Do Pet Iguanas bite?


Pet Iguanas are generally considered to be among the friendliest of all pet lizards. But they are territorial animals that should be respected by their owners.

If the pet Iguana is not given its own territory where it can have privacy, it can turn hostile.

Generally Iguanas don’t bite humans, but they can bite you if provoked or if they are not comfortable with you. However, this is quite rare.

Iguanas have tiny but sharp and serrated teeth. Angry Iguanas can cause serious damage to a human if it wants to. They also have very sharp claws with which they can scratch; and a long and strong tail which they use to whip. The tail also has sharp parts which can hurt a lot.

That being said, much like a cat or a dog, if you know what you are doing, an Iguana should be quite friendly towards you.

Signs of an Aggressive Iguana

Before biting, an Iguana will generally give you signs that it is angry. It will bob its head up and down and the flap of skin beneath its chin, called a dewlap, will be extended downwards. It will also move its tail from side to side. The body will be lifted up to make itself appear taller.

They will squint their eyes while looking at you or anything you bring close to them. Don’t try to touch it with your hands. Iguana bites are powerful enough to cause serious damage even if you are wearing thick gloves. If you bring a stick or something else close to its head and the Iguana lowers its head, it does not mean that you can pet its head. It is still angry. The Iguana may also lick the stick when it is aggressive.

An Iguana will also sometimes quickly wobble its head in all directions. This is done to show dominance. Although this head wobbling can also be done when it is not aggressive, and is also a part of normal iguana behaviour.

If an Iguana is just bobbing or bobbling its head without any other apparent signs of aggression, it may just be displaying dominance. As iguanas or territorial creatures, this is normal behaviour for them.

Their mouths can be wide open or slightly open. If they are slowly circling around you, then it is territorial aggression.

Licking something is normally a sign of curiosity, but aggressive Iguanas will also lick something you put close to their faces when they are angry.

How to Handle an Aggressive Iguana

First of all, you should never let it be apparent to your Iguana that you are scared, even if you are really scared. When you start doing any of the following steps be sure to move in slow and controlled motions.

Don’t make any sudden movements and if the Iguana starts behaving even more aggressively, don’t stop trying. If the Iguana opens its mouth, bobs its head etc. and you move away from it, the Iguana will realise that you are afraid of it and will continue dominating over you.

The iguana can take some time to come down. You need to be patient and deliberate with your movements. If you do have to back off, take two or three steps back but don’t leave the Iguana completely. This will help show the Iguana that you are still in charge.

If the iguana is small enough to be picked up easily, you can distract it with a glove or something which it can bite. While it is biting and holding the object in its mouth, you can pick it up from underneath, supporting the entire body.

You can cover your arm with a thick towel or something to avoid being scratched by its sharp claws. After being picked up, if an Iguana is not being super aggressive, you can slowly take it back to its enclosure and leave it there for some time.

Again, don’t completely disappear for a long time. The Iguana should still be able to see you, so you can show it that you are not afraid of it.

How to Avoid Aggression in Iguanas

The best way to ensure that your pet Iguana stays calm and tame at all times is to get a baby Iguana. You can give your brand-new Iguana a week or two to settle down into his new environment.

After that you will need to interact with the Iguana regularly.

Interaction includes talking to it in a calm tones and touching it if it allows you to. You can also pick it up once a day or every 2 to 3 days. Speak to it in a calm voice and use its name while talking. Iguanas are very intelligent and can learn their names.

The iguana should be able to see you for at least a few hours every day, even if you are not interacting with it during that time. You could also sit near it where it can see you while it is eating.

Iguanas should be provided with a space that is truly their own – no one else should ever enter that area unless they are cleaning it. Iguanas are territorial animals. If they don’t have a place they can claim, they will try to claim any random spot in the house.

This could be a piece of furniture or a corner of a room. If anyone else comes close to its claimed territory, it will attack. So it’s better if you set up a place for it so you – and it – can be undisturbed.

To ensure that the Iguana stays comfortable when you pick it up, you need to know how to handle it properly. The base of the body, i.e., from the end of the neck to the base of the tail should be supported properly. This should be very easy if the Iguana is just one or 2 feet long.

Whenever you pick it up, you should approach it from the side. Grabbing it from the top will be considered a threat, because predatory animals pounce on their prey from the top. Iguanas, like most animals, are naturally programmed to be afraid of threats from above.

You should never grab an Iguana by its tail, as the Iguana’s tail can be detached if it gets startled.

Establishing a routine will help to let the Iguana gain your trust. Feeding it, cleaning its enclosure while it can see you and interacting with it at the same time regularly will help normalise things.

Syed Baseeruddin Hyder

I’ve been keeping fish and invertebrates in aquariums for over 5 years. Over the years, I’ve kept more than 15 different species of fish and invertebrates. Through ParadiseInATank.com, I hope to guide new and experienced fish keepers alike with as detailed information as I can get.

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