Perhaps you have wondered if lizards are safe pets – with concerns such as: “Can they harm me, my children, or the cat?”.
Maybe your daughter or son has mentioned wanting one or you have contemplated adopting or buying a lizard for yourself, but you don’t know anything about them.
Safety depends on the temperament of the species or even the individual itself. How large the lizard will grow to become can dictate if it can cause injury with it’s tail. But, in nearly every case, the domesticated, or rather, lizards familiar with human contact, are calm and often loving. I highly recommend never having lizards around babies or small or rowdy children for the protection of both the lizard and the children. Aggressive pets are not good housemates for lizards.
There are obviously things to consider. However, lizards are wonderful companions for many people because: a) they are quiet (no complaints by neighbors about a loud, barking dog); b) there are no fleas, ticks, or fur to trouble you; c) they will forgive you for being at work all day (so long as you provide their heat, lighting, food & water while you’re away, and spend quality time with them when you return); and finally, d) they are just so sweet and cute!
Now, nearly all our animal friends have the capability of injuring us, intentionally or unintentionally, so let’s learn the ways lizards may be dangerous.
Overall, a lizard is no less safe to have around than one of the most common types of pets, the family’s dog.
This is the final half of “Are Lizards Safe Pets?” Today we will discuss what sorts of injuries are possible and why lizards may inflict them.
Another common concern in regards to living with lizards is their capability to spread bacteria. See this: Are Lizards Safe Pets? Part 1of 2: Contaminants for all the information you need to keep lizards and their enclosures clean, and your family or yourself safe from any illnesses.
In regards to injuries from lizards, there are ways, however often rare, that a human or animal with whom a lizard coinhabits the home may be hurt. This can be by biting, whipping, or clawing. You will not like this type of action, when it hurts, it really hurts! But, when the reasons are known for any of these behaviors, they are generally avoidable experiences.
Let’s learn to speak lizard!
WE’ll BEGIN WITH BITING: It is quite uncommon that a lizard bites his or her human parent, but why would they do it?
Believe it or not, lizards have personalities, and no two are alike! They also know what they want to do. I was bitten only once by my Green Iguana, Goliath.
The reason: I was reaching toward her to move her from a piece of furniture she could not be on… and she knew it. She was not fully grown, and at nearly 4 ft. in lenth (that’s 1.219 meters of solid muscle, all the way up to her jaws), was suprisingly quick to keep her balance and grab my thumb before I could react!
PAIN abounded! Then came the blood!! I had to grab her jaws with my free hand and pry them open!! I was not mad at her. She never bit anyone. She acted impulsively, without logic, as per her desire at the time (we all do that sometimes). She was a good lizard and a beautiful soul. I hope I did not hurt her retrieving my flesh from her grip. It was nothing a bit of peroxide or alcohol, my slow, but effective healing, and some amount of bandage changes couldn’t fix.
Lil’ Murph has bitten me twice, but it was entirely accidental. He would never hurt me intentionally. I was hand-feeding him and he took bigger bites than expected and bit my fingers. Those cute, tiny teeth pack a punch!!
WHAT ARE OTHER REASONS A LIZARD MAY BITE A HUMAN OR ANIMAL FAMILY MEMBER?
- Trauma – If you adopted or purchased a lizard that has been treated aggressively, tormented, and was abused, or generally has had a bad experience in life so far. Please know that lizards, just as a dog, raccoon, the elephant, and all animals, have an emotional side to their being, and will suffer from mistreatment. They may bite because they are not calm inside their minds – they may not be capable of seeing a human as anything but a foe.
- Neglect / lack of attention – Lizards thrive in a relationship with their humans. Taking a lizard out of the cage only to show him or her to people, or holding it a couple times within the span of a week, does not constitute a relationship. That also is not enough time to learn who your lizard truly is, or see that they can love you back. If a lizard is constantly caged and not cared for, he or she knows it. It’s imprisonment, and he or she may lash out (can you blame them? No animal should be forced to never come out of a tiny space). Also, if a lizard isn’t held enough, you may be seen as a threat, until shown otherwise.
