Are Lizards Safe Pets? Part 1of 2: Contaminants

“Who are you calling contaminated?!”

Are they safe? The answer is yes, but with exceptions. Whether or not they are safe is circumstantial. To clarify what I mean by that is, if you are considering an animal companion, you may ask yourself, “What is my definition of safe, what precisely, are my concerns? Today we are going to discuss cross-contamination.

Below is an example of a question someone may have when considering a lizard as a pet & family friend. The answer is based on facts and our own experiences in lizard/human relationships.

I suggest when doing research, to never take any one source of information as being 100% accurate or entirely relatable to your particular situation. It’s simply a good practice to make your own conclusions using multiple sources of information and common sense to achieve a successful course of action that works for you and your family – human or otherwise.

We hope this ‘Q & A’ segment will help you make the decision if lizard friendship is a good choice. Nobody wants to be paired with an animal they dont know much about or learn they can’t afford, causing distress, neglect, or homelessness to a helpless animal.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Question: We want a quiet animal, and no fur to clean is appealing, but, I heard lizards carry Salmonella, to make matters worse, my daughter has an auto-immune disorder. How can we love a cute lizard and keep everyone safe?

Answer: What is meant by carry is important here. Salmonella will not be found on their skin or in their mouths, UNLESS THEIR LIVING CONDITIONS ARE NOT CLEAN. IF THEY HAVE TRACKED THROUGH THEIR FECES, EVERY THING THEY TOUCHED AFTERWARDS WILL NEED SANITIZED. IT MAY RESIDE TEMPORARILY IN THE MOUTH IF THEY HAVE INGESTED IT BY EATING LIVE FOOD THAT HAS BEEN CONTAMINATED THROUGH TOUCHING THE FECAL MATTER.

Bacteria live in the guts of everything. In lizards, Salmonella is probably present. a large portion of the population of snakes, lizards and turtles are found to be a host. The solution is TO KEEP EVERYTHING CLEAN, INCLUDING YOUR PET. This means every single item in their cage including the dishes, if they have pooed in there when you weren’t watching, of course.

Tips: I recommend obtaining substrates for your lizard, such as old sheets & towels to fold & place into the enclosure. In regards to Bearded Dragons, possibly many others, they actually scoot themselves after they do a poo, as if to wipe themselves. If you can scoop up your lizard right away for a good rinsing at the vent area & do the necessary thing with that towel, chances are, the enclosure remains clean, and now your lizard too! If newspapers are kept at one end of the cage, it’s possible your lizard may go to that spot every time (or nearly) to relieve itself. They often behave as though they do not want to be around their poo, and understandably.

Get plenty of these things so they may be replaced with fresh ones as needed. Also, know that sand, the most popular substrate, no matter the desription, may cause impaction, particularly in younger lizards, as their diet is partially carnivorous. They will ingest bits of sand when catching their food. Lizards become more so vegetarian as they age, as a general rule (Research diets for your lizard of choice). Sand as a substrate looks cool with a lizard, but sand, with the use of a little scooper to clean poo out, seems to be an impossible way to keep sanitary conditions – clean, but not sanitary.

Another method to obtain as sanitary conditions as possible is to next, purchase 2 hampers or storage totes with lids (line one with a bag that fits, if you can, for soiled laundry, if not, that’s okay too). Keep clean bedding in one, use the other for dirty items. Obviously, keep dirty items away from small children and other pets.

Keep dirty laundry away from the family’s laundry. When there is enough to wash, do so with enough bleach in the water to sterilize them and the washer as they are cleaned (this may drastically alter the colors of much of the bedding). Be cautious to carefully tuck them into washer or tub for cleaning, so to not contaminate anything as items are going in. Check the washer wall for any steriled, but stuck piece of poo. If you’re hand-washing, rinse that bleach out very well.

Wherever you wash your lizard’s body with mild soap & rinse them, sanitize the area afterwards, whether it’s the bathtub or kitchen sink (with no dishes nearby). You can simply spray the surfaces with a bleach water solution from a spray bottle. Let that sit for a couple of minutes & wipe dry if you wish. Generally, the ratio for sanitizing is 1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water. If you want to be quick and not mathematical about it, simply fill a spray bottle 1/4 or 1/8 full of bleach and the rest with water. Distilled water gallons may leave less water stains. This ratio may bleach the color from cloth, so use caution.

