There are many reasons why a person might need to travel with their iguana. Two of the most commonly encountered are vet visits and moving to a new home. Some people enjoy taking their iguana with them to friends' homes, or to the park, for instance. Some even take their iguana with them on vacation! Whatever the reason, traveling with your iguana involves more than just plopping it in the back seat and taking off. There are many issues to consider, including the length of the trip, the temperature of the car, your driving safety, and the safety and comfort of the iguana.
Traveling Carriers - It is not recommended that you drive with your iguana loose in the car. There are several reasons why this is not a good idea - the main one being safety. Iguanas that are loose in the car can cause problems by wedging themselves under the brake or gas pedal, crawling into the dash board or under a seat where they are unreachable, climbing onto the driver's head, or pooping on the seat of the car, to name a few. All of these things can cause the driver to be distracted. In addition, loose iguanas are likely to slide off seats at sudden stops or sharp corners. Clearly, a solid, secure and comfortable carrier for your iguana is necessary for travel.
There are a wide variety of carrier choices, and which one is best for you will depend upon the size of the iguana, the length of the trip, how well the iguana travels, and the car temperature during the trip. Below is a brief discussion of some carrier options.
Dog/cat carriers - These readily available carriers have some advantages. They are easy to come by, are inexpensive, provide plenty of ventilation, and are easily carried and cleaned. They also come in a variety of sizes. The disadvantages of using such a carrier for your iguana include the length issue and the heat issue. As far as length is concerned, iguanas tend to be longer, with their tail, than most cats and dogs, and therefore usually end up with their tail bent when placed in one of these carriers. If you get a carrier that is long enough for the iguana's tail, you usually end up with one that is ridiculously large. Regarding heat, if you are traveling in cooler weather and you cannot keep the car at least 70º F, then a carrier such as this, which usually consists of plastic sides, top and bottom with a metal mesh door, may be too cool.
Bags - Some people prefer to travel with their iguana by placing it in a breathable bag, such as a pillow case or duffle bag with air holes cut into it. Such a carrier may be a bit more temperature controlled than an open mesh dog or cat carrier. Many iguanas will become quite calm in such a carrier, since it is dark and they feel secure. They will often fall asleep. Be mindful to provide adequate ventilation. It may be wise to line the bag with something absorbent, such as an old towel, in case of any pooping accidents. Be sure the bag is sturdy enough to withstand claws. You must also be sure that it is fully secured so that the iguana cannot manage to struggle out during the trip.
Cardboard boxes - A cardboard box can make an adequate, cheap carrier. Things to consider are size and sturdiness. Smaller iguanas can be easily transported in an average strength cardboard box. Larger iguanas, however, require boxes of heavier cardboard. As always, ventilation is important. Be sure to punch several air holes in the box. You want to provide adequate ventilation while at the same time encouraging temperature stability within the box. Another thing to consider is handles. Many boxes have handles in the sides. This can make carrying the box, especially if it contains a heavy adult, much easier. Lining the box with an absorbent material is recommended. If the box becomes soiled, you will not be able to clean it, and therefore it will have to be discarded. Be sure the box is closed and secured with heavy tape or by some other means.
Homemade carriers - There are other possibilities for secure, well-ventilated and temperature stable carriers as well. With a little creativity, owners can make carriers suitable for their needs. One idea that has worked well for me is to make a carrier out of a long, clear plastic Rubbermaid box with a snap-on lid and handles for easy carrying. I have two adult iguanas. My male weighs 10 pounds. I needed something secure and comfortable for him that I would be able to carry easily myself. So, I purchased a clear plastic storage box that was long and narrow - the perfect shape for an iguana. I drilled ventilation holes along the upper sides and in the top, and lined the box with a soft towel. I have a separate box for each of my two iguanas - it is not recommended that you put more than one iguana per carrier, as it can create cramping and stress during travel. These carriers work well for me. My iguanas fit comfortably in them with minimal tail bending and can even turn around in the carriers. They can see out and I can see in, so they know what is going on and I can see that they are okay. The boxes are not very drafty, but provide plenty of ventilation. They are also fairly easy for me to carry and are easy to clean.
Pre-trip preparation - If you are simply taking your iguana to the vet or to a friend's house, and the trip is fairly short (i.e. an hour or less), then you will not have much to worry about in terms of preparation. The most important thing to think about is the temperature of the car. If it is cool or cold outside, you will need to adequately warm the car up before you load the iguana in, and will need to keep the heat up high enough to keep the car warm during the trip. Traveling short distances in warm weather is not much of a problem, of course, since iguanas love the heat. As long as the trip is short and you will not be stopping before reaching your destination, iguanas will do fine in a toasty car as long as their carrier has adequate ventilation. You may want to sacrifice your own comfort by keeping the air conditioning on low so the car doesn't get too chilly.
