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The Essential Iguana
- 3 -
Choosing Your Iguana
A pet shop is the most common place for beginners to go to obtain an iguana. However,before you walk into the pet store, it is important to know what questions you shouldask the salespeople and how to work with them on finding the right iguana for you.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
A healthy iguana is active and has a full, thick tail base. When iguanas are sickand lose weight, the tail base becomes thin and the bones almost protrude throughthe skin. The best age to purchase pet iguanas is when they are 3 to 5 months oldbecause they are strong enough to withstand change but young enough to adjust tochanges in their environment.
Baby iguanas are about a foot long from nose to tail. You want a new healthy iguanato be sleek, bright green and alert.
Babies are inquisitive and are not afraid of being handled, though it's importantnot to overhandle them when you bring one home. In a healthy baby iguana, the bodymust be taut and sinewy. They are active, not lethargic.
If the baby looks bloated, whether in the limbs or in the stomach, then avoidit; this is usually a sign that there is something seriously wrong. If there areany swellings alon g the jaw, avoid that iguana as well. There should be no dischargearound the nose or mouth, and there should be no evidence of burns on the skin.
Older vs. Younger Pets
In general, babies are usually more active and more tame than adults. When you'reinspecting baby iguanas from the pet shop, make sure there are no quick movementsor loud voices, and avoid rough handling.
You may see adults in the pet shop. Literally and figuratively, approach theseolder iguanas with caution. Some of them may be previously owned pets that are nowin the pet store because of unacceptable behavior traits. Ask the salesperson aboutthe animal's health and behavior, and ask why an adult is for sale.
Whether a baby or an adult, the first thing you should analyze is the fear quotient.Is the baby or the adult frozen with fear when a person approaches? If so, don'tbuy it. You should be allowed to hold the iguana at the pet shop. If it doesn't move,doesn't lick you and has its eyes closed, then this is not your iguana.
You want an iguana that keeps moving in a steady, not neurotic, fashion. If aniguana stretches in front of you the first time that it sees you, that's a comfortable,well-adjusted, confident iguana. Take that one!
You should also slowly, gently stroke the iguana along the length of its backto see how it reacts to human contact. Any sudden movements by the iguana may bean indication of its willingness to run and its discomfort with people. If the clerkwill let you, you may also want to see if the iguana will stay on your forearm. Ifit does, then this is also a good sign that it is used to people.
- Your baby iguana should be sleek, bright green and alert.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN IGUANA
Age and Size
You want a young iguana, 3 to 5 months old, between a foot and a foot and a half long. These are usually less afraid, more curious and have an easier time adjusting to domesticated life. It will be easier in the long run to tame these younger animals. Beginners should stick to younger iguanas, and not try to take on troublesome animals.
You want a bright green color, not unlike the new shoots of a plant. Don't buy an iguana that looks waxy, pale or yellowish--signs of sure death.
You want an iguana who shows no signs of physical damage, and who has a thick tail base and a lean, sinewy body. You should not buy an iguana with wounds of any kind.
You want an alert iguana who doesn't run when you approach the aquarium. It should show some interest in you and should have smooth movements. It should not be frozen with its eyes shut or running around trying to find an escape hatch.
You want an iguana who's hungry when the food dish is set down or who will take food from your hand. Don't buy an iguana who's not interested in food.
- Testing an iguana's comfort level is easy: Just place the iguana on your hand or forearm and see if it stays. If it does, then the iguana is comfortable and likes people. <
THE FINGER TEST
This is a simple character test you can conduct on a store iguana. While you're handling an iguana, hold your finger to its mouth. A lick is a sign of submission; a good thing for a pet iguana. A bite might indicate a more aggressive animal, but that's no reason to reject it; this animal may just be hungry. If the iguana is frozen in place, it is probably very afraid.
One of the most important things to look for when choosing a healthy iguana isthe skin color and texture. Baby iguanas should normally have bright green skin,no matter what part of the world they are from. Very rarely they can be blue-green,which is normal for that color variation. However, most importantly, you are lookingfor color vibrancy.
The colors, no matter what shade, should be intense. Any dull, pasty or pale-lookingiguanas should be quickly discarded from consideration. Also, any iguana that hasa yellowish-green hue should not be purchased, as this coloration may indicate impendingillness.
As iguanas grow in size and age, they lose their intense color and become a grayishgreen. Some will change to a reddish-orange color, which is very much in demand.But whether you're looking at a baby or an older iguana, you'll be able to tell ifthe skin is healthy by the overall tone of the colors and the elasticity and textureof the skin.
The skin should not hang from the iguana's sides or belly. There should be noscars or open wounds on the iguana. If there are dark areas on the skin, these maybe indications of previous injuries, such as those sustained from burns or fights.< P>If the iguana is shedding, that is not a problem. That indicates it is growing,which means it is eating, implying that it is at least a little more comfortablewith its surroundings than other iguanas its age. If it is shedding, make certainthe skin underneath looks healthy.
- An iguana that is shedding its skin is growing, eating and comfortable in its surroundings.
An iguana's eyes should not be wide open; their eyes should be relaxed and clear.Wide-open eyes indicate fear or apprehension. The eyes should also not be closed.This may mean eye disease or even that the iguana is ill and too sick to open itseyes. Look for any scars on the surface of the eye.
If the iguana you have your eye on sticks its tongue out and starts licking you,it shows that you have a confident, secure animal in front of you. If it doesn'tlick you voluntarily, put your finger near its mouth and see if it will lick you.If it does, that's also a good sign. Does it lick when it walks? That's a good sign,too. An iguana will not lick when it is scared or intimidated.
Sometimes a baby iguana will lick your finger and then bite it. That's understandablein babies. It's just confusing your finger with food. It also says that your choicehas a healthy appetite.