The Iguana Den




The Great Outdoors

Taking your iguana outside can be a great experience for both of you. Natural sunlight produces a lot of UVB that is good for your iguana's health. A little fresh air never hurt, either. Before you toss your ig on your shoulder and head outdoors, there are some dangers and considerations to think about. With some common sense and prior preparation, going outdoors can be enjoyable and safe for everyone.

The first thing to consider is temperature. Remember that iguanas are tropical creatures, and what feels warm to us humans may not be warm enough for an iguana to be out in for long periods. If the weather is below 70° F, stay inside! Once the weather hits 70, you can take your ig out for SHORT periods of time. 70 is nowhere near warm enough for extended jaunts, but for 15-20 minute excursions it will be ok.

When the weather hits 85° F or above, it is becoming perfect ig weather! At these temperatures, your ig will enjoy a longer stay outside. Bear in mind that even though they are from a tropical country and need warmth, igs can still overheat. When outside with your ig, be sure they have water and shade available at ALL times. Monitor your ig's behavior. If they start to seem sluggish, sit with their mouth wide open (gaping), or feel overly warm to the touch, it is a good idea to move them to a cooler place. NEVER try to cool an ig down by placing it in cool water! The shock will be too much for their system. If you suspect your ig is overheating, try misting it with a spray bottle of water, or soak a washcloth, wring it out, and drape your ig with it to help cool them down gradually.

When you go outside with your green friend, make sure they are restrained in some way and not allowed to wander freely. Igs can move VERY fast when they want to, and can easily dart out into traffic, up a tree, or out of sight. They are amazingly good at blending in, and finding an escaped ig can be extremely difficult. To avoid heartbreak, it is a good idea to either leash your ig or provide a sun cage for it.

There are several commercially made iguana leashes that are sold in pet stores. None of them are particularly safe for iguanas. Most of them go around the neck or dewlap area, and can cause damage to the sensitive dewlap, cause spike damage, or even cause a broken neck if the iguana decides to take a flying leap off your shoulder and comes up short against the end of the leash. The safest harness to use is a hind end harness. This kind of leash is easy to make, and much much safer for your iguana. With a shoelace or similar sized string and a barrel clamp (like those on the ends of jacket strings) you can make an adjustable hind end harness with little effort. For large iguanas, snap on ferret collars (not the body harnesses) or small cat collars can be used and a leash attached. The hind end harness should go just in front of the hind legs, around the waist of the iguana. A leash can then be attached to the harness. With this kind of harness, there is much less chance of your ig hurting itself. If they 'croc roll', the leash will simply wrap around their tail instead of their neck or chest, and not cut off their air.

Hind End Harness
hind end harness


Another option is creating a sun cage. A sun cage lets your iguana have a bit of space to roam without you having to be right there with him. IMPORTANT - Do NOT put your iguana (or any other animal) outside in a glass cage, EVER! The greenhouse effect will cause the cage to overheat very quickly and your iguana will literally cook to death! A much safer cage is a plastic mesh one. It is very easy to build a cage out of PVC pipes and plastic garden mesh. The plastic mesh is strong enough to resist iguana claws, and provides access to plenty of fresh air and UVB. Make sure your cage is secure! Iguanas are escape artists and can squeeze out of even the smallest gaps in cages.

While they are in the sun cage, be sure they have access to shade and water. Toss a towel or blanket over part of the top of the cage to provide a shady area. Continue to monitor your iguana, because on some days, even the shade can become too hot!

There are other factors to be aware of when taking your ig outside. Even when caged, never leave them unattended. Besides their escape artist tendencies, iguanas are also at risk from animal predators, and sadly, unscrupulous humans at times. Never leave your iguana out in a cage at night. Raccoons, dogs, and other animals can pose a large danger to unattended igs. Hawks and eagles have been known to carry off smaller igs when they are outside, so be alert to the skies as well. Igs are constantly alert for predators, and will easily spook if they think they see one. Large birds, airplanes, dogs, noisy children, and other things can make your ig spook and bolt. They can move FAST when they want to! Remember, never grab for your iguana's tail if they bolt. The ig will drop the tail and continue running, leaving you holding a tail with no ig attached!

Igs love to graze when they are outside. They will nibble at grass and other plants. Many plants such as roses, dandelions, and daylilies are edible treats for your iguana. However, these treats are ONLY safe if they are from areas that have not been treated with any form of insecticide, herbicide, fertilizer, or fungicide. Keep in mind that even though YOU may not treat your lawn, your neighbors may, and many treatments can drift into your yard or be washed in during rain. Many towns also spray for bugs from the air, so be cautious. This may become even more of an issue with the increase in West Nile Virus these days.

While it can be enjoyable walking around town with your ig perched on your shoulder, please be considerate of others who may not be as happy to see your ig. Not everyone is a reptile enthusiast, please respect their feelings. Also check with local rules and regulations both at the state level and local level. Some states and towns require special permits for exotic pets, some may have restrictions on having them out in public, and still others may ban them entirely. As an example, Iguanas are banned in the boundaries of New York City! (You can read more on igs in NYC in our Iguana Issues section.)

Above all, when taking your iguana outside in public, remember that your actions reflect on the herp community at large. Too many states and communities are trying to pass legislation to restrict or ban herp ownership, don't give them any more fuel for their fires. Be a responsible, educated iguana owner.



© 2002 - PurpleDragon Website Design