EnRICHing the iguana/keeper relationship through accurate care information and compassionate re-homing.
One of the reasons people surrender their iguana to RICA is that they are expecting a baby and worry about health issues, and rightly so. There is always a concern about Salmonella. Having an iguana while pregnant, or with small children is challenging, but do-able. Here are some real life tips from RICA's own Asra V.
Being pregnant, having a baby, and having a toddler are all pretty unique situations with unique challenges. I'll break it down into my experiences, which don't necessarily mirror what others are going through.
DISCLAIMER: I have a 17 year old female iguana, who is the calmest thing in the whole world. If you've got a hatchling or a temperamental male, please think of your child's safety before allowing them near your lizard. Kids often make sudden movements, and your iguana could show aggression if it interprets their bounciness as threatening.
Be safe, and GET HELP. The first trimester and maybe even beyond, the fatigue can get so debilitating that you just won't feel like doing much. Since iguanas can carry salmonella, try to have someone else do the iguana's daily pooping and sterilization of the tub. If you can, it would be safest to even have a dedicated tub for the lizard that you won't use during your pregnancy. If no one else can do it, buy some disposable gloves.
Make a week's worth of salads on a slow day (my prep day is usually Sunday). Put the chopped greens and cut up veggies in individual gallon zip bags with a couple sheets of paper towels, then squeeze the air out and seal. If you just do it once a week, all you'll need to do each day is pull out the bag, dump it in a clean iguana bowl and bon appetit! If you have to deal with poopy cages or poopy box water, wear disposable gloves. I also got a big box of puppy pads instead of newspaper for the bottom of her cage, as the urates would soak all the way through to the bottom of the cage, which made for more problematic cleanup. The puppy pads have a plastic bottom and are pretty absorbent, so the potential for large messes is decreased.
I'd recommend the same things as during pregnancy, gloves, puppy pads, week's salad in advance. The only change would be to start including your baby by saying what you're doing out loud. Throw the kid in a high chair so s/he can see what you're doing, even if s/he can't talk back or help. As the baby becomes more mobile and begins to eat solid food, give 'em some peas or sweet potato. Get the whole family eating those salads!
This is the awesome "helper" stage, if you can get through the pregnancy and small baby stages. You have a tiny helper who by this time will SURELY LOVE the lizard, and will SURELY want to help. Depending on your lizard's temperament, your child might be able to help with almost anything (though I still do the actual poopy cleanup).
Having your toddler involved helps to teach them to care for a pet.
Practice using scissors or ripping greens for fine motor skills.
Usually, she wants to eat some of the veggies as she's helping to make the salad... BONUS!
My lizard is so calm, I can burrito her and have my 2 year old carry her to the tub.
Practice hand-washing skills after handling.
You could even give her a "lizard-only" toothbrush and have her gently "scrub" the iguana in the tub, especially if the iguana is starting to shed. Obviously, make sure they know that particular toothbrush is NOT for their mouth, and ONLY for scrubbing the lizard.
At any of these stages, don't beat yourself up if you miss a day here and there. Your ig may give you the stink eye or might poop paint in retaliation, but some days you just can't fit it all in. Your ig needs you, but your baby REALLY needs you too!
kids can help prepare the iguana's salad!
kids can help prepare the iguana's salad!
Iguana salad is healthy food!
Kids learn to care for animals!
Kids can help with taking care of an iguana!
Yay! Kids are great at helping!
I asked another couple for their suggestions. Read about Jimmy and Sarah's experience!
Preparing to have a baby when you already have a Green Kid.
So many people have iguanas or other reptiles and then comes a time when they are going to have a baby and hear from others or just think “I might need to get rid of my reptile now.”
It does take a little planning and thought not only for your iguana but for yourself and partner as having a baby is very time consuming and tiring. There are some Do’s and Don’ts but mostly just some common sense; hopefully you have already learned by owning an iguana for some time.
Iguanas can be wonderful but also tricky to understand. We are lucky that my iguana Squirm came as a baby rescue. I spent most of his life training and socializing him while gaining his trust for the last 8 years.
He is used to kids playing around him and wanting to pet him. Many iguanas can be fairly tame but some don’t like kids or people or being a pet and you must know the personality of your Iggy and work within their ability. We have always called Squirm and Darwynn brothers and have slowly, carefully introduced them and allowed them to get used to each other.
