Why the Tegu Is the Best Pet Lizard
The Best Pet Lizard
If you are among the millions who climb into bed every night dreaming of the best pet, I have the answer you have been looking for. I have owned iguanas, monitors, many other species of smaller lizards, and I currently own about 20 or 30 geckos. (It is hard to keep count since they run free in my kitchen.)
None of them are “the best.” I have found the best, the perfect pet lizard.
The best pet lizard is the Tegu.
Actually, I keep several of these great pets around my house. My oldest, however, lives in my front room. His cage rests on the floor, and when I am eating my breakfast, I flip it open so that he can crawl out and lie in the sun with my dogs. When he gets bored (or maybe just warm-he has never told me which), he goes back to his cage and checks his dish to find out what is for his breakfast.
Tegus are big, mellow, affectionate, easy to care for, and with a good diet can live about 20 years.
Can there be a better pet?
Is the Tegu as Tame as a Dog?
No, Tegus are never as tame as a dog, despite some claims. They are one of the most intelligent of reptiles, and even seem to be interested in humans, at times. Tegus do resist training, though, just like a cat.
They can be as tame as a cat in several other ways.
According to the animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell, one of the big differences between dogs and cats is the way they treat food. If a dog does not have enough, she will feed her puppies (or other dogs in the pack) and go hungry. A cat will take care of her own needs first.
Tegus are like cats in that they always think of number one. They like to eat, do not care too much about what is in their bowl, and do not really care who is doing the feeding.
Feeding a Tegu
One of the common complaints about keeping exotic pets is how difficult it is to feed them. Dogs and cats can be fed just by going out and buying food from the pet store. What about a Tegu?
A lot of sites will recommend that the Tegu diet be composed of canned cat food, ground turkey, eggs, and calcium and vitamin supplements.
That diet is okay for a Monitor lizard, but not really needed for a Tegu.
A study of what wild Tegus eat showed that about 2/3 of their stomach contents was actually plants and only a third made up of things like snails, crabs, and other small animals. This makes sense, as in the wild Tegus can usually be found at the base of fruit trees, picking up the fruit that has fallen, and looking underneath for worms or other bugs that they might find.
Here are some suggestions for what you can feed your Tegu. Do not worry if you get things a little wrong. Tegus are forgiving, and not likely to develop nutritional diseases like Iguanas and some other lizards. If you feed your Tegu correctly, he may grow a little slower than those on a potent, high-protein, Monitor-type diet. He might also live longer.
Feeding a Tegu
Meat, only about 1/3
Canned Cat Food
Greens (turnip, collard, etc)
Tropical (papaya, coconut, guava, etc)
Life With a Tegu
My Tegu does wear a collar (around his waist, not his neck) and I leave it on him all of the time. I only put his leash on when he is strolling around the house or outside in the front yard. The leash is not really necessary in the house, since if he climbs under my bookshelf or bed, my dog will tell me where he is at (if I ask nicely), but with the leash on I can keep an eye on him if he crawls into a hiding spot.
When he climbs back into his cage, I take the leash off.
Some mornings I will take him out and let him wander around my garden when I am working. I leave his leash on and tie him to a banana tree so that he´ll have some shade. He likes this since he can be out in the sun but still hide if he wants.
He does not care for the beach where it is open, and he does not have somewhere to hide. In this, he is very much like a cat—have you ever seen anyone take their cat to the beach?
What Are You Waiting For?
Are there bad things about sharing your house with a Tegu?
- If you do not handle your Tegu, they can become aggressive. They have teeth that will slice through flesh, and wild Tegus are responsible for a lot of the dogs in our area walking around with hunks missing from their noses.
- They need a large enclosure, or at least a decent sized cage and plenty of opportunities to get out and walk around.
- My geese do not like the tegus. I think it may be because of the long tail, or maybe it is that tongue flicking out every once in a while. I guess they think a Tegu looks like a snake and when a lizard is sitting in the doorway, they will not even try to go inside.
- Tegus are not like a dog or cat in that they cannot be trusted with small animals. If you have a hamster, gerbil, or other small animal, it must always be caged when your Tegu is strolling around the house. My parrot can handle himself in a fight, but he always treads carefully when the Tegu is running around the house.
But is a Tegu the best lizard to share a house with? Definitely.
Is there anything I regret about having one of these pets? I just regret not getting a Tegu sooner. I have worked around Tegus since the mid-1970s but always thought there was another type of lizard or snake that would fit my family even better.
I was wrong. Tegus are the best pet lizard!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
- Helpful 221
How would I train or at least show a Tegu who is the boss?
You do not train a Tegu, and, whatever you do, you should not try the outdated "alpha wolf" techniques to show them you are the top dog. A reptile can be tamed, and can even perform simple tricks using operant conditioning, but you can not ask them to sit on command, nor can you force them to act correctly.
Instead of being the boss, you should focus on being a good owner or a friend of your tegu. Feed him, let him run around your house, and spend time touching him.
Think of him as a pet bobcat, not a dog.Helpful 41
As a first reptile pet for a six-year-old, would you suggest an Argentinian B & W over a bearded dragon?
The reason bearded dragons are selected as first pets for young kids is that they are small and not threatening. The same cannot be said of a tegu. I would not get one as my child's first pet.
I did buy my daughter a corn snake for her first pet. They are small, easy to care for, easy to cage and handle. She did cry when I brought home the pinkies to feed him, but that was many years ago, and feeding pellets are now available. https://hubpages.com/reptiles-amphibians/corn-snak...Helpful 26
Do Tegus go through a stage of being a lot meaner in the colder months?
I do not think it is a matter of being meaner. I think that when your Tegu wants to retire from the world for a few months, you should just let him.
He is not a dog and does not have that animal´s ability to tell right from wrong. He is just telling you to back off so he can sleep.Helpful 1
Can a Tegus go out to the park and play games?
No, a tegu is not a good animal to take out to the park.
Many people will tell you that a pet Tegu is like a dog. That is not true. A pet Tegu is more like a cat. He will accept you, and will even be likely to crawl up and set on your lap, but you cannot take him to the beach, do not take him out to play fetch, and you certainly cannot count on him doing a job like herding or guarding.Helpful 2
© 2013 Dr Mark