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Most important things to know about pet lizards

Cats and dogs are so yesterday. Want a pet that represents your unique character (and also doesn’t need to be walked daily)? Look to the lizards.

Do your reptile research

First things first — buying a lizard on a whim is not the best way to go about becoming the owner of a reptile. So before you make any impulse buys, research various species of lizards that are commonly kept as pets. Caroline Seitz, director of Reptiles Alive LLC, recommends leopard geckos, bearded dragons and blue tongue skinks as species for “beginners,” as each has the characteristics that make for a good pet.

Seitz says that the leopard gecko is, by far, the best choice for a beginning lizard keeper because it is cute and easy to care for. She adds, “These adorable lizards grow to around 8 inches long, will tolerate a moderate amount of gentle handling and have relatively easy care requirements.”

The bearded dragon lizard may be for you if you’re looking for a larger, more active lizard as this species of spiky Australian lizard grows to about 1 to 2 feet long, can become very tame, is great to interact with and has only slightly more care requirements than the leopard gecko.

There’s also the blue tongue skink, which Seitz calls “bizarre, strange and weird.” Even still, they only grow to about 1 to 2 feet long, are fairly open to handling and have pretty easy care requirements.

She adds, “Every lizard species has different care requirements, so it is super important to know how to care for your lizard before deciding to bring one home.”

She also notes that some lizards have unique dietary needs (such as live crickets and/or other insects, leafy greens or fruit or a combination of all three, so make sure you have access to a supply of your new pet’s food source before you bring him home.

A guide to raising and breeding crickets for food >>

Jeff Lavine, DVM, of VetCierge Veterinary House Calls adds that you should ask yourself the following questions about the lizard species that you’re considering:

  • Can you take care of it?
  • What are the daily duties?
  • Will it outlive you?
  • How large will it grow?
  • What does it need to eat (ideally this should be varied)?
  • What are the lizard species’ common illnesses?
  • Is there a vet nearby who can care for your lizard when sick?

Check your local shelter

Think the local animal shelters just house homeless cats and dogs? Not so. Seitz says that lizards are often available at shelters as well. She adds, “Reptile rescue groups are located in most areas and usually have lots of bearded dragons and leopard geckos in need of a good home.”

Make his house a home

Before you get your new pet, create a welcoming environment for him within an escape-proof enclosure with a heat source, a UVA/UVB source, a water source (not all lizards drink from a bowl — some require dripping water, according to Seitz) and places to hide in his new home.

The terrarium: A basic guide >>

Schedule a well-check for your new pet

After you’ve made a lizard your new pet, make an appointment with a veterinarian who treats reptiles to have your lizard checked out. Seitz says, “A good reptile vet will be able to go over the finer points of caring for your new friend and give him or her a checkup to be sure the lizard is in good health.”

While a lizard can be a fun and unique alternative to your standard lap pet, it does require some unique care as well. So be prepared before you make a lizard your pet.

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