What Does It Mean When Your Iguana Licks You?

Iguanas are spiny-looking but adorable lizards with many adorable behaviors. One such behavior is licking. You may notice your pet iguana licking anything and everything it comes into contact with. But why does it do this? What does it mean when your iguana licks you? In this article, we’ll discuss this and other interesting iguana behaviors.

What Does it Mean When Your Iguana Licks You?

Why Do Iguanas Bob Their Heads

If you have a pet iguana and it licks you, chances are it’s trying to get to know you better.

Iguanas will lick and nibble on just about anything when they are exploring their environment in an effort to learn more about their surroundings. A special smelling organ known as the Jacobson’s organ helps iguanas taste and smell, and they rely on these senses to help them learn more about the world around them.

So, if your iguana starts licking you, there is no reason to become alarmed. The licking is generally positive in nature, as they are simply curious about you–there is nothing aggressive about this behavior.

As such, there is no need to be afraid when an iguana licks you; in fact, it can be rather endearing. Allow the iguana to lick to its satisfaction, and do your best not to panic.

Again, your iguana may lick or attempt to eat more than just you in an effort to get a sense for its surroundings. Much as a cat or dog might go around smelling everything, an iguana will go around licking everything to find out more about it.

If an iguana is especially curious about a particular object, it may attempt to eat the object. Be careful to keep large things away from your pet iguana so it doesn’t swallow and choke on them.

Why Do Iguanas Bob Their Heads?

Iguanas are known for their adorable head-bobbing behavior. Why do they do this–are they jamming out to music only they can hear, or do they have other reasons for the head bobbing?

There are several reasons why iguanas bob their heads. The head-bobbing may be:

  • A friendly greeting: Iguanas will bob their heads to say hello to you or to any other creature entering its territory as long as it doesn’t feel threatened. If the iguana doesn’t make any efforts to extend its body, tense its dewlap (the flap of skin underneath its chin), or hiss at you, then it is likely relaxed about your presence and extending a friendly greeting to you.
  • A thank you: Sometimes iguanas will bob their heads as a way of saying thank you. If the iguana appears content and happy when you feed it, it may begin bobbing its head to thank you for feeding it.
  • A show of dominance: If an iguana feels threatened, it will attempt to establish dominance, and bobbing the head is one way in which it does this. The head-bobbing, in this case, is not a friendly gesture; it is likely to be accompanied by the iguana standing tall and tensing its dewlap, and it may also hiss at the object of threat.
  • A mating activity: During an iguana’s breeding period, it may jerk its head from side to side and become more aggressive. This is a natural behavior and the iguana should be allowed extra space during these time periods.

What Does it Mean When an Iguana Stands Up?

You may notice your iguana stretching its forelegs, appearing to “stand up tall” on all fours. It may also extend and tense its jowls, known as the dewlap, and may even close its eyes–what do these behaviors mean?

Iguanas will display these physical traits when they feel threatened. They stand up and tense their dewlaps in an effort to appear aggressive and intimidating, and they do this mostly in response to feeling threatened–basically, they are attempting to scare off the threat.

Iguanas will sometimes close their eyes when attempting to ward off a threat in an effort to avoid having to look at what is frightening them. This is, essentially, the iguana’s attempts to ignore the object of its fear, much as a person might close their eyes on a rollercoaster ride. 

Check out this video for a good visual of an iguana’s friendly vs territorial behavior.

Why Do Iguanas Close Their Eyes When You Pet Them?

Iguanas don’t just close their eyes to ignore what’s frightening them–they may also close their eyes to try and ignore other things that may be bothering them.

Iguanas almost always close their eyes when they are feeling stressed as an effort to shut out and tolerate what is stressing them. 

If your iguana closes its eyes while you are petting it, then it is most likely trying to block you out. It may be feeling stressed from having your hands near its head, and closing its eyes is the best way it knows to stay calm and avoid lashing out at you. 

Why Do Iguanas Hiss?

Have you ever heard your pet iguana hiss? 

If so, you might have thought that perhaps iguanas hiss for the same reason cats do–and you would have been right. Like cats, iguanas hiss when they don’t like something you are doing or are unhappy with something in their environment. 

Iguanas may hiss while in the dominant position as part of their attempt to scare off what is threatening them. They also may hiss when they don’t feel threatened simply as a display of their dissatisfaction.

Regardless of their reason for hissing, it likely has something to do with being unhappy, and the sooner you are able to discover what is upsetting it, the better.


Iguanas are very expressive creatures, using their tongues to explore the environment and their body language to express how they are feeling. Their stance, head bobbing, and hissing noises can all give you clues as to how an iguana is responding to its surroundings and whether or not it feels threatened or relaxed.

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