Traveling With Iguanas (Iguana iguana)by Veronica Jennings
Introduction to Traveling with Iguanas
Believe it or not, there are people who take their reptiles on vacation. As iguanas are gaining popularity as a family companion, owners are wanting to include them in the family vacation. Many times it is because they want to bring them; other times it is out of necessity for lack of a trusting caretaker. For whatever reason, there should be a set of guidelines to follow. Since I could find none on the internet at the time of writing this, I am writing my own article on how to bring your iguana along.
Let me say, first and foremost, every attempt at finding a caretaker for the duration of your trip should be made. Iguanas are susceptible to stress. They are wild animals and will be for a millennium more. They are not accustomed to change the way many animals adjust to it and many even look forward to something a bit different. Iguanas are not so lucky. They like things the way they are. With that being said, here is what I suggest to ease your iguanas travel. Keep in mind this information is for road trips within the United States. Crossing borders and air travel has a whole different set of rules.
Prior to Travel
On the Road
- Check well in advance for any hotels that will allow an iguana to stay. They are out there. Many of the pet friendly hotels accept iguanas, as well. There are those that do not so it's best to be safe by checking for those arrangements first. Confirm you registration and animal accommodations prior to travel to make sure the hotel still has you listed with your iguana.
- If traveling across state lines you may need a health certificate. These are easy to obtain with a visit to the vet prior to leaving and should be done as a general rule, even if not crossing state lines. This should be done within a week, to a few days, of your departure.
- There are states and municipalities within other states that make it illegal to own iguanas. Hawaii and New York City are two of the big ones. Other states allow the ownership, but some of the municipalities do not. Check with the proper authorities in the places you will be traveling to be sure your iguana is welcome.
- Pack any medications you may need if your iguana is on a regulated dose regimen. Because it takes longer for reptiles to heal, skipping a dose will delay the healing process even more.
- Pack a first aid kit specifically for iguanas found here: First Aid Kit
- Bring leash or harness for the times you can take your ig out of the hotel room. The best leash to use is the hip leash. Use it with a barrel clasp for a secure hold.
- If you have a breakdown PVC cage or other such enclosure, pack it and make sure all the pieces are there for reconstruction. If you allow it to free-roam, make sure your cat-tree or favorite blankets for the back of the couch for basking are packed.
- Iguanas need a UVB source if you are going to be away for more than a week. In vacation spots you will more than likely have some sun sometime in the day. In case you do not and you plan on being away for more than a week from home, pack the UVB and heat source. If you will only be a few days to a week, pack your basking bulb and digital thermometer, or temperature gun, and keep the temps where he/she will need them.
- Emergency Kit. Prepare for emergencies! If something happens due to a natural disaster be prepared.
- Depending on the size of your iguana, use the appropriate sized carrier. Never let your iguana loose in the vehicle. They can get under foot while driving, climb on your head for the high spot, escape out the door when you open it, etc. They can also cause accidents of other drivers seeing a large iguana on the rear dash. (Personal experience on that one - I was nearly rear-ended with Zair in the rear dash). Small iguanas fit quite well in a cat carrier while a full-grown iguana should have an under-bed plastic tote with holes drilled in the sides and top for ventilation. Cover with a towel for that secure feeling. Add a towel to the inside for comfort.
- It is not recommended that you allow your iguana to come out of the carrier at rest stops. If you do, however, no matter how much you think you trust your iguana not to run - expect them to run. These are new and different surroundings, new sights, new smells. Use the hip leash!
- Do not leave your iguana in a hot car! An iguana can quickly overheat in an automobile and die. If you must leave your iguana in the car, leave the motor running with the a/c on. Have a second set of keys so you can still lock and unlock the door.
- It is not necessary to give your ig food during travel. The stress will probably keep him/her from eating anyway. For a long trip lasting several hours, mist a couple of times, and sometimes the iguana will lick at the mist.
- Keep your iguana in its carrier until you get it in your room and everything else is unpacked and put away. Then you can concentrate on setting up for your iguana.
- Respect the fact that others may not be as endeared to your iguana as you are. If someone has a problem with your iguana...such as taking it to the pool for some sunshine... just politely go the other way or take your iguana back up to your room. Do not create a scene. This will guarantee future accommodations from the hotel.
- You will, also, undoubtedly come across those who are fascinated with your iguana. Resist the urge to allow people to touch your iguana. This can spread germs from either side. Many iguanas carry salmonella. Those with strong immune systems can fight off this nasty little bacterium and we never even know we are having a war within us. However, the very young or old and those with weakened immune systems are not so fortunate. Carry with you a bottle of hand sanitizer for the inescapable touches.
- The cleaning staff will be in your room at least once a day unless instructed otherwise. Chances are they will not know how to deal with an iguana, and some iguanas can be very testy, especially with strangers. Iguanas also have the opportunity to run through the door if left open while the linens are changed out. Inform the front desk that you do not wish the staff to enter and offer to pick up any extras you need yourself, or make it a point to meet staff at your room. You can also put your iguana in the bathroom for the time being and leave a note on the door stating he/she is in there and "Do Not Disturb!"
- Remember to take into account your iguana's bathroom habits. If your iguana is tub-trained you have the issue licked. If you do not, it is a good time to train them before leaving. Iguanas are very trainable as far as potty habits go. They naturally "go" in water. You can do a Google search on: tub-training iguanas. You will find lots of good tips on how to accomplish this behavior modification. Remember to clean the tub well after each use.
- Make your vacation stress-free for everyone. Leave the iguana back at the hotel. Leave some special time aside for it during one or two of those days, but the iguana will not be put out like a dog would at being left behind. They are not social creatures, and though some deal with the changes thrown at them, many do get stressed out and will act out. Remember, a large iguana can do a lot of damage. If anyone gets injured by your iguana, you can be held liable for any and all injuries incurred.
Once you have all the nuances down to traveling with your exotic pet, the whole ordeal turns into an easy routine that everyone can live with. The whole idea is NOT to stress out. Make it enjoyable for everyone, not just your family, but for those you will inevitably come into contact with on your journey, but most of all for the iguana. If, at the end of the trip you see stress-related behavior, try a little harder to find someone to care for your iguana. Take about a week of someone coming over. Let them see how you do it and then let them do it, from feeding to cleaning the cage. Pre-pack daily portions of food so they don't have to worry about how much they're giving. Finally, keep a list of all the emergency numbers of where you will be and the vet's number.