Yes, I considered writing a children’s book called “Meet My Iguana,” but I decided instead to share my experience of caring for a pet iguana.
This is mango:
Mango is a red iguana. When the reptile expo came through town, my barely yet a man-child couldn’t resist purchasing the cute little red reptile. He already had a fairly decent size tank that housed his former pet snake (a whole other story) and couldn’t wait to fill it with another cold-blooded critter. In addition to the tank, which he lined with substrate to hold moisture, he had to equip the iguana with heat and light sources that provided UVB and UVA rays.
About 3 months later… Mango grew to approximately the length of the 30 gallon tank. So, my son built a much larger cage with wood and chicken wire to house his pet. He lined the floor with heavy plastic, built shelves for him to lounge on and hung rope for the iguana to climb on. The problem was that his bedroom was too cold for the iguana that enjoys temperatures of 85+ degrees and, because of the chicken wire, the cage could not retain any humidity. He (i.e. his parents) had to then purchase a space heater and a humidifier to place outside the iguana’s cage.
Iguanas are curious creatures and as my son’s life became more entwined in school and girlfriend, Mango was often left staring at the empty walls of my son’s bedroom. When my son began a demanding job and moved into his own home, we determined it might be best if the neglected reptile remained behind.
So, my husband built a wood and Plexiglas enclosure approximately 4 feet long, 3 feet wide and 6 feet tall. It contains multiple shelves and ramps and linoleum flooring. The UVB/UVA light hangs from the top of the cage and a small humidifier (that needs to be cleaned regularly) sits inside. There is a thermometer in the cage to measure the heat and humidity. We placed the cage in front of a sunny window, over a heating vent to warm it by day, and in a location where Mango has a good view of the goings on around the house.
When we first put Mango in his new home, the interior of which is white, we noticed little black and/or red specks in the cage that were on the move! On closer inspection, we found the little pests climbing on Mango as well. We had a lizard mite infestation. Ugh! After a lot of research, it became apparent that there was no easy remedy to rid him of these bloodsuckers.
Short of resorting to pesticides that may kill Mango as well as the mites, we determined the best solution was soap and water. Every day, we put a very resistant lizard in a warm bathtub (quite the acrobatic feat) and let him soak until all of the mites on his body drowned. We then washed out his cage with dish soap and hot water. This went on for about a month until we were convinced the mites were gone.
Mango has razor sharp claws and an exceptionally strong tail. He has luckily become comfortable enough with his surroundings that he no longer attempts to strike with his tail. Whenever I handle him, however, I don a denim jacket and thick work gloves. While he does not intend to hurt me, just his climbing up my uncovered hands/arms leaves bloody gashes, as I have learned through experience.
Iguanas require fresh vegetables daily. Their primary diet consists of certain leafy greens, mixed with a variety of other fruits and vegetables that provide needed vitamins and protein. In the COVID-19 pandemic, I find myself having to go to the grocery store or order online delivery, not because we need food, but because our iguana needs fresh greens.
Mango is now approximately 5 years old and is 4 feet long from nose to tail. He still has ample room to move about his cage, but is just barely fitting on the shelf under his heat/light source. It is time to build him a bigger home or, alternatively, assign him his own room.
The moral of this story is that a human of any age should consider carefully before deciding to choose this exotic reptile for a pet. Just ask the many residents of south Florida who opted to release their iguanas into the wild.