Are Iguanas Intelligent: 8 Facts That Prove They Are

Are you looking into getting yourself a pet lizard that is incredibly exciting but a bit more on the intelligent side than the average reptile? Check out the super cool looking iguana.

On average, iguanas are more intelligent than many of their lizard cousins. They can be potty trained, learn tricks, recognize people, animals, their name and owner, and remember specific experiences, whether good or bad.

In this guide, I’ll dive deep into absolutely everything you need to know regarding iguana intelligence!

So, Are Iguanas Intelligent?

Yes, iguanas are incredibly intelligent, to the point where not enough people give them credit for what they’re capable of achieving. They’re clever, can have emotional and personal relationships with their owners and other pets, and can even problem-solve! 

When I first got into keeping reptilian pets a few decades ago, I thought most reptiles just hung around in their cages, chilling under heat lamps, and were basically just there to be enjoyed, looked after and cared for.

But Iguanas changed the game.

I’ve seen iguanas learn how to open their own tanks and cages then wander off. I’ve seen them mimic the snake sounds to scare off threats, a sound they learned by copying the snakes in the tank next to them!

It’s pretty mind-blowing stuff, and when you’re ready to see just how intelligent these beautiful, dragon-like creatures are, read on and find out!

8 Signs of Iguana Intelligence

Iguanas Recognize Their Owner & Other People

Iguanas are not the type of reptile pets that just sit in cages and mind their business, ignoring the rest of the world while they wait to be fed. Far from it.

Iguanas are more than capable of building personal relationships with their owners and even different individuals.

That’s right; my iguanas have not just recognized the people in my household as ‘the people that feed it. My relationship with our iguana is different from that with my partner. And our kids.

The way our iguana acts when we walk in the room demonstrates they can differentiate between us via sight and sound. This has even been proven with research.

Therefore, you’ll become familiar with your iguana’s personality over time and enjoy individual relationships with them as you get a feel for what they want and how they see the world!

Not enough people realize just how rewarding this relationship can be.

Are you thinking about becoming an iguana owner? Check out this post I wrote called, Pros & Cons of Owning an Iguana: Is This Pet Right For You?

Iguanas Recognize Animals

An iguana’s recognition ability is not just limited to people. 

A friend of mine who keeps reptiles once described a time when her iguana was used to the rabbits they kept at home.

Her bunnies and iguana would cuddle together, nap next to each other, and share food, as they were friends from a young age. 

However, the rabbits got ill, and one sadly passed away while the other was given to a family friend.

My friend ended up getting new rabbits, but the iguana didn’t get along with them at all, and would instead run away or show signs of stress.

When the family friend brought the original rabbit back for a visit, the iguana surprisingly still recognized the original rabbit.

This incredible ability to recognize individual beings clearly shows emotional and biological intelligence!

Iguanas Can Imitate Other Animals

This is where things get interesting. Iguanas can actually ‘talk’ to other animals. 

Hence, they can imitate sounds they hear from other animals and call back. It’s not a like-for-like mimic where the two animals can have a chat, but it’s very interesting to hear two animals “communicating” with each other.

As previously mentioned, mimicking has been witnessed in the wild, where iguanas have been known to imitate snake sounds to ward off potential threats.

Some iguanas have even been known to purr like cats.

Iguana purring

Iguanas Recognize Their Name

The intelligence continues with iguanas and their ability to recognize and react to their own name. 

You can train your own iguana by saying its name every time you give it food.

Thus, creating a wonderful feeding routine where the iguana will recognize its name and associate it with food.

It’s a big part of the bonding process involving your nurture and the building of a special relationship with your scaly friend.

This viral video is an excellent example of this in action.

Iguana greets owner like a dog

Iguanas Can be Potty Trained 

You read that right.

Building on everything I’ve covered so far, you can combine an iguana’s ability to learn its name and pick up new routines and patterns to perform all sorts of crazy feats, including potty training.

And trust me, this is a process well worth spending time on because it makes cleaning your iguana’s enclosure a whole lot easier.

