Maugee, my 13-year-old iguana, passed away today. In captivity iguanas live an average of 12 years, and I'm glad to say that my sweet little girl surpassed that. I'd say my family and I gave her a pretty long and happy life. It was full of changes. I first named her Gizmo, which spawned the nickname "The Mogwai" (from the movie Gremlins), which finally somehow evolved into Maugee. She was chased by the dog when she first moved in and later became good pals with the cat. She moved across town with me when I moved (and then back again). She went from being caged to free-roaming to caged again. In her craziest free-roaming days she loved to knock my gramma's African violets off the window sill and eat the flowers. I was never really able to tame her, and though I do wish I'd tried harder, I think she was much happier just chilling in her hammock every day rather than being picked up by human hands. She always had good food, fresh water, heat, and her UV light. What more can a li'l green girl ask for?
Something I want to take the opportunity to say is that iguanas and other exotic pets are often treated as "throwaway pets" here in the United States. People buy them without realizing how much care they require, or how expensive they can be, and they end up living in cages that are too small or eating food that doesn't supply enough nutrients. You'll notice that almost no pet stores sell cages large enough for a fully grown iguana. That's because most of them don't live that long or grow that big. They suffer from metabolic bone disease because these pet owners don't buy them the dark leafy greens that they need, or the UV fixtures and lights that help them to process the vitamins in that food. Sometimes they even suffer burns because of inappropriate cage accessories like heat rocks.
Why am I talking about this right now? Because my little girl is gone now, and while I was lucky enough to have her around, I became aware of the poor treatment that many exotic pets are given. My mom and I met a woman at the grocery store once who was buying broccoli for her young iguana. That's okay very occasionally, but she was giving it to her iguana on a daily basis as its sole meal, and that's bad for an iguana. I'm not even talking about nice bunches of broccoli that would at the very least fill their tummy--I'm talking about scraps that had fallen off. She was just grabbing it and taking it because she didn't have to pay for it. Then she said that her iguana had a broken pelvis and was dragging itself around. This woman was throwing broccoli scraps at this poor lizard and expecting it not to have metabolic bone disease and broken bones? She didn't even care. It was really disturbing. Disturbing enough that it's still fresh in my mind all these years later.
Even my little Maugee was treated badly before I bought her. She had burns on her tail and arms when I first got her, and she was just a baby. At the pet store they were feeding her dry pellets and live crickets--a very WRONG diet for an iguana. Most people have good intentions, but they're uninformed. Out of respect for my girl Maugee, who brought so much happiness to my life, I just want to put this info out there for anyone who might be considering an exotic pet without getting all the info first. They are such special creatures and they deserve to be treated well--so if you're wanting to welcome one into your life, you've got to be ready to do it right.
Rest in peace, Maug. You will be missed.