Why do tegus need free-roam time?
Tegus are not bearded dragons that will tuck into your shirt and “watch” a movie with you. They are very active animals, and free roaming helps them sate that need for adventure. Furthermore, providing regular opportunities for your tegu to free roam improves muscle tone, metabolism, and provides mental stimulation — in other words, free roaming prevents your tegu from becoming fat and stupid.
How to do tegu free-roaming right:
Of course, this does not mean that you should not turn your house into one giant tegu enclosure with a few strategically placed “basking spots.” Unless you plan to set your thermostat to 80-85°F (26-29°C) and maintain humidity levels between 70-80%, human homes simply aren’t suitable environments for tegus.
The result of consistently low temperatures and low humidity from excess free roaming is bad sheds and a very sleepy tegu. The sleepy behavior may seem cute to you, but it’s bad for their health and contributes to obesity. Bad sheds can cut off toes and the tip of your tegu’s tail. And if that isn’t enough, cool temperatures stress a tegu’s organs because they’re trying to do their jobs, but simply can’t.
The ideal arrangement is to have a functional enclosure augmented by a few hours of free-roaming time provided daily or every other day. You know you’ve got this right when your tegu is constantly running around the house, occasionally stopping by to check on what you’re up to and maybe getting a head scratch before moving on. When they start slowing down (curling up on/near a furnace vent is a telltale sign), it’s time to put them back in their enclosure.
You’ve probably seen tegu owners on YouTube and Instagram that are always hanging out with their pet tegus. This sends a dangerous message that tegus should be exclusive (or at least largely) free-roaming pets like cats or dogs. But tegus are not scaly puppies! If you want a pet that will snuggle with you on the couch for hours at a time, a tegu probably isn’t for you.