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Are there any cuddly mid-sized lizards?

Snakes, Lizards, Salamanders, Turtles, Frogs, etc.

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TexasYankee
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Are there any cuddly mid-sized lizards?

Postby TexasYankee » Fri Nov 18, 2016 5:30 pm

So I'm thinking that since I travel often enough that it's hard to find someone to watch my animals, maybe I should get reptiles instead, ideally reptiles that need to eat once a week or less.

When I experimented briefly with living on campus in undergrad, I bought some Russian tortoises from a guy on Craigslist thinking that they could substitute for my parrots. Unfortunately, they clearly didn't like being cuddled. They would tolerate resting on my sternum, but hated being picked up, and I found that holding a shell against my chest really isn't that comforting.

Moreover the guy had been obviously overfeeding the female (and also probably feeding them the wrong diet), and when I gave them up to someone who knew about tortoises (once I moved back in with my parrots) she said that that showed not just in the shell (which I'd noticed), but also in their behavior. She also said that it looked like my attempting to not overfeed the female had resulted in my underfeeding the male.

So I concluded that:

1. Reptiles aren't very cuddly.
2. They're a lot trickier to care for properly than parrots.

Since then, I've realized that considering reptiles are an evolutionary grade rather than a clade, and there's tremendous diversity in mammals and birds, it's unfair to generalize. Young alligators and caimans seem really cuddly, however I am not certain that if I got a dwarf caiman I would have a house with land before it reached the size that keeping it in my condo is no longer appropriate.

With parrots, I enjoy reclining, perching them on my sternum, and then putting one hand over their shoulders so they can't climb onto my shoulders and scratching their heads until they settle down in that position. I also enjoy just having them perched on my shoulder when I'm trying to work and occasionally giving head scratches and rubbing my cheek against their side. Rats and sugar gliders also seem to enjoy this sort of treatment (based on YouTube videos), while tortoises don't enjoy being on my sternum and wouldn't even fit on my shoulder. Snakes also seem like I couldn't cuddle them in this sense, though the large constrictors do seem to tolerate being handled rather well.

So it seems like a lizard might be good, provided that it doesn't need more space than a large tank (I'd say 120 gallons is probably the maximum), and provided that it doesn't have a diet which is tricky to balance in terms of either composition or quantity. Are there any medium-sized lizards which don't need to be fed more often than every five days, aren't tricky to feed properly, and would tolerate being cuddled against my sternum and/or might perch on my shoulder?
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Re: Are there any cuddly mid-sized lizards?

Postby Ash » Fri Nov 18, 2016 5:59 pm

Some reptiles do not have the capacity to show affection, such as snakes. But they can be "cuddly" depending on species. A ball python for example is very personable and is content to just "chill" with you in your lap or on your shoulders. They only eat once a week so are easy to leave for a week.

For lizards though they need to eat every other day. They cannot be left for a week at a time without food. Some people can get away with leaving their monitor lizards and tegus without food for a week, but that does not mean it is good for them. Lizards can be "affectionate" and get to the point where they prefer to be with you, but they are not craving your attention by any means. And some lizards demonstrate affection more than others too.

I would say that lizards are a good choice, except for the being away part. Lizards like bearded dragons and some geckos are relatively easy to care for once you get the correct setup. Tegus as well, but they are more advanced and bigger.

Don't get a crocodilian without having experience with them first. Their husbandry is very advanced and if not done correctly can result in metabolic bone disease; their skulls and face can become malformed. As for dwarf caimans, their attitudes are way worse than American alligators; just because they only get about 4 feet doesn't mean they are easier. I personally would prefer to work with an adult American alligator over an adult dwarf caiman. Their attitudes are night and day. So definitely not an animal to keep, especially without any prior experience.

Look into snakes. They are very easy to care for once and can be left for a week without being fed. So are a good choice. Plus, they can be very cute and endearing, booping their noses around. Ball pythons are very good for that, haha.
3 red fox, 4 pectinata iguanas, nile monitor, BW tegu, sailfin dragon, leachie gecko, 6 snakes, 2 salamanders, 3 tarantulas
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Re: Are there any cuddly mid-sized lizards?

Postby minervasden » Fri Nov 18, 2016 6:19 pm

As mentioned, lizards needed to eat on a more frequent basis than once every 5-7 days. If you don't want a snake and are willing to accept the dietary frequency of a lizard I suggest looking into red 'ackie' monitors. Their care is easier (in my opinion) than a bearded dragon ( probably the most recommended medium sized personable lizard).
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Re: Are there any cuddly mid-sized lizards?

Postby TexasYankee » Fri Nov 18, 2016 6:37 pm

Thanks guys. I wasn't seriously considering a crocodilian, and I know dwarf caimans are supposed to be a bit temperamental, but they are so adorable. I didn't know that their diet was super tricky though, I thought you could just feed them meat and fish. Which shows why it's a good idea to do research for any animals one is seriously considering.

