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Help my iguana survive Frankenstorm
October 27, 2012 4:24 PM   Subscribe

How do I keep my iguana alive during an electric blackout? All of her lighting and heating elements demand electricity. I don't have a generator or the funds to purchase one. I'm most concerned about her getting too cold. Under 80*F for extended periods is the danger zone.
posted by pupus to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Is (Human, presumably yours) body heat an option?
posted by Orb2069 at 4:28 PM on October 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Passive solar design. Place her little home somewhere that is a natural heat sink and will radiate heat for hours even if there is no electricity. Example: Floor tiles on concrete slab under a sunny window.

I imagine you could also toss a blanket over the whole thing for insulation to extend your time frame but I am not a pet person. Maybe someone else can speak more authoritatively to that piece of it.
posted by Michele in California at 4:29 PM on October 27, 2012


Do you have hot water available during a blackout (i.e. is your hot water heated by gas and does it need electricity to run)? I'm sure you could do something with a warm water bottle in an emergency. Even if your hot water doesn't run, if you have a tank, you'll have a fair bit of hot water available for a while (warm water for days, if you don't use it otherwise).

What is your heat source?
posted by ssg at 4:29 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


This site recommends a propane heater for larger reptiles. It's a cost, but it should be cheaper than a generator.

Do you have a fireplace? I'd be tempted to keep a fire going.
posted by muddgirl at 4:34 PM on October 27, 2012


(I should say that, AFAIK, no propane heater is recommended for indoor use, and there is a danger there. But it is an option.)
posted by muddgirl at 4:37 PM on October 27, 2012


Buy a little butane stove at an Asian grocery (they're about $20 plus about $2-3 per can of gas). Boil water for a hot water bottle and use with an insulated box as temporary accommodation (insulate a cardboard box with blankets or use a polystyrene box - broccoli boxes are good). A single can of butane gas will boil a lot of water and the whole set-up is cheap. They also store well as the stoves usually pack down into some sort of carrying case the size of a small briefcase. Used in a well-ventilated spot, they will present little risk.
posted by ninazer0 at 4:43 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


I might ask a pet store or humane society about allowing you to bring it's cage there.
posted by beccaj at 4:59 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


You need a portable power source. You can just plug the essentials in and you should be good to go. While they aren't cheap, they also aren't that expensive either and it's a good thing to have anyway (especially if it's a life and death matter for your pet). Ours is a life saver when the lights go out. Just make sure it is charged up before you plan on losing electricity.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:59 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


You could set aside some emergency chemical heat packs for short durations.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:01 PM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't think the solar or battery powered solutions are going to work here. I don't know what the situation is where you live, but I've had power go out for a week in a bad storm. Most reasonable solutions for that length of time will involve burning fuel.
posted by ryanrs at 5:03 PM on October 27, 2012


The portable power sources can be recharged with the cigarette lighter from a car so length of time is not an issue.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:05 PM on October 27, 2012


As an endotherm, you're probably the most reliable heat source available, assuming you can keep your calorie consumption up without electricity. Do you have or can you make a snuggle sack for the creature with a strap you can sling over your neck such that you can just carry her under your clothes?
posted by Cold Lurkey at 5:07 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I would just stuff the little dude into my shirt and resign myself to being pooped upon intermittently.
posted by elizardbits at 5:11 PM on October 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


You could try a local vet. When my air conditioning was out last summer my vet put our cats up all day for no charge.
posted by something something at 5:11 PM on October 27, 2012


Maybe get some of those thermacare heat therapy packs? They work the same what as the little handwarmer packs but they're easy to find at the drugstore and they stay warm for 8 hours (some of them for 12 hours). It would be like a nice warm rock for your iguana to hang out on. They do take some oxygen out of the air while they work, so you probably wouldn't want to use it in a very enclosed space (but perhaps you could put it underneath the tank).
posted by mskyle at 5:21 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like the hot water bottle and heat therapy packs; how about also considering putting a battery-powered lamp, one of the ones meant for things like camping, up against her tank?
posted by easily confused at 5:31 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


In addition to chemical heat packs, you could also try those sodium acetate hot packs. Rather than a chemical reaction, it's a physical one. You click a little metal clicker through the clear envelope of the pack. This creates a seed crystal and the supercooled sodium acetate crystalizes around it, releasing heat. You wouldn't have to worry about fumes released or oxygen depletion.

The packs can be "recharged" via boiling water.
posted by adipocere at 5:34 PM on October 27, 2012


As an iguana owner now living in Wisconsin, I have a "disaster kit" in case of power outage, blizzard, etc. I did purchase some of the chemical handwarmers and thermacare packs to keep in the kit in case of emergency, and I did have opportunity to use them. They didn't really last too long. The directions usually advise against putting it directly on your skin, and once you put one layer between that and the ig's skin, it's harder to get the temperature up to "optimal". You also need to take into account the size of the iguana. My iguanas are 4-5 feet long and weigh about 4-6 pounds. The ability to get warm from things like chemical heat packs (or say, 6-10 of them wrapped all around them) is a lot more difficult than a tiny hatchling iguana. Do you have a hatchling in a tank, or a full-grown 5-footer?

Has anyone estimated how long a power outage from this storm might last? You should have a contingency plan if it's going to be more than a day or two. As others have said, your vet or a humane society might be able to help out in this case. If you have a good relationship with your vet, that would be best, as humane societies aren't always well-versed in the care of the scaley variety.

I haven't tried the butane stove that ninazer0 suggested, but in theory I think that would be more practical than the other things mentioned here. In fact, I'll be putting our camping stove in my iguana kit.

