Herper’s Insight: Free Roaming Lizards

When your monitor gets too big (3.5 ft. or larger) for a cage, you have to make a decision. Do you:

  • build a BIGGER cage;
  • convert a room into a monitor room;
  • give your monitor free roam of your home.

I made the choice of number 3 and will tell you how you also can live with a monitor sharing your living space. As you’ll see, the monitor does not “roam” all over the house as best as can be described as roaming. The monitor is very intelligent and has an excellent memory of where he is and where he is going — he simply memorizes certain areas. At least, that is the conclusion I’ve made of the observations in the four years Nessie has been “roaming free.”

[snip left2][/snip]It was December 22, 1995, when we (my husband and I) brought home a 4′ ornate Nile monitor weighing 11 lbs. and we didn’t have any cage setup because we didn’t know, at the time, that we were buying another Nile. At the time, we had 3 Niles: one in a 2’x4’X16″ tank and the other two sharing a 17″X5’X2′ tank. The first place we introduced Nessie to was the hallway bathroom, to the bathtub. He stayed in the tub until he felt like getting out (which he does easily) and then he started investigating. Monitors are very inquisitive of their surroundings. We closed off the rooms we didn’t want him wandering through and made sure (by observing) he didn’t tear or rip up any of the furniture. It would help if you clip the sharp points off of all the toenails of your monitor FIRST. In the master bedroom, we tucked in a small section of the bed skirt to serve as the “cave” entrance. When it came time to check out the bedroom, he was ready to call it a night when he got under the bed.We then placed a heating pad (set on Low), wrapped in a pillowcase, on the carpeted floor right outside the “cave” entrance for him to lay on in the morning.

When it comes time to feed Nessie and he is still under the bed, I dangle the rat (or place the food) right outside the cave entrance. He picks up the smell and he’s quick to get out from underneath the bed. I then lead him outside through the doggie door (in the same room) and he eats his meal on the patio. When Nessie finishes his food, he likes to lay outside absorbing the sunlight. He chooses when to come back inside — by way of the doggie door. Today, for example, I had the plastic in the doggie door to keep the dogs outside. Well, around 2 p.m., I heard scraping noises on the doggie door and I thought it was the dogs trying to get in. Much to my surprise, there was Nessie, tripod over the doggie door, looking through the glass and wanting in! I removed the plastic and guided him in.

Keep in mind, this is after 4 years of daily repetition. Your monitor will get into the habit of doing what he does and going where he goes and your job will be to “curb” that behavior. What I mean by curbing his behavior is, stopping him from climbing on top of the furniture, keeping him from getting under the dresser, standing in front of him and guiding him with your foot, watching his every move till he gets settled, and removing him before he poops. You’ll start to recognize the signs of your monitor wanting to relieve himself and all you have to do is pick him up and get him either outside or in the bathtub (with water) before he goes poop.

If you want, you can hang a heat lamp over a corner of the bedroom, over a towel, for your monitor to “sun” himself if the weather outside is too cold. Here at my house, if it’s cold outside, Nessie might choose to stay under the bed all day and into the night. I’ll sometimes run a warm bath for him and he’ll soak in it all day.

Here is one more important observation I have made over these 4 years: since Nessie is NOT in a cage, he shows no aggression towards us or the other animals that share the home with him. Maybe it’s because WE are living in HIS cage. He has never bitten any of us (including the dogs and cats) and is very tolerant and docile.

Now you know what “free” roam of the home is all about. One’s interpretation of roaming free can be totally different from another’s. You can still choose to build a larger cage or convert a room to suit your monitor’s needs that’s for you to decide. However, if you choose to allow your monitor free roam, as you can see, it can be done.

By: Kathy Levinger


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