Taking iguanas outside
Direct sunlight is one of the best preventative health measures we can do for our green friends. All winter long, our iguanas have been only receiving low levels of UVB from the fixtures we provide them on their cages. To promote healthy bones and proper growth, we need to provide our iguanas excess to higher levels of UVB and to do this, we can allow them time outside with warmer weather. There are risk for taking an iguana outside, but with the proper preparation and monitoring of your iguana when it's outside, things should go just fine. We will discuss in this article the issues of warnings, cautions and supplies needed for outside time with your iguana.
As we stated before, direct sunlight is beneficial for your iguana, but there are many hazards you must be prepared for before taking your iguana outside. First, we highly recommend that you provide a outdoor cage for your iguana. The cage doesn't have to be as large as his/her regular indoor cage, but it does have to have enough room to allow the iguana to turn around. If you intend to leave your iguana outside for all day, we recommend that you provide a full size cage. Containing your iguana inside of a cage while outside will provide a safe environment for your iguana and it will less likely get injured or eat something it shouldn't. The cage should be set up to provide shade for your iguana because temperatures above 80 degrees on a sunny day can cause your iguana to overheat. Covering the top of the cage with fine lattice work, is an excellent way of breaking up the sunlight and minimizing overheating. Lattice comes in two different sizes, regular spacing and fine. What the difference is, the regular lattice has larger opening between the boards, which in turn, allows more sunlight to come direct through it. If the temperature gets above 90 degrees, we recommend that you move the cage under a shaded area. An iguana could possible die from being subject to full sunlight with a temperature over 95 degrees. How's that possible you may be thinking? Well, we all know that the require temperature indoors for our iguanas, should be 95 degrees during the day; but that type of heat source is radiated heat and mainly focused on one spot (the basking area). But with the sun's rays, heat is transferred onto your iguana's dark skin, capturing a large amount of the energy from those rays, which in turn produce heat. When your iguana has no way of getting under shade, his/her body starts to buildup it's body temperature and your iguana can not regulate it's temperature fast enough to keep cool. This problem can seriously injure or kill your iguana if you are not careful.
Once you have the cage covered, you should supply a large tub filled with water, which the iguana can use for either taking a swim or to use it as a bathroom. If yours uses these types of plastic tubs for defecating in, you will need to regularly check the tub outside and exchange the water when soiled.
Misting your iguana is another requirement when having it outdoors during hot summer days. This will help your iguana's shedding times and provide some extra moisture too. Also install a drinking bowl of some kind, even if you have never seen your iguana drink, that does not mean that he/she doesn't.
Once you have everything setup and are ready to bring out your iguana, we recommend some pre-cautions:
1) If this is the first time your iguana has been outside, you may want to cover the cage with a towel or blanket for the first time or two. This can help cut down on your iguana's stress level by allowing your iguana to get accustom to it's new surroundings and the strange noises it will hear.
2) If your iguana is skittish, freaks out or is not completely tame, we recommend you use a dog carrier to move your iguana from the house, to the outdoor cage. If you do not think you need to do this, remember one thing, if your iguana freaks when you take it outside and it gets out of your hands, chances are.......you will have one less iguana. Iguana's are extremely fast when frightened. If you have dogs or cats in the neighborhood and your iguana escapes, you run the risk of having your iguana attacked by them. Be safe when dealing with your iguana because you may only have 1 chance.
3) Check the cage completely for any possible ways your iguana could get out and other animals to get in (cats and dogs) If it has screening material, check around where it connects to the framing, to a sure that it is secure and has no gaps.
4) Supply a heat source if you are not going to be available to bring your iguana inside, if the weather turns cooler. We suggest a shielded heat lamp or a large wattage ceramic heating element. Make sure that your iguana can not get in contact with either one of these items. Burns from heat sources is in the top 5 of the poor husbandry issues. Also, supply a covered area incase it starts to rain, this is required during spring and fall times, when temperatures can be at their minimum for iguanas and with the added wetness, could cause health problems for your iguana.
So now you've read what you didn't want to hear.......putting the iguana inside of a cage while outside. "But I want to let it walk around the yard with me" If your iguana is 2 years or under and you allow it to free roam in your yard (even with you close by), the risks are 10 times higher that something will happen. These could be one of the following: your iguana could digest something such as a pebble, wood chip, nail, poisonous plants, etc., which in turn would cause health problems or death. Another concern would be that your iguana escapes. When iguanas are alarmed and begin to run, they have the ability to raise their front legs off the ground and continue to run only using their back legs, this makes them extremely fast. Producing speeds well over what a human could run. Another reason not to let your iguana roam, is possible chemicals in the yard, fertilizers and pesticides can also make your iguana extremely sick or cause death. Think of it this way, if you want your iguana to be with you a long time, don't take risks.
If your iguana is over 2 years of age, we still recommend if you choose to take your iguana outside without a cage, that you use a leash at all times. As iguanas get older, they get more use to different changes ( this only holds true if you are an active owner which spends a good amount of time with your iguana) and tend to be a little less stressed about outdoor surroundings.
Start thinking about what you'll need to do when warm weather arrives, so you'll be prepared to let your iguana enjoy some sunshine.