. If it gets away from you, don’t grab it by the tail, because it might get lost. Try to pick it up in a closed, safe environment without hiding it where you can’t get it out later. This way, if it gets loose, you will have no problem taking it back gently.
- It can take quite a while for her to realize that you mean well and won’t hurt her. To tame an iguana you must have a lot of patience and keep trying every day. You will see that when you succeed, it will be much easier for you to pick it up and pet it. Always talk softly to it, don’t shout. Iguanas can learn some words, like “no” or “bad”, especially if you say them in a different tone of voice. They also recognize our body language, so you can make visual signs while you talk.
- Learn to recognize their moods. Rapid head movements, tail wagging, and open mouths are signs of discomfort and aggression. As long as it’s small, this shouldn’t stop you if you have to pick it up but watch out for its mouth. A small iguana cannot hurt you too much and must get used to being lifted. If it bites you, don’t pull your finger away because the teeth are very sharp and it can cut you. Better to wait until it opens its mouth to put your finger in a safe place. Then wash and disinfect the area thoroughly. An adult iguana can hurt you, which is why it is so important to domesticate your iguana early on. Think that there will be many occasions when you will have to lift it, to clean the cage, to give it medication, to take it to the vet, or to take it out of the water to change it. Also, if she becomes docile you can take her out into the sun or out for a walk in the garden or bedroom and she will find this very rewarding.
- A very good trick for when you have your iguana in your arms and she is not very happy is to move sideways slowly, as if cradling a baby. This seems to relax them a lot and gets them to calm down. If you decide to release it in a room, try not to chase it around to catch it again. This would scare her and be a setback in the relationship. You can always resort to healthy treats to get her to come to you or to reward her when she is not aggressive.
Taming an iguana takes time and patience. Think about at least 3 months until you can get her to stop being scared and you can trust her. At the very least, you must be able to pick it up whenever you want without it attacking you. Each iguana has a different personality, so you have to learn to know it to apply the most appropriate methods. With patience and a little intelligence, you can make your iguana a loving, reliable, and happy animal that enjoys your company.
If after reading this article you have decided to keep an iguana as a pet, here are two more that may interest and help you: