Pet Lizards

They look so cool on TV, and now you may want to bring one home. But be careful — caring for a lizard can be a difficult chore. Indeed, some experts say lizards really shouldn’t be the first choice when it comes to getting a pet, especially for children.

Some common problems: They aren’t as rugged as they look. For instance, some humane groups estimate that nearly all green iguanas bought as pets die within the first year. And many smaller lizards have delicate legs or other bones, and can be harmed easily by rough handling.

The owner can get bored. Some lizards sleep all day or prefer to stay hidden. Others evolved to hunt by staying frozen on a branch, waiting for prey to come by. Such frozen or invisible pets can be particularly disappointing to kids.

You need special equipment and food. Some lizards need special lights to replicate the sun. Others need warm rocks or shelters. All require particular foods, from crickets to mealworms, on a regular basis. And, of course, you’ll need a cage with a secure top, to keep them from escaping.

Lizards can grow bigger than pet owners might expect. They can carry disease. Reptiles can carry Salmonella bacteria, which can sicken or even kill pet owners. If you must have a lizard, make sure you wash your hands before and after handling (you also don’t want to transfer your germs to the lizard!).

They can get big. That cute little lizard that fits in a cup now can grow into a 2-foot-long monster!

Buying some pet trade lizards can harm wild populations. Many common pet store lizards are raised in captivity, but some are caught from the wild. And in some cases, buying or selling a wild-caught lizard can be illegal. Still, if you must have a lizard, experts say that there are some species that make much better pets than others. Good starter lizards include the leopard gecko, bearded dragon, and some skinks. But be sure to do your homework beforehand, or you — and the lizard — could be disappointed.