Tools you will need to keep things clean:

  • Bleach for laundry
  • 70% Isopropyl alcohol for floors or other surfaces (rinse very well from the enclosure or its items). This is for sanitizing purposes only. Typical cleaning may be done with dish soap and rinsing, or better yet, purchase a bottle of veterinary disinfectant, easily found online or at some pet stores & follow the instructions.
  • Latex gloves
  • Rags for cleaning and drying
  • 2 containers for laundry
  • Old sheets, towels, or large rags
  • Mild soap or baby shampoo – for lizard body only & under running water of a temperature that matches your lizard’s skin warmth at the time, you do not want to burn them with heat, or shock them with coldness. Don’t let your pet rest in a tub of water containing soap, and of course, never put harsh chemicals on them.
Beautiful Chameleon photo found @ Pexels.com

*note: If you want the classic appearance of a neat lizard in a cage with all the fixins’ of it’s natural habitat, such as sticks and sand, but are very concerned with cleanliness, ask yourself if you want a lizard to love, or do you want one for appearance’s sake.

You can have all this, and they do need some amount of naturality, but it will be more difficult to maintain a sterile environment. If you use towels & the like for bedding, do keep a rough rock for them to bask on. They can use it to help themselves rub off shedding skin. It’s easy to clean a rock or two. Make sure they don’t shift and cause injury. Please, never use sanitizing sprays. I don’t trust their effectiveness or all the chemicals your lizard and your family will encounter.

Lil’Murph loves the Copper rock

Something I want to bring up, that many people may not consider, is how to dispose of the poo. We all know those tiny fruit flies, or gnats, & common house flies that sneak into our homes sometimes. Do you ever wonder what they landed on and ate before they began bugging you for some of what is on your plate? Have you seen one flying in and out of your trash can? Think on that while I suggest scooping up the worst of your lizard’s poo with a few wads of toilet paper, so you may flush them in the toilet or place them in a trash bag that is ready to tie up & be taken out. You can pour or spray a bit of alcohol on the poo spot on cloth, if you wish. This may help keep odor and bacteria at bay until you get around to washing them.

The remainder of the poo can be rubbed off a floor, rubbed out of carpeting, or wiped out of the enclosure with a rag or paper towels using rubbing alcohol. Some lizards only want to poo in the cage, some nearly refuse to, while others are not choosy. If you must use bleach for anything, though I don’t suggest it for anything except the laundry, be certain bleach residue is not left behind. The smell is strong and you do not want your lizard getting it on its skin or licking any. The latex gloves, seen in the list above, are for if you need to submerge your hands in bleach water.

You can have any substrate you choose and simply wash your hands after cleaning the enclosure or handling your lizard, that’s what many people do. You may also give your lizard a washing with mild soap (not the face and head) and good rinsing if your lizard is about to be handled or cuddled by yourself, family, and friends.

70% Isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, kills many viruses and many bacteria, including Salmonella, E. Coli., and more. It will not lighten color from rugs or carpets, so far as I have seen. Use caution with expensive, aged, or priceless carpets, aggressive rubbing alone can damage some items. Here is a link regarding the use of alcohol to kill unwanted things. And again, don’t trust any one source of information. We are just sharing here what we have experienced.

I hope I have thought of everything here in conveying lizards can be safe and clean pets. A lady once commented on our blog site that she likes lizards, but cannot have one due to a problem with her immunity (Bethany is (or was) her name, her comments may be found in some of our oldest posts within our archives. She was a great supporter of our site for some time). She got her “lizard fix” as she called it, by visiting our Lil’ Murph here at this website. I understand why she believed she could not be a lizard’s parent.

If someone does have certain health concerns, weighing the risk factors of animal parenthood, and determining what he or she can realistically keep up with, is entirely a matter of introspection and choice. Some things are worth a risk, other things simply are not.

Cats and dogs sit their butts down on everything, I’m just sayin’ folks. Have you ever wiped their bottoms after they pooed? It’s not a reassuring wipe, let me tell ya. C.Diff can be a problem with that one. Yet, many people have them as pets. I’m relaying that only for concern for families. Animal friends are amazing and needed. We just keep things as clean as we can, no matter our pets of choice.

I have been a lizard Mommy for an accumulative 13 (ish) years. I have kissed their bellies & those little wippies (that’s lizard speak – it means cute little lips).

I have cuddled with them for so many hours. Not I, nor has my family ever gotten sick from these precious lizards. I keep them kissably clean. Animals receive kisses in my house, that’s just how it is. Best wishes in finding the best pets. If you get a lizard, may you have many beautiful years together.

Murph wants a bath. Yes, they communicate. He walked into the stand-up shower to tell me. He had 20 minutes sitting in shallow water (temp tested for cooling), & to my surprise, he drank a lot of water! His diet is rich in watery fruits & veggies, which is usually all Beardies (& other desert lizards) need for proper hydration. I think a sitting in the water 2 times a week will be good for their hydration – through skin and drink.
Lizards make great friends

Know that lizards and other reptiles are homeless and need love. You can adopt one from a shelter. If you need help finding a shelter in your area to adopt from or want to donate to, tap our ‘contact‘ page and leave a message, we will help in any way that we can. People also sell or give pets away on sites such as Craigslist, Apparently, these pets are no longer wanted and need loving homes.

“Give me Lizardry or give me Death!” – Dawn Renée

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