- Uneasy surroundings – What does that mean? Anything that may make a human feel unrelaxed applies to animals. These include, but are not limited to: Loud children; overly excited dogs in the home; drunks leaping from beer pong tables; loud televisions & stereos, adults screaming at one another; and miniature mosh pits taking place where lizards observe human behavior. If they worry about their physical safety, they may do anything they can to protect themselves, as do most beings. Do not hold them if things are hectic. They sense bad vibes, too. Love them when things calm down & try to not expose them to stress. Keep them where they can see the family & where surroundings are typically peaceful. They do become lonely, but should remain safe in their enclosure if they could be injured outside of it.
If you are, or may become the parent of a lizard with mental issues, be patient, be diligent in your attempts to show her or him love. It may take weeks or many months for your lizard to calm down, and it may take longer to form a deep friendship and love.
If a bond cannot form, it really is the moral thing to do to still care for him or her well, to speak softly & provide proper lighting, heat, & diet. Don’t give up on them. They never deserve poor treatment. It may be the first and last time in life she or he sees kindness, whether or not they can show reciprocation of friendship. We do not want a helpless animal orphaned again and further stressed from more changes, a lack of a stable home-life, and compassion.
LET’S TALK ABOUT WHIPPING
Whipping can be expected from larger lizards such as our Monitor Lizards and Iguanas. Goliath whipped me so many times (at nearly 4 ft. in length, that’s 121.92 cm. of solid muscle all the way down to her tail)! Her tail was around half her body length, so that’s plenty long enough a whip to inflict welts! I became use to it. I knew to keep my face away from that long beautiful tail. In fact, when Goliath was given to us, we had a beautiful, playful kitten that I named Toby (who lived 22 years!), with sharp kitten and Green Iguana claws and a whipping tail around me, my arms and hands were plastered with slices and welts!! To strangers, I probably appeared to be either a mental case or someone who liked to fight!!
WHAT ARE THE REASONS A LIZARD MAY WHIP A HUMAN OR ANIMAL FAMILY MEMBER?
- Attitude – As mentioned earlier, lizards know what they want to do. They know where they want to be. So, if you are about to move a large lizard from their happy place, try to keep distance between yourself and that tail as you attempt to scoop them up by their torso area.
- Fear – When a lizard believes it needs to protect itself, particularly from a large being, such as a human or dog, it’s first option is to whip with it’s tail, as it is not as easy or quick to bite first.
- Instinct – If something moves quickly near the lizard, it may react with whipping, similar to why we jump when startled, put our hands forward when we fall, or do that silly little dance when we drop something to protect our feet. It’s a reflex.
LET’S COVER CLAWING.
There’s not much to discuss about that. Lizards do not use their claws as weapons so far as I know. They reason for scratches, slices, and possible scars from lizard claws are results of the lizard wanting to get down to walk around when being held, and things of that nature.
The best way to combat injuries from claws is to keep them trimmed. It lessens the pain and depth of cuts, or prevents them entirely. Special clippers are sold for the do-it-yourselfer, but many people take their lizards to the vet to have this done.
A pampered lizard is a happy lizard.
For smaller lizards such as the Bearded Dragon, fingernail clippers may be used, and preferably tiny ones made for human baby fingernails and toenails. It is extremely important to not trim too far. Copper had her claws trimmed by a vet, and she trimmed too much from one and made my Copper hurt and bleed. I did the trimming after that. There are videos and books to teach safe trimming procedures, and I discuss every step using fingernail clippers – with photos, in the post It’s Time To Trim Your Claws.
I hope this “Are Lizards Safe Pets?” segment has been insightful and helpful. If there are other concerns you would like to discuss, or if you would love to adopt a homeless lizard, but need assistance regarding where to go or how to do it, please visit our ‘contact’ page (e-mail addresses are not publicized).
For more information, the ‘menu’ button at the homepage of Lizardplanet.com provides categories for lighting, diets, enclosures, and more. Thanks for stopping by.
“Give me Lizardry or give me Death!” – Dawn Renée