Show your iguana love on September 8!
The month of September is filled with pet-themed holidays, from the furry to the scaly. Iguanas get a celebration all to themselves with National Iguana Awareness Day on September 8.
Iguanas are intriguing creatures native to South and Central America. Believed to have come ashore to the U.S. on cargo boats, they are now as common in the Florida Keys as squirrels in the Midwestern U.S.
Because the colorful creatures are not native to the United States, they are not protected from hunting or pet collection. Many Florida residents have taken to humanely homing the reptiles, turning them into pets instead of garden nuisances.
Raising reptiles requires different protocol from mammalian species. Indoors or in colder climates, heat and UV lamps are imperative. As cold-blooded creatures, iguanas regulate their body temperature via the environment, so basking periodically in the sun or a heat lamp helps them maintain ambient internal temperatures.
Many are surprised to learn that green iguanas in particular--the most common iguana pet--are strict vegetarians in all life stages, from baby to adult. They don't actually eat insects. This is why they are unwelcome garden invaders. They feed on flowers and plants!
In human care, iguanas should get a mix of vegetables and fruits, especially fresh greens. Leafy veggies can include lettuce, collards, arugula, kale, dandelion, and more. Carrots, squash, and peppers are great vegetable options. Fruit can be added in small amounts as an occasional treat. Berries, melon, banana, and apple are great munchies for iguanas.
Calcium and vitamin D deficiencies are ailments seen most frequently in iguanas due to poor nutrition and insufficient sunlight. Calcium powder supplements can be added to the food to prevent this, and outdoor time--even on a leash--or a UV lamp can reverse low levels of vitamin D.
Iguanas make great pets and can bond with their owners similar to dogs and cats. But if you're thinking of welcoming one into your family, do your reptile research first.