The process begins with teaching your iguana its name, but also taking the time to build a positive and trusting relationship with your pet.

If your iguana doesn’t confide in you, potty training will not be possible, yet another sign of how emotionally intelligent and profound iguanas are.

By using food to reward your scaly friend, you can train your iguana to:

  • Only have their food in a designated place and set times
  • Go to the toilet in a set location
  • Identify you and the new people you introduce
  • Wave at visitors
Iguana waving

You can’t train an iguana to do tricks like you would with a dog, but the limits of what an iguana can do are nevertheless impressive. 

According to InPetCare, the University of Lincoln trained iguanas how to open a door to access food on the other side.

Interestingly enough, a group of untrained iguanas were kept aside and then introduced as spectators. It didn’t take long for the spectating iguanas to also learn how to open the door, once again proving that iguanas are great at mimicking others!

Iguanas Can Remember Bad Experiences 

There’s certainly a negative stigmatization regarding iguanas and their tendency to be aggressive, which is not entirely wrong. However, there’s more to this than meets the eye.

The truth is, iguanas aren’t aggressive for no reason; instead, they can remember bad experiences. 

An old friend of mine shared a story regarding his wife’s pet iguana, which he baby sat while she went on vacation.

He cared for the iguana, by sitting with it in his lap most while watching television in the evenings. 

However, one night the man fell asleep, when suddenly, the iguana moved, waking him up in the process and causing him to drop the iguana. My friend stood up in a panic, and accidentally stepped on the iguana.

There was no serious damage, just a very upset iguana, but the poor reptile never forgot what happened.

My friend tells me that even to this day, the iguana lunges at him while trying to bite his pants and legs if he enters the same room.

However, iguanas are just as capable of remembering positive experiences. Hence, if you invest the time into developing your relationship with your iguana, you can enjoy a very positive relationship, even if the two of you have had a bad experience or two.

Are Iguanas Smarter Than Dogs?

While it obviously depends on the breed and individual personality of the iguana, iguanas are, in my humble opinion, almost on par with dogs when it comes to intelligence.

Both animals can learn routines and habits in the same way. They can learn their own names and recognize their owners. They can also react emotionally to different situations and have their own personalities.

To answer the question, I think it’s safe to think of iguanas as being almost on the same level as dogs, but they just happen to live in an enclosure and require additional maintenance and care.

For example, you don’t have to take your iguana for a walk every day, but I, for one, would love to see that.

Do you have a dog and are thinking about adopting an iguana? Check out this post I wrote called, Can Iguanas Hurt Dogs? Keep Your Furry Friends Safe.

Are Iguanas Smarter Than Cats?

Okay, but what about cats?

Again, I’d say that iguanas are almost on par with cats, which means cats are on par with dogs. 

All of these pets are simply intelligent in their own unique way.

Cats can recognize their name, learn tricks, adapt to routines, have unique emotional relationships with different people, and can understand simple commands.

The difference, I would say, is that cats tend to be a lot more impatient than dogs and iguanas. They don’t like to sit and learn tricks if they don’t want to and have pretty spontaneous attitudes.

However, whether you introduce a cat, dog, or iguana into your home, as long as you treat them right and spend proper time with them, you’re sure to have a fantastic pet you’ll love and cherish for years to come! 

But wait there’s more! Iguanas demonstrate their intelligence in the following manners.

Are Iguanas Affectionate?

Iguanas have the ability of showing affection to their owners, which they demonstrate by closing their eyes when being petted. Closing one or both eyes signifies trust in the person.

Can Iguanas Learn to Trust You?

Iguanas show trust to their owners by allowing themselves to be handled without squirming or fighting to get away. They also show trust by closing one or both eyes while being petted by their owner.

Are you still debating whether an iguana is a right fit for you? Check out this post I wrote called, Are Iguanas Good Pets For Beginners? Here’s Why Not.


Phillip is the proud founder of Scaly Pets, a website dedicated to educating reptile pet owners. As a former owner of various reptiles, Phillip not only brings well researched topics to the table, but also years of personal experience. Now, he's sharing his passion with the rest of the world.

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