Cape Monitor Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name: Cape Monitor
Scientific Name: Varanus albigularis
Life Span: 8 to 12 years in Captivity
Size: 6 to 6.5 feet as adults
Habitat: Dry areas, deserts
Country of Origin: Angola, Zambia, Mozambique

Physical Description

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White Throated Monitors are moderately large and longer types of reptiles that can grow up to 6.5 feet long. They are exceptionally long monitor lizards compared to other types of pet reptiles. They also have snouts that look a bit different when compared to other types of monitor lizards.

Popularly known as the Cape Monitor, these lizards have snouts that are bulbous than other monitor lizards such as the Argus Monitor and the Savannah Monitor. You can even say that their snouts are quite round or fat when compared to the snouts of some other monitor lizards that tend to be long and cone-shaped.

The neck of a Cape Monitor also stands out in the sense that the scales that line the necks are cone-shaped and are almost elevated. In some cases, the scales on their necks are more elevated than their heads and will give these lizards a bit of a hunched look.

The Cape Monitor or White-Throated Monitor usually heads and necks that are a darker shade of brown. Their backs also are typically the same color but can sometimes have a grayish shade of dark brown. Meanwhile, their dorsal surface can display a few rows of patterns that are yellowish in color. The Cape Monitor’s tail may also have the same patterns, but it is usually lined with alternating bands of yellowish or dirty white and dark brown all the way to the end of the tail.

Meanwhile, the bellies or the underside of a Cape Monitor is usually light yellow but may have a much more colorful profile than the bellies of other monitor lizards. However, it is widely believed that the color patterns on a White-Throated Monitor vary depending on where they come from. Some may be more yellowish in terms of color, while others are closer to dirty or off-white.


Cape Monitors, when kept in captivity, can live up to 12 years and can normally live at least 8 years when they are handled well and given the best kind of care possible. However, there are some Cape Monitors that can reach as old as 20 years. Those in the wild probably do not live as long as those kept in captivity.

Eating Habits

Cape Monitors are carnivorous reptiles like most other monitor lizards. In the wild, they love foraging for food and prefer using their tongues to detect the scent of their prey in the air. They are also very active eaters and will most likely binge their way through meals. In a single sitting, they can eat as much as 10% of their total body mass and will not stop eating even when they are full.

Oddly enough, Cape Monitors may be carnivores, but their diet does not always consist of mammals or rodents even when they are small enough. In the wild, they hardly eat mammals and can even be found living together in harmony with rats, rabbits, and squirrels in borrows. This is a trait that is unlike other monitor lizards that will eat anything in sight so long as they are small enough to fit their mouths. However, there are some cases where these White-Throated Monitors will kill and crush rodent prey but will refuse to ingest them.

That said, Cape Monitors love feeding on the usual insects, fish, birds, and small eggs. In some cases, they may even eat small snakes. Their diet in captivity should regularly be composed of insects that were gut-fed with nutritious vegetables and then sprayed with calcium supplements for added vitamins and nutrition and to help prevent diseases that are connected to high phosphorous to calcium ratios. You can also feed them with fertilized eggs. Try cooking the eggs to avoid salmonella poisoning. Even if you introduce live rodent prey items to them, there is no guarantee that these lizards will eat them but will most likely kill them.

Sleeping Habits

As diurnal reptiles, Cape Monitors spend the day awake and active and are most likely asleep during the evening. They are active for at least 12 hours a day and may sleep for up to 12 hours when night falls. You may see the sleeping longer during the