If you are taking a longer trip, however, a little more preparation will be required. I will share my own experience of moving with my iguanas from Kansas to Illinois in July as an example of things to think about. The trip that we had to take was about an 11.5-12 hour drive in the heat of the summer. The iguanas, each in their own carrier, were traveling in a van, along with most of our other pets. I knew that the drive was going to be terribly long, and that the iguanas would be quite restless after a while. I also knew that asking them not to defecate for those 12 hours they were stuck in their carriers was going to be difficult. If your iguana is trained to defecate in the tub or shower, than you have an advantage. You can poop them before the trip, and you should be fine. Mine, however, were not trained to be tub pooped, so I tried to solve the problem in another way. I did not feed them the day before the big trip, in the hopes that they would not have much, if anything, left in their digestive system by the time the trip got underway. Normally, it is recommended to feed your iguana every day, but an occasional short fast will not do any harm - especially for adults. My plan sort-of worked. My male managed to find a little something in his gut to make a mess with about halfway through the trip, but it was manageable, at least. My female, ever the lady, waited until she was settled in at the new house.
Another thing to prepare for before you head out is how you will feed your iguana once you arrive at your destination. If you are moving, it will probably be very difficult for you to arrive at the new house, locate all the iguana food and dishes, and feed your iguana. So, it is advisable that you bring some iguana food in the vehicle with you, sealed in a baggie and kept in a conveniently located cooler during the trip. You also want to bring along your iguana's food and water dishes. You don't want to arrive at your destination to find that the dishes or foods are packed away in an unreachable place, or will arrive in three days with the moving van. The same applies to any other supplies you may need immediately - heating pads or lights, for example.
During the Trip - Another big consideration for me was the heat. I knew that I could not leave the animals in the car unattended for any length of time. Everyone knows how hot cars get in the summer, and we've all heard horror stories about people leaving their pet or child in a closed car for "just a short while", with disastrous results. Since our trip was so long, we certainly needed to stop for occasional food and bathroom breaks. We kept one person with the van at all times. Stops were short. Food was eaten on the road rather than at a restaurant. The engine and air conditioning were left on if the stop became too long. Similar things would need to be done when traveling long-distance in the cold months, as well.
If you have to leave the vehicle for a short time (i.e. you have to use the restroom), be sure to lock all the doors securely, and crack the windows if the weather is warm. Remember that it doesn't have to be hot outside for the car to get hot inside. Do not leave the car unattended for more than 5 minutes!!
Post-Trip - If you've just finished a long trip, both you and your iguana will be tired. The change in routine, for reasons it does not understand, can be stressful and tiring for your iguana. While you may have been able to munch on some snacks on the road, your iguana is probably pretty hungry and may be dehydrated as well. Be sure to offer fresh water and spray your iguana's food liberally with water before serving to prevent dehydration. A treat of water-soaked bread or a bit of juicy watermelon or grapes is a nice way to hydrate your iguana and reward it for traveling so well. Hopefully your iguana's habitat will either be waiting or will be easily assembled in a short time so it can begin to settle in. It may take a while for your iguana to relax, feel at home, and return to its regular routine. It may not want to eat as much as usual, or may have irregular pooping habits for a bit. Leave it undisturbed as much as possible for a while and try to stick with your regular routine (normal feeding and cage cleaning times, etc.) to help your iguana adjust and feel secure in its new surroundings.
Multiple-Day Trips - Sometimes people must travel such long distances with their iguanas that it is necessary to stop somewhere and spend the night in between. This adds another set of issues. First of all, you must be sure to plan ahead before you leave and find pet-friendly hotels that will accept your iguana for the night. It is not recommended that you just attempt to sneak it in. If it got loose, or you were somehow found out, there would be liability issues as well as the fact that you will likely get kicked out of the hotel. Many hotels allow pets, so there is no need to be irresponsible. You may have to adjust your travel course a bit to get to a pet-friendly hotel, but it is worth it. Obviously, you will not be able to set up your iguana's habitat, with lights, heat, etc., within the hotel room (unless it is a baby and still fits in an aquarium). So, you will need to find a secure place to keep it within the room, if you do not intend to keep it confined to its carrier. The bathroom is a good place because it is small and the door can be kept closed. You will want to plan ahead and bring along some sort of heat source for the night, such as a heating pad. Also bring along cleaning supplies and disinfectants, so that if your iguana makes a mess, you can clean it up properly without endangering the hotel staff or guests that will use the room after you check out. You may decide to feed your iguana at the end of the day, or you may want to wait. If you have another full day's travel ahead of you, a small, water-rich snack is probably a good idea. If you will arrive at your destination after only a half day or so, then you may consider waiting to feed until you get there. Offer water, however. Allowing your iguana to have a bath may help it relax and encourage it to drink and/or poop. Again, be responsible and properly clean up any messes.
Conclusion - Traveling with your iguana can be challenging, but if you plan ahead and try to think of every conceivable problem or issue that might arise, the trip should go smoothly. The keys to success are to find a suitable carrier, plan for temperature issues, figure out how to travel with as few stops as possible and call ahead and confirm with any hotels you need to stay in. Carry your iguana supplies in your vehicle with you where they are within easy reach. Now double check every thing again. Enjoy your trip!
petswelcome.com - A fantastic web site with listings of hotels, motels, apartments and other destinations that are pet friendly. They also have an Info Xchange board for posting information about your pet and/or travel, information about how to travel with your pet, and much more!