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Iguana on branch

Can reptiles be tame? Or even...affectionate?

It’s “common knowledge” that reptiles simply don’t relate to humans in the ways the mammalian pets like dogs and cats do.

But what if common knowledge is wrong?

Plenty of iguana owners claim that these large lizards are affectionate pets that even come up to them for attention.

Here’s what you can do to get you and your own pet iguana on the same page with each other…

Keep your distance

Okay, you may be wondering how you’re supposed to form a bond if the first piece of advice is to stay away from your reptile.

Iguana with head raised

But this is actually the truth for many pets that eventually become affectionate.

You have to gain their trust first. When you first get an exotic pet, the two of you are feeling each other out. Most of us wouldn’t hug a person we’ve never met. It doesn’t mean we hate hugs.

Similarly, your iguana likely doesn’t want to be touched and pet a lot when you first meet. Instead, spend time near their enclosure so they can become accustomed to your presence.

Talk to them so they know that your voice is a usual sound for humans to make and they won’t be startled if you talk when interacting with them later.

Hang out with them regularly

Taming an iguana is basically the practice of getting them used to being around you without feeling much stress.

Without violating their territory, hang around outside their enclosure on a regular schedule. It also helps to stay on a regular cleaning and feeding schedule so they know to expect you in their enclosure for certain activities. Don’t touch them during this time.

This gets them used to the idea that you are not a threat. Just allow them to see and hear you.

You can find enrichment items for iguana enclosures at our online store.

Warm them up to being touched

You can eventually get to the point that your iguana will accept being touched by you. Start slowly, just being near them during habitat maintenance. Then slowly put your hand near them or their food bowl while they’re eating.

Iguana eating

Eventually, you may be able to graduate to feeding them a piece of food on your palm, held flat. Allow the animal to come to you. Do not force it to take food from you.

Only after they have become comfortable with you should you advance to trying to pet them. And if they seem stressed or run away, respect that they don’t want to be touched (at least for now) and start back at just feeding the next time you are interacting with them.

Avoid forcible handling

Like smaller reptiles, iguanas do not like to be handled. They are herbivores (and thus prey animals) that associate being grabbed with being eaten.

When you restrain your iguana in order to “get it used to handling” you are doing the opposite of building trust or bonding. Instead, you are causing your pet a lot of stress and teaching them to dislike handling.

How do you know you’ve succeeded?

A confident iguana who is comfortable around humans may walk around with its head held high and puff up to look bigger without displaying aggressive behaviors. It also displays communication signals in front of you. It does not try to bite you or whip its tail at you (although even well-bonded lizards can act aggressive when they are in a mood or hungry).

Come into The Tye-Dyed Iguana to find some treat foods you can incorporate into taming your iguana.