Local student speaks out on proper pet care

Published 11:56 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2006

By Staff
Special to the Advance
There is a new pet store in town and most people are fascinated with the iguana, including me! So when people buy iguanas some are not sure how to take good care of their pet iguana. So I took the time to do research on the iguana and I hope you will enjoy what I found as much as I did. Plus, my mom decided this would be a good idea for a home-school project – and she was right!
Green iguanas come from Mexico, Brazil, and Paraguay. They are green lizards with brown bands around the body and the tail, a crest of scales along the back and can grow up to 6 feet long! Also, most will live up to 20 years old and sometimes 30!
What do you think iguanas eat? Iguanas enjoy eating different fruits, flowers, and leaves. The only reason that iguanas can digest plants is because they have this bacteria in their digestive system that digest plants. Do not feed iguanas lettuce, because there is no nutritional value in such a watery plant. But iguanas love collard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, rose petals and figs. Their treats are bananas, apples, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower.
You must tear, chop, and grate food into small pieces and mix the food together. Feed your iguana a balanced and varied diet every day. Remember to wash all edibles thoroughly and never feed any plant material that has been sprayed with insecticide. Always give your iguana fresh water to drink.
Why do iguanas make a good pet? First, they are vegetarians. You can go to the grocery produce (or garden) to make a nutritious meal for your favorite reptile. Unlike many reptiles, iguanas do not have to eat food from the pet store. As a matter of fact, iguanas that are fed commercially prepared diets do not do as well as iguanas fed freshly washed vegetables and greens.
Second, unlike most reptiles like snakes and even other lizards, iguanas bond with their human caretakers. The stories and antidotes about how iguanas interact with caring, doting owners are legion. And although it's not recommended, some iguanas sleep with their owners. Personality is definitely an iguana characteristic.
Third, you don't have to worry about fur or hair on your clothes or on your nose. Since some people are allergic to fur bearing animals, reptiles are the right choice. But the only thing that people with allergies have to remember is cleanliness. Also, iguana cages must be kept free from dirt, dust and mold.
Fourth, iguanas are educational. Because of the specific environmental requirements kids learn about temperature, gradients, calcium; phosphorous ratios, animal husbandry, tropical and temperate rain forests, and the importance of proper care of such a unique lizard. Also science and biology are the perfect way for learning about the care of the reptiles. Other children will find it fascinating and a well-researched report can be used to improve the care of iguanas improperly cared for by others in the classroom.
Fifth, iguanas are like little dinosaurs, and every one has a fascination with prehistoric creatures like dinosaurs. Lizards like iguanas, are distant cousins of the dinosaur. People who love dinosaurs are very attracted to iguanas; it's like having a prehistoric beast in your house!
Sixth, you can dress your iguana in a silly costume. If you have a sweet – tempered, docile iguana, most likely they will let you put hats on them and let you dress them in various themed outfits. Think about it: you can go into almost any pet store and buy a sombrero for your pet iguana! When you have given you iguana lots of interaction and family time, they are more willing to let you fuss over them.
Are there benefits in taking good care of your pet iguana? Caring for a pet can have an effect upon ones health – especially among older persons claims biologist professor, Erika Friedman.
Her study showed that the patients getting a dog quadrupled the chances for recovery from a heart attack! Increased physical activity alone doesn't explain the effect, because patients with other kinds of pets (jerboas or iguanas) also have a higher survival rate than those without. It keeps the patient busy feeding, grooming, petting and walking his new friend, as well as talking to him and helps the patient to communicate with other people they meet in elevators, hallways or parks. Pets also serve as a clock for persons out of work, giving their lives order and discipline.
Green iguanas are in danger of extinction in many areas. So many die in shipment and because of harsh care. All the special care and equipment we have for them is worth it when we realize that we have chosen to give this wild, rainforest creature a special place in our home!
I hope this will help owners to take good care of their pet iguana and appreciate the iguana for what they are!
Seth Rabun wrote this column as part of a class project. He is an Atmore resident.

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