From the beginning Squirm would sit on Sarah’s belly. That is, until one day the baby kicked Squirm really good and after that he no longer wanted to sit on her… it can make for fun memories.
You can keep your iguana throughout pregnancy by using common sense.
We planned on making Squirm’s room off limits to Darwynn until he was 3 years old or unless we carried him in there as until then I wasn’t sure he could follow directions good enough to know what to do and not do in our reptile room. Also, around 3 their immune system can better handle if he were to ever touch something that could make him sick which if you keep your reptiles clean it’s not very likely, but safety first. There have been studies showing you and your child can catch many more things from a pet that is a mammal rather than a cold blooded animal, so you can take some comfort from that.
One thing I was never told was just how exhausting that first month is after the baby is born!!! I don’t know how a single parent can do it, so plan to rely on each other and or ask friends to help. You can plan on making iguana food for a few days at a time, giving them newspaper to go on if you’re just too tired to give your Iggy his daily bath.
We didn’t introduce Darwynn to Squirm for months but we did let Squirm see him from afar. He was curious and very cautious when we would let him walk past Darwynn in his car seat or rocker. I would not have allowed him to get too close if I didn’t know Squirm’s personality so well, because male iguanas can be very jealous and territorial. Even their skin can be so rough it can damage an adult’s skin just rubbing against us hard. Squirm would walk by Darwynn and keep his distance but would just need to come close enough to flick his tongue on the car seat or rocker. It was his way of getting to know what Darwynnn was without getting into trouble, and I felt the seat protected him from an accidental touch by Squirm’s claws or tail if he were to be scared by something while trying to be close.
Understand your iguana's personality when raising them and kids together.
Making food for your iguana and feeding can be fun for your kid as they get bigger. Teaching them how to make the food and you can let them eat some while you’re making it. It allows them to see and taste some of the good foods that make up an iguana diet. You can make them a little plate to eat while making food and or during feeding but always remember to tell your child, DO NOT eat after the iguana or the food they might be trying to give the iguana. Let them eat their food first and only then help feed the Iggy. As long as your iguana takes food gently and can eat bigger pieces to allow them to grab the food without getting a little finger mixed in. Always help them and maybe even hold the food item yourself letting the child think they are holding while the Iggy takes the food. You can even let them hold the food item while you cover their hand with yours helping to steady it. If your ig is funny about feeding or not in a good mood that day then listen to your ig and let them have their space.
Kids and iguanas eat healthy food!
When you have to run errands and the both of you can go, take both your kids with you and keep them socialized and happy. It reinforces and shows other kids to be nice to animals and you get to enjoy your family. Having a leash for your iguana is a good idea and many places will require all pets to be on a leash. It’s also a good time to remind kids not to pull the tail or step on it or an Iggy’s long toes!
Going to the store!
As your kid gets bigger they will want to hold, but Iguanas can be very large and hard to hold. Here he can pose with Squirm but not much else, but if you have a smaller reptile they can maybe enjoy holding better as in the case of a Bearded Dragon. Don’t forget to cut the claws about once a week or two as needed. Sarah also has an iguana who is 16 years old but Izzy has arthritis in her back and legs so at her age she doesn’t like being petted or handled much so once in a while Darwynn will feed her but is told not to try and pet her, she seems to know not to bite him but doesn’t enjoy the attention so we include her as much as we can but also let her have her space.
Another thing to teach is that while it may be ok to pet and hug your iguana, do not kiss your iguana, poke the eyes or ear drum. Then, when done playing with them, wash your hands and that goes for any pet. It can also be a very good idea to give your iguana a bath once a day or a few times a week. If they are dirty you can use a mild soap like Ivory soap and warm water, but don’t get it in the eyes, nose or mouth. We usually give our iguana a bath with soap if they have used their newspaper instead of pooping in the tub. When using the tub stay with your Iggy and be ready to drain the tub as soon as they go, and wash it down and rinse them off making sure to even wipe their vent with a little toilet paper to be sure the vent is clean.
You can also enjoy them having a Birthday together each year!
If you can work together to put the time into both of your kids, teaching them to respect and care for each other you might just end up with more help in getting good info out there to others who have or think they want a green kid and have or will one day have a baby.