Pet talk

I have just acquired a pet iguana from an acquaintance of mine who left the island. How can I tell how old it is and if it is a male or female?

Iguanas have gained worldwide popularity as exotic pets in recent years. Although Cayman has its own wild population of iguanas (both green and blue), many people purchase imported baby green iguanas from local pet stores to keep as pets.

Iguanas can be very interesting pets, but many people underestimate the time and care required to keep these social lizards in captivity.

Iguanas have serious requirements regarding the standards of their care. Humidity, temperature and nutrition are all important factors that are vital to the survival of the pet iguana. Sadly many people do not know how to properly care for them and many never live longer than a year in captivity.

It can be very difficult for even the most expert of reptile lovers to age an iguana.

This is because their growth is determined by their diet, heat and activity. Hatchlings typically are 2.5-3.5 inches long by the time they are one year of age and weigh around 90 grams.

Within five years they can be four to five feet long from snout to tail, and weigh as much as 15 pounds.

This can be shocking for a lot of people who purchase these cute little green lizards as small pets for their kids. In the wild iguanas usually live for 10-15 years but if cared for properly can live in longer in captivity (20+ years).

They can reach lengths up to 7 feet and weigh as much as 18 pounds. Typically the females will be slightly smaller when full grown.

Iguanas are sexually dimorphic, which means that the males and females have different external physical characteristics.

Having said this, until they are sexually mature (older than one year), it can be difficult to tell a male iguana and female iguana apart.

Males typically have a soft bulge at the base of their tail on their ventral or bottom side. They also have a bi-lobed reproductive organ located at the tail, which is more visible during displays of dominance, during defecation and during breeding.

Check out the website www.anapsid.org for detailed information on iguana care or pick up a copy of the book Iguanas for Dummies.

The more information you know, the better your pet will be cared for and the healthier and happier it will be.

Remember; don’t hesitate to contact your local veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.

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