Rescue / shelter organization
Colorado, United States
Posted Jan 25, 2010
This modern dinosaur is definitely not a pet for everyone.
In a lot of pet stores, they are acquiring them as babies and they are so darn cute, tiny, and did I mention cute? But these nile monitors grow fast, crazy fast and can be 6 feet in their first year or two. They can get up to 8 feet, with 9 feet being the largest in captivity. I hate how they are sold like this, it's very devious and sneaky. Then there are a ton of people trying to find homes for them. This is how we acquired our monitor, from someone who didn't know what he was in for.
This is an aggressive, hungry, huge reptile with a nasty attitude. We researched this lizard for several years before acquiring one, and sometimes we are still feeling very inexperienced and in over our heads. You just have no idea until you get one how difficult to handle they are. If you're looking for a lizard to cuddle, hold, or bring to show and tell, this is not it. Go get a leopard gecko.
Even though there are exceptions and there are handle-able monitors, for the most part you can expect them to be a "hands off" kind of pet. Which is fine with us, that's how most of our pets are. They all have a different personality and some are more calm than others and some are more prone to attacking while others don't.
They have 3 ways of defending themselves. Well running away would be a defense, but in a cage they can't do that so we won't count it. These animals are truly defensive, they would rather run away than
fight, but when in an enclosed area, like their cage, there is no where
to run so they become aggressive.
First if bothered, you'll hear hissing which will get louder and louder, and they will puff up to look all big and scary, as if they really need to look more scary, lol.
Their main defense is their tail in which they will "tail whip" whatever is threatening them to get it to leave them alone. Tail whipping hurts, a lot, especially if they catch you in the face. That tail is 100 percent muscle, and sometimes they only tail whip halfway, so it's not even the full whip and it still hurts. Think like if someone hits you with a wet towel, but with a ton more pressure and pain behind it. They do this again and again and don't stop. This is why an aquarium is a bad idea because a good tail whip will shatter that glass.
Their second defense and sometimes the first if you're unlucky, is defecation. Their poop is nasty. It goes everywhere and it smells like something died in there. Not fun at all.
Third defense is biting and they have a nasty, horrid, and damaging bite. Very strong jaws against our soft human flesh and muscles equals a hospital visit. You want to do everything possible to avoid getting bit.
Anytime your monitor needs to be handled, and it will at some times, it's safest to do this with some strong re-enforced gloves, preferably the kind that go up to your elbow. When you grab for these guys you grab quick. Any hesitation will assure you a good tail whip. These guys hiss loud and puff up and smack everything around them with their tail. When you grab, grab hard for behind their head and the base of their tail. They are stronger than you can even imagine. Ours is only 3 feet long right now, and I can barely hold him still he's so strong. Hopefully, if you're lucky, you won't get poop shot out right way, but for goodness sakes hold it's cloaca away from you, that smell is not easy to get out. Hold that head! I cannot stress this enough. They are like possesed demons and can manage to spin that head around like you wouldn't believe, don't let go of that head.
A monitors nails have got to be the sharpest nails I have ever encountered in all my years of animal keeping. They are like hypodermic needles, shoving their way in one side and out the other in mere seconds. I have so many scars from my monitor's nails. I haven't been bit yet *knock on wood* but once when I was putting him back in his house he bit at the closet and took a huge chunk out of the door, yikes.
So why on earth would someone want to own something so nasty and dangerous?!
For me, these creatures fascinate me. I think he is beautiful and mysterious. And honestly, once he settled down into his house and got used to us, he was fine. He escapes, a lot, but it's because he is bored. Monitors are some of the smartest reptiles on the planet, so he needs enrichment of some sort. He's only grumpy when we find him under the oven or hiding in our mattress and we pick him up to put him back in his house. For the most part he is actually friendly, and likes to lie at our feet. We find our monitor actually enjoys human interaction and acts more like a cat.
Housing for these guys is crazy. Right now ours lives in our walk in closet since we moved, but we're going to be building him a cage soon from lumber and all. You can't put these animals in an aquarium and expect them to thrive. They need room, and lots of it. They love to bask so they need lots of heat lamps for their basking spot and they love to hang out in the pool, so they need a water tub.
So what do they eat? Anything they want. Just kidding, but seriously though... I know it's controversial, but ours really enjoys the canned food by zupreem made especially for monitors. He likes it, it's good for him, I don't care what people say. But you don't feed him just that. He also eats eggs, rodents, chicks, bugs, etc.. He loves eggs. Their poo is more stinky when they eat eggs, but they sure love them.
We have 2 young children and have taught them to give the monitor respect and room. Although he wouldn't purposely hurt them, he could possibly hurt them with a tail whip if they startled him. This is why our monitor is kept in a place where the kids can't get access to him, so they don't get hurt and so there is never a situation like that. Until we can build him a completely enclosed area, it has to be like this.