Ackie monitors do look very cuddly, and now that I've looked into it I might get one if I can find someone I'm comfortable having watch my animals. But if they need to eat every other day then that doesn't really help me in terms of the traveling issue. Also, they apparently need one side of their habitat to be 120 degrees. Since cooling my apartment to a comfortable temperature in summer is expensive, I don't love the thought of heating part of it up again.

I might try getting a snake after all. An all-rodent diet is fine, right? And it turns out that the awful 60-70% humidity my condo is always at even with a dehumidifier running is just right for them. Could I safely drape a constricting snake over my shoulders while I'm working?
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Re: Are there any cuddly mid-sized lizards?

Postby TamanduaGirl » Fri Nov 18, 2016 7:32 pm

The problem in this thinking though is assuming the pet wont need anything for a week just because it may not need to eat that often. If it were that simple you could get anything that doesn't need lots of affection and has a diet that doesn't spoil easily and leave it for a week. So you could get some prairie dogs or bunnies leave them with a huge pile of hay and pellets and plenty of water bottles and be cool. But no the reason I suggested not even leaving them for more than a weekend like that is, things go wrong.

So you get a snake or a tarantula that needs only eat once a week. But what if the power goes out, the heater breaks, the Ac stops working, the light bulb breaks. Leaving any pet for extended periods of time with no one checking on it is a gamble with it's well being and possibly it's life. Actually I remember a story kind of like that they had an emergency left little birds with plenty of food and water, AC went out they came home to dead birds. If someone had been checking daily they could have likely been saved.

Find someone you feel safe looking after your critter or find an insured pet sitter and then get what you would really like and fits your day to day lifestyle.
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Re: Are there any cuddly mid-sized lizards?

Postby TexasYankee » Fri Nov 18, 2016 7:57 pm

Fortunately having the power go out long-term is not a risk where I live. Since I usually travel in the winter, the AC wouldn't be either most of the time. The probabilities seem rather low; I'd be much more worried about the pet sitter I hired proving unreliable. That said: pet sitter insurance is a thing?

I know with parrots I wouldn't dare leave them for a week even assuming they eat a pelleted diet. I had two parrots that ate a pelleted diet (I could never get the lovebirds onto one), and if I them more than a day's worth of food one of them would often chew it to powder and the other one would always throw it to the bottom of the cage (he was a Senegal who threw everything he could to the bottom of his cage). Would prairie dogs not behave similarly?
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Re: Are there any cuddly mid-sized lizards?

Postby Ash » Fri Nov 18, 2016 8:14 pm

TG brings up a good point and it's one of the things I stress to people who keep monitor lizards. Yes, they can go a week without eating, but it does not mean they should. Back in the day it was the standard practice to feed them once every week, but now we know that's not the case since more research has been done. So as far as lizards go, I would never suggest leaving one by itself for a week. A weekend you could get away with if you fed it lots right before, but I'd still worry about humidity/temps.

Only reptile I'd recommend to be left alone for a week is a snake. Living in Texas the temperature probably wouldn't be a problem if something were to go out as long as it did have a bowl of water to retreat to in case it got too hot. I'm actually going home for Christmas, and even though I've hired someone to come feed, clean, and look after my critters, I'm terrified that my reptile house's heat could go out. I'm even paying them to come by twice a day so they can double-check and make sure the temps are good for the reptiles. So it's not something you want to do too often (leave them for a week at a time).

With the crocodilians, you never know, haha, so just checking.:P I didn't want to get into it much, but while their diet is straightforward (whole prey), most people cannot give them the proper heating and lighting they require to actually process what they eat. They are large animals, and that entire body needs light on it and heat on it. They are also more prone to metabolic bone disease and malformation than something like a water monitor which also gets big. So I just said "diet," but really it has a lot to do with improper husbandry that doesn't provide them with the correct vitamins their bodies need. ;)
3 red fox, 4 pectinata iguanas, nile monitor, BW tegu, sailfin dragon, leachie gecko, 6 snakes, 2 salamanders, 3 tarantulas
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Re: Are there any cuddly mid-sized lizards?

Postby TamanduaGirl » Fri Nov 18, 2016 10:27 pm

Prairie dogs wouldn't chew up the pellets just for fun and spit them out(if you see that happening it's most likely ill aligned teeth and will need them trimmed) and they have saliva in their mouths(parrots mouths are dry because they only have salivary glads at the back) so that would be icky. They do need things to chew on the keep their teeth down though.
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Re: Are there any cuddly mid-sized lizards?

Postby TamanduaGirl » Fri Nov 18, 2016 10:30 pm

Oh and yeah an established trustworthy sitter will have some form of liability insurance as well as a contract that will cover all aspects like what they should be expected to do if they notice your animal is sick while your are gone or an emergency like broken limb or injury(not saying they would cause it either but sometimes stuff happens, like a member's fox broke it's neck after getting it's jaw stuck in a loose part of the enclosure or my neighbors bearded dragon managed to escape his enclosure and sometimes injuries happen during those attempts).

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