Are you trying to tame an iguana and feel completely lost? Don’t worry. You’re not alone.
As a general rule, iguanas require patience, consistent handling, and positive reinforcement to be properly tamed. Additionally, taming them can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, and in some occasions, over a year. The more the iguana is handled, the faster it will be tamed.
I’m going to share tips and advice on how to begin taming your iguana today.
How to Tame Your Iguana
Iguanas are not your ordinary pet which can be easily bribed with food then be expected to happily trust you. Instead, gaining an iguana’s trust takes a lot of time, effort, and patience.
Reading through Reddit, you’ll notice people claiming it took them months – sometimes up to two years – to befriend their iguanas.
Some iguanas are more temperamental than others, and this can play a major role in taming them, too.
For example, you may be successful taming an iguana in a month, while another may never be truly “tamed” or enjoy being held.
However, I am going to walk you through the steps to tame an iguana, starting with basic tips to get started.
Learn the Basics: Tips to a Happy Iguana
Taming is not an overnight process and is something that you’ll need to work on consistently. However, before you even begin, I recommend following a few basic tips to make taming better for you and your pet:
- Don’t push your luck too quickly. Allow your iguana a few weeks inside of his enclosure before trying to tame him. Admire him from afar and just keep to your daily cage cleaning and feeding.
- Slow your movements down. Your iguana is already a bit stressed and unsure of this new environment that you’ve thrown him into. Be conscious of your movements to keep him calm.
- Handle him daily
Iguanas do get stressed, and it’s something you need to be cognizant of when trying to tame your pet.
I recommend you read an article I recently wrote titled: “15 Signs an Iguana is Stressed & What to do About it” before beginning.
Handling Your Iguana
Iguanas are wild animals and haven’t been the focus of domestication for thousands of years like dogs and cats. The enclosure you make is the pet’s habitat, and taking them out of it removes them from their comfort zone.
You need to be confident when going into the enclosure and removing him. The wrong approach can lead to a tail whip or even a bite.
- Make slow movements
- Speak to the iguana softly
- Don’t pick the iguana up from above
You may be tempted to pick your iguana up from up above, but this is something that author James Hatfield recommends against in his book, “Green Iguana The Ultimate Owner’s Manual,”
Walk into the enclosure slowly, wait about a minute or so and keep your hand out but flat to the iguana by keeping your palm upward and lower to the ground. You’ll want to slide your hand under his breastbone and slowly remove him.
Over time, this process will become easier. A lot of iguanas will willingly go up their caretaker’s arms.
Note: Do not grab your pet by the tail. Iguanas can detach their tail as a natural defense mechanism, which is very stressful and a quick way to lose their trust.
One thing that I want to stress is that these beautiful reptiles do not want to be petted or held. They would rather you leave them alone. Handling is the only way to get them used to you holding them.
I recommend you spend the first few weeks in the enclosure with your pet. Once they stop running away from you and showing signs of stress, you can begin handling them for 10 – 15 minutes per day.
After a few weeks, you can increase the duration and keep increasing it every few weeks or months after.
Handling your iguana with a firm grip will make him feel more comfortable and less like he is going to fall. In many cases, the iguana will wiggle and try to get away:
- Grasp him firmly but gently with your fingertips
- Stroke his head and talk to him calmly
- When the iguana stops struggling to get away, relax your grip
With these points in mind, you’re ready to graduate to holding your iguana and learning about this process.
Holding Your Iguana
You’ll want to hold the iguana in a secure position. Slip your hand under the pet’s breastbone, with your pointer finger extending under his chin and his front leg between your pinky and ring fingers.
You can support his backside and tail with the bottom of your palm and forearm. Smaller iguanas will be mostly supported on your hand.
It’s important to allow his legs to hang over your arm so that he feels comfortable.
As your iguana grows in size, you’ll want to keep its tail between your inner elbow and body. This position will help stop potential tail whips and allow you better control over your pet as he or she grows.
I do want to stress that you should not wear clothing that your iguana can get caught on. Some owners have had their iguanas scratch their faces or get tangled in their earrings.
Keep your reptile away from your face, remove earrings and don’t take the risk of him getting tangled in sweaters or knit tops.
Note: Wearing gloves to protect yourself from bites or scratches may seem like a good idea, but your iguana will realize you’re scared of him. Don’t wear gloves if at all possible.
If your iguana begins hissing, you should take it as a hint that it’s time to put him down and allow him to relax. Read an article I wrote on this very topic, titled:”Why Iguanas Hiss & What to do About it.”
Taming Your Iguana
Finally, it’s time to begin taming your iguana and build up the relationship that you want with him. You’ll need to do a few key things during the taming process:
- Remain patient because it can take a while to tame these reptiles
- Feed your iguana by hand to gain their trust
- Handle him daily
Your main goal is to build a relationship type trust with him. In addition, you want to build your iguana’s confidence in you and to feel comfortable being around you.
Avoid reaching at them from overhead like prey would in the wild, startling them, stepping on or grabbing their tail. Also, don’t play rough with them, as they won’t appreciate it.
With this in mind, you’ll want to begin taming your pet in a small room that is “iguana proof.” You never want him to get lost or hurt in the space. Allow him to roam and explore the space for 15 – 30 minutes daily.
Leave him on his own. When he gets bored, he’ll eventually come up to you, and you can try to pet him (in the direction of his scales). Then, when he’s comfortable in the small space, you can slowly transition to bigger ones.
Younger iguanas may start bobbing their heads and get angry at you, but stand your ground and show them you’re not a threat nor are you afraid of them.
Is your iguana mad? You need to learn to read their body language and the signs they’re trying to convey to you. I recommend reading this post I wrote for more insight: “7 Signs An Iguana is Mad: Ignore At Your Peril.”
How Long Does it Take to Tame an Iguana?
Taming any reptile is a process, and iguanas are certainly tedious pets to tame. Some owners say it takes 3 months to tame their iguana, and others will take well over a year to tame.
Unfortunately, every iguana has its own temperament, likes and dislikes.
You never want to “break their spirit,” but you do want them to be comfortable around you and maybe even be your “buddy.”
However, I can tell you that it’s extremely rewarding and worth the effort once your iguana trusts you and likes being around you.
Are Younger Iguanas Easier to Tame?
Iguanas of all ages are difficult to tame, but they’re easier to handle when they’re younger. However, the earlier you get him accustomed to handling and the taming process, the better.
Taming your iguana is going to test your patience and will require a lot of dedication. If you don’t have the time to tame him, he may not be the ideal pet for you.
However, if you can dedicate consistent time to taming your iguana, you’ll find that in a few months, he’s calmer and may even want to be around you more.
The time investment in taming an iguana is worth the reward.