Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Green Iguanas and Other Family Pets

©1996 Melissa Kaplan


Iguanas often do well when housed with other iguanas. They may also do well when housed in very large and properly outfitted enclosures with other similarly-sized arboreal lizards from the same type of environment. They should not be housed with turtles, tortoises, anoles, chameleons, amphibians, or snakes, savannah monitors, bearded dragons, or Uromastyx lizards (regardless of what you may be seeing done in pet stores). They also may not be housed with their relatives, the chuckawalla or desert iguana. There are many reasons for this, including risk of injury or illness to the animals, incompatible environments, and food chain.


Cats and Dogs
Iguanas, despite having no canine predators in the wild, generally do not like dogs. The bigger the dog and the smaller the iguana, the greater degree of terror. Not only should dogs be kept away from iguanas when they are out of their enclosures, they should be kept away from the enclosure when the iguana is in residence. Acute prolonged stress, such as being watched by an overeager-to-play pooch or inquisitive cat, may cause illness and death for your iguana.

Surprisingly, although there are wild felines in the iguana's native environment, larger iguanas may get along fine with cats once they are big enough to teach the cat some respect. A thwack across the face by an iguana's tail does wonders in convincing a cat that the green thing is not a play thing. The iguana does need to be big enough to prove this point, however; small iguanas have been mauled to death by both cats and dogs.

Make the enclosure tamper-proof from inquisitive cat and human child hands. If a cat or child is harassing the iguana and causing stress (reduced appetite, darkening skin color, loss of weight, flinching), the iguana may sicken and die.

Try to see the world from the iguana's point of view, taking into consideration environment, infectious organisms, food chain, and how alien things may be viewed...and then act accordingly.

Let me just say that there are always exceptions to the rules, with numerous examples of larger iguanas and dogs or cats who get along well together. But even such amicable relationships that have gone on for years have ended in tragedy (dead iguanas or ones so badly torn up that they required euthanasia), so if you are going to let them be together, never, ever do it without direct and capable adult supervision (in other words, by the time your child notices there is a problem and calls you and you finally arrive at the scene, it may be too late). This may mean securely closing doors to keep them separated when you are not home or are busy. It may mean installing childproof locks or latches on your interior doors so that your kids can't commingle them without you there. This may be inconvenient, but it may also save your iguana's life.


Very small birds, such as finches, may view iguanas with some alarm, not realizing that the iguana is unlikely to view the bird as a meal. Medium-sized birds such as parakeets, love birds and cockatiels, generally have no problem with iguanas, and will cheerfully nap with them, sing to them and eat the iguana's food; the iguanas are similarly relaxed around these birds. Large parrots, however, such as macaws, cockatoos, and African grays, may flip out at the sight of larger iguanas. Iguanas seem to enjoy laying across the tops of bird cages, a habit that puts them at risk of having toes and tail bitten off by the cage's large psittacine resident.


While rodents are unlikely to be considered as a form of sushi on the run by a properly fed and raised iguana, mice may be stressed out by the presence of an iguana, particularly one using their enclosure as a convenient window-side seat. Rats may not be too thrilled, either, but they are more likely than mice to take overt steps to rid their environment of the iguana, such as biting it through the bars of the cage. As with parrots, rats are fully capable of biting off toes and causing severe injury to lizards.


In a word, don't. Ferrets are fast, capable hunters, and a small iguana (or snake or lizard) is just an alfresco meal or a little plaything for them to practice with...


Snakes and Carnivorous Lizards
A small iguana is preyed upon by numerous species, including other reptiles. If your iguana is smaller than another snake or lizard, it may stress out from just being able to see the other reptile - it doesn't even have to be in close proximity. Then again, some iguanas learn that the glass or plastic barrier between them and the reptile will keep them safe...but can you rely on the iguana always recognizing when that barrier is there or not? Large boas and crocodilians eat large iguanas in the wild, so even large snakes will engender a fear/stress response in an iguana (and a large monitor may do the same), as well as there being the risk that a large hungry monitor or boa may decide to do a little foraging on its own.

Use common sense. If you have two large, strong, fast and very toothy reptiles out at one time, have at least two large, strong, fast, and capable adults on hand to supervise and intervene before things escalate. Always watch the iguana for signs of stress - stress will manifest itself behaviorally and/or through changes in skin color.

Related Articles

Iguana owners bite off more than they can chew (Iguana Bites Dog)

Need to update a veterinary or herp society/rescue listing?

Can't find a vet on my site? Check out these other sites.

Amphibians Conservation Health Lizards Resources
Behavior Crocodilians Herpetology Parent/Teacher Snakes
Captivity Education Humor Pet Trade Societies/Rescues
Chelonians Food/Feeding Invertebrates Plants Using Internet
Clean/Disinfect Green Iguanas & Cyclura Kids Prey Veterinarians
Home About Melissa Kaplan CND Lyme Disease Zoonoses
Help Support This Site   Emergency Preparedness

Brought to you thanks to the good folks at Veterinary Information Network, Inc.

© 1994-2014 Melissa Kaplan or as otherwise noted by other authors of articles on this site