Most helpful critical review
10 of 21 people found the following review helpful
CARE of a pet iguana is very involved!!
on March 25, 2010
I agree fully with Zoe regarding "I Wanna Iguana" being a well written children's book, however, as a lover of iguanas, and for the sake of iguanas, I must stress to parents to NOT buy your child(ren) an iguana as a pet!
The actual care of iguanas is very involved and I wrote the following for two reasons: 1. this entry is intentionally rather lengthy (and still there is so much more about iguana care), so if this entry is too much for you to read, save the iguana and do not get one as a pet, and 2. if you are seriously considering getting an iguana, then perhaps some of my experiences will benefit your iguana (and please, please do a lot more research - beforehand!).
An iguana's diet does NOT consist of lettuce as stated in this book!! Lettuce has absolutely no nutritional value, and to feed an iguana solely lettuce would ensure a slow, painful death for him/her (I have read that some iguanas will prefer lettuce if introduced to it and may actually forsake nutritional foods). Iguanas have very special diets that consist of a wide variety of foods - and even if the pet store clerk may say all they need is vitamin supplement sprinkled on lettuce... very, very wrong!
Correct calcium and vitamin D intake levels for an iguana is crucial, which can only be attained from a proper iguana diet and sufficient exposure to direct sunlight (not through a window). Too much calcium and calcium deposits can form internally, causing organs to malfunction (i.e. in the bladder), or visibly under the skin (most likely a sign the prior has already occurred). Too little calcium and their bodies consume it from their bones. Not enough direct sunlight exposure (production of vitamin D), and the iguana cannot process the calcium, no matter how much calcium is given. It is a balance that cannot be achieved safely for the iguana by trial-and-error.
Also, iguanas need an environment that is both warm and moist all of the time - their native environment is tropical. Iguanas are cold-blooded creatures which means they cannot generate their own body heat. Sure, pet stores sell those electrical heat rocks, but they are very bad for all reptiles; not only do heat rocks hinder the iguana's digestion because of uneven heat distribution, but I have also seen an iguana's poor belly after it was burnt by one. The environment can be simulated, but any fluctuation or interruption (power outages, winter drafts, iguana escapes to a cold room) for even a brief period could mean death for the iguana.
And in response to Zoe's concern about caging an animal, it is possible to have an iguana roam freely in a room, though the entire room would have to be kept warm (consistently around 85° and up to 95° in the basking area), humid (65-75% humidity), and iguana-proofed. Not only proofed from other pets (dogs and iguanas generally don't cohabitate well), but given that iguanas lick every few steps they take - it is their way of smelling - they could potentially ingest harmful substances. And, especially when smaller, iguanas can get into places you wouldn't think possible!
Iguanas are extremely sensitive to their surroundings; one of mine died when I went on holiday for two weeks - a friend took him to his house and the iguana stopped eating. And similarly, another died just because I moved the aquarium to the other side of the room - he stopped eating, and refused to eat even after I moved everything back. I share these sad stories in the hopes to urge anyone who is considering an iguana as a pet to also consider the responsibilities involved and how properly caring for an iguana may impact everyday life.
I did have a very good experience with an iguana, but only because by then, I knew more about caring for an iguana and I had spent a lot of time with her from the day I brought her home. Summertime, I would attach a harness and leash and she sat on my shoulder at outdoor music festivals and the like, she would ride on the dashboard of my car - she went with me everywhere. But even tame as she was, every once in a while, she would still bite me, notably after having been basking (iguanas are very territorial - especially the males, and there's no way to tell their gender until they are at least a year and a half old). Iguanas can move quite fast when they are warm, and a bite from an iguana can be painful - they have strong, serrated jaws, and when they bite, they latch on and shake their heads from side to side. Also, their claws can get long and sharp and they have powerful legs (it is common to get scratched when holding an iguana and is quite possible for those scratches to become infected considering they may have walked in their poo).
Currently I am without iguana even though (though also because) I love them so much. It is for the reasons that I know that I can neither give one a proper environment nor devote the time necessary to spend with it so that it wouldn't just be that "nasty lizard that bites and whips me with his tail every time I get close."
And, like Zoe, I, too, am concerned that many children will want an iguana after reading this book, much like the wave of popularity that dalmatians rode after the movie "101 Dalmatians" was released - which resulted in scores of people getting a dalmatian without realising the commitment of having a high-energy, intelligent, working dog as part of their family (gosh, it wasn't at all like in the movie!). And, sadly, in turn, thousands of poor-quality dalmatians were produced by puppy mills, many of which had health and behavioral problems, and, many were neglected and/or abandoned.
This book should NOT be taken as advice on caring for iguanas - it is not as simple as the author makes it seem. I gave it a one-star review because I feel that the author did not do any research regarding care of iguanas and this story is misleading to both children and their parents on how "easy" it is to care for an iguana. I fear that many iguanas will suffer because of this book. However, if, by taking the time to write this, I have saved even one iguana from suffering dismal care, then I shall celebrate!