Remember that Florida had that cold snap and iguanas were falling out of the trees when they got too cold. When things warmed up, they came to and went about their business. If she does get a touch under 80 degrees, it should be OK (as long as you don't make a habit out of it). However, make sure you don't feed her. Anything you might give her has the potential to rot in her hindgut, as the beneficial bacteria don't kick in as well at lower temperatures. In emergency circumstances, they can go a few days sans food without too much issue.

I was just about to post this when mr. asranixon mentioned "salamander heaters" and "alcohol heaters" as other possible sources of heat. A quick google search mentioned that salamander heaters are more for ventilated outdoor work sites, but the alcohol heater seemed to have promise (and also seemed more cost-effective)... keep some outside air circulating though!

Good luck, and hope you don't have to use any of this.
posted by asranixon at 5:56 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know when the power goes out we can still light the stove with a lighter, so I can heat water.

My ig is about 3 feet and about 2.5lbs. Her main enclosure in 6 x 5 x 5, so I'm going to have to construct a smaller temporary housing situation for her.

Would it be better to leave her in the main cage and then intermittently transfer for her to a warming station?
posted by pupus at 6:29 PM on October 27, 2012


I would leave her in a smaller container that could be more easily and consistently warmed for the duration of the outage (as long as the outage doesn't last weeks; in that case, it'd be time for plan B: finding another place for her temporarily). It's obviously not ideal, but no disaster is. You have to weigh the pros and cons of having her temperature fluctuate all day long while trying to keep her above 80 degrees versus being confined to a smaller area. Iguanas in the wild normally have a great deal of area to roam, so you are making a compromise there, but I think it's more important to keep her at an optimal temperature consistently. You'll probably also want to keep her away from a lot of commotion, as this whole situation will be a stressor for her.
I work with an iguana rescue at times, and sometimes the rescues need to be kept in a large, long Sterilite bin with air holes for a couple of days while more suitable living arrangements are built. They can deal with it in the short term, don't worry!
posted by asranixon at 7:06 PM on October 27, 2012


Could you move the iguana to a cooler of some sort but instead of using it to keep things cool you'd use it to keep the cold out. You could poke holes in a foam one but if worried about them consuming the foam so a plastic cooler would be easier to keep warm as it would hold heat better than a large enclosure you'd just have to keep the lid securely propped open or cover it some how.

Anything warm you put inside would then heat up the whole tank and take a while to dissipate because of the insulation. I would suggest large bottles full of warm water ( if you have heat resistant containers you could heat the water more but even soda jugs of warm water not hot enough to melt the plastic would be better than nothing) You could heat it on a camp stove or use those chemical hand warmers. Torch batteries give off a little bit of heat so hanging one over the lizard in the well insulated container might help too. It might be too dangerous to use in the cage with the iguana, but in a pinch candles would also provide some heat at least to warm the container before putting your iguana in.

I would keep her in the smaller warming container if only because you'd loose heat every time you open it and colder reptiles tend to be quieter anyway. Make sure that anything in direct contact with the animals skin is not too hot and cover things as needed.

Dark rocks can hold a lot of heat if you put some in the iguanas tank before the power goes out they will act as a thermal sink and help hold some heat for a little while too. If you then moved the warmed rocks into an insulated area they could warm it for a little while as well.

You could also wrap a main tank with duvets and blankets to try and trap the heat in.

My brother has a large collection of snakes in Australia and had to get them through a winter power outage there. He managed it with a lot of foam broccoli boxes and bottles of hot water heated on his gas BBQ but snakes are a lot easier to keep confined than a large lizard and Australian winters don't get below freezing where he is.
posted by wwax at 7:35 PM on October 27, 2012


nthing insulate the tank with blankets. and since the stove works, get some big bricks and bake them...wrap in a towel before putting in the tank...keep an eye on the thermometer and you'll figure out pretty quickly how many bricks to use and how often to change...
posted by sexyrobot at 9:29 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kind of a desperate measure, but maybe if you've got a car you could put the iguana in there and run the heat? Probably no specific temp regulation, but you might be able to get close. I guess that's only useful if you have or can go get gas though.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:47 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Assuming that you might not be home when the power goes out ... it seems that the best option would be a backup UPS ... like those made by APC

They are cheaper on eBay

You can check your lightbulb wattage, and compare with the UPS rating to get your safe timeframe.

Once you get home you can play with waterbottles ... but till then ...
posted by jannw at 3:10 AM on October 28, 2012


If the outage is short-term, a simple solution would be a a couple of hot-water bottles wrapped in a blanket for a cushion.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:25 AM on October 28, 2012


We have an iguana, watching this thread closely. Some good ideas. I'd like to say thought that unless your house is without power for over 8 hours in sub zero temperatures I don't think the temperature would get that low in your iguana's enclosure.

I wouldn't open the cage, I'd keep my eye on the temp inside and only worry if you got news that the electric won't come back for days. Then YOU'D be leaving your fast chilling house and taking your pets with... no?

I'd also add that iguanas are baskers they don't get their heat from below but above. The books I have all warn of the potential dangers of heating pads, hot rocks etc.
posted by Max Power at 8:06 AM on October 28, 2012


unless you're sure of keeping her warm, don't feed her
(I am not a reptile owner but I have read that when reptiles get too cold, they are unable to digest food and any food they have eaten rots in their stomachs and makes them sick.)
posted by bad grammar at 3:27 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey OP, just checking to see if the storm affected you at all. Did you lose power? Is the iguana safe and sound?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:47 PM on October 30, 2012


Although my region was hit pretty hard, my family got incredibly lucky and we didn't loose power. Iguana is in good shape, and now I have an emergency kit for her!

Thanks you guys!
posted by pupus at 8:34 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


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