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Friday, May 14, 2010

Caging Iguanas

Generally, owners of juvenile iguanas choose to house their lizards in aquariums or other types of cages. Small lizards are likely to get lost when released into large areas, so an enclosure of some kind is recommended. Aquariums tend to be the most popular choice, probably due to their availability. Glass surfaces are also easy to clean, and allow for high visibility. Some iguana owners opt to build cages for their lizards. A common type of custom cage is one with a wooden frame, with the sides made of cage wire or plexiglass. Glass can also be used, as it won't scratch or bend, but it is much heavier when coupled with the wooden frame and is more fragile during construction and when moving. Glass and plexiglass are popular because they tend to look nicer than cage wire, allow for optimum visibility of the lizard inside, and they also keep the heat in the cage. Cage wire, however, may be favored by the iguana because it will provide a climbing material, and also because it allows for ventilation. (It is also much less expensive.) It is crucial to keep the cage warm, but it is also important to allow the animal inside to breathe. In general, when constructing your iguana's cage, you must take many factors into consideration, which are discussed below. If you find that you cannot meet the requirements that are given, it would be a good idea to try to find your iguana a different home. Many people buy iguanas not realizing how much time and money they will need to invest in their new pets, and it is always best to find a better home for the iguana than put a half-hearted effort into caring for it.

Cage Size
As a general rule, you should offer your iguana the largest enclosure that you can possibly afford and have room for. Adult iguanas are arboreal, which means that they spend most of their time in trees in the wild. As juveniles, iguanas spend much more time on the ground, so smaller, shorter cages are acceptable for a while. But as iguanas grow, they want to climb. This means that you must provide an enclosure that has very much vertical space. If faced with the choice of one or the other, it would be better for you to provide a cage that is 7 feet tall than 7 feet wide or long. You may find that this sort of cage structure is advantageous to you as well, as you can then devote less floor space to your iguana's enclosure. If you are not sure if the cage you have in mind is large enough for an iguana, there are some general guidelines that can be followed: the cage should be at least as tall as the iguana is long. (Including tail.) Preferably taller. It should be about 1 1/2 times the total length of the animal in length, and 2/3 the total length of the animal in width. The iguana should have ample room to walk, turn around, and climb. These guidelines should be considered minimum standards. Your iguana will probably become quite depressed if it has less room than this in an enclosure that it will be spending much of its time in. (As a side note: I house my four iguanas in a cage that is six feet tall, eight feet long, and three feet wide, and I let them out frequently for exercise.)

Cage Toys
Your iguana will not be happy if it doesn't have anything to do besides sitting on the floor of its cage. You must provide branches for climbing in the cage. The branches should be a little larger in diameter than your iguana at its largest point. Alternately, you could provide a different kind of climbing material such as a 2"x4" covered with carpet or with grooves cut into it. Climbing is a favorite pastime of green iguanas, and you must not deny them this option. The branches should sit diagonally within the cage. Most iguanas seem to like to sit atop high horizontal surfaces such as shelves, so you may wish to install a shelf near the high end of the branch. You may wish to make a place like this into your iguana's "basking spot", which will be discussed next. In addition to branches and shelves, some choose to add ropes or rope ladders. These are usually used for juvenile iguanas only. You must be careful with large iguanas because due to their weight, if they get tangled in a rope they can injure themselves. Make sure all the items in the cage are safe and secure to avoid any accidents!

By Melissa Kaplan

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