Can Iguanas Jump & What to Expect

Are you thinking about adopting a pet iguana, but not sure if they can jump on top of furniture, knock down your expensive belongings, and be more of a hassle than they’re worth? 

As a general rule, iguanas are great at jumping. They can jump vertically and horizontally several times their body length, and will typically jump to transfer from one object or branch to another. When they jump off trees, they do so to escape flying predators.  

Allow me to explain in further detail how and why iguanas jump. 

Can Iguanas Jump

Example of iguana jumping horizontally

Iguanas have two muscular and long hind legs which they compress before launching into the air. Although iguanas are great at jumping, it’s not their preferred choice of mobility. 

An iguana would rather run or climb before taking to the air. 

You can tell an iguana is about to jump because of how intensely it will focus on its landing target. 

However, according to iguana expert and author James Hatfield in his book, “Green Iguana The Ultimate Owner’s Manual,” it’s not at all uncommon for iguanas to miss their target and come crashing down from a tall tree unharmed, but more on this a little later. 

Therefore, if you think you can contain an iguana in your yard, but large trees border your perimeter, think again. These guys have no problem belly flopping on the grass from heights that would make professional rock climbers break a sweat. 

From what I recall as an iguana owner, my pet iguana would rarely jump inside its cage, and when it did, it was mostly to get a headstart as it made its way up a branch. 

Unlike cats, which also climb on everything, iguanas tend to be less active. Hence, once they jump onto a surface they like, they will stay put for a while, sometimes hours at a time. Thus, making it less likely that they’ll knock over things. 

Why do Iguanas Jump Off Trees

Iguana jumps off tree unharmed

Iguanas are known for jumping off trees to escape predators such as hawks, which is why they like to hang out on branches that are specifically located above a river, pond, or lake.  

After jumping into the water, an iguana will then proceed to use its muscular tail as a propeller to quickly swim away underwater where the hawk’s hunting capabilities are severely limited. 

However, iguanas will take a 50 ft dive from a branch whether there is water below it or not so long as it gets to run away with its life. 

Interestingly enough, when iguanas are perched up on a tree branch, they use their third eye, known as the parietal eye, to detect lights directly overhead. 

Parietal eye located in the top center of the head

The change in light signals to the iguana to immediately jump off the branch. If its reaction is a fraction of a second too late, the hawk will enjoy a delicious iguana dinner.

The parietal eye is the reason for iguanas’ strange behavior regarding suddenly jumping off branches. 

Author James Hatfield shares a story in his book where he was in his backyard holding his pet iguana, Za, when suddenly it turned its head sideways to look up at a blank sky and remained completely immobile. 

A few seconds later, James notices a jet flying across the sky. Za was able to detect the jet long before James. In the wild that jet would have been a hawk, and Za would have been diving off a branch. 

If you’d like to learn more regarding iguanas and their fascinating parietal eye, check out this post I wrote titled, “Do Iguanas Have 3 Eyes? Everything You Need to Know.”


Do iguanas like to jump on the dining room table? 

Iguanas will jump on pretty much anything, but they prefer locations that are higher and closer to walls. 

Do iguanas like to jump on people? 

No, iguanas generally do not like jumping on other people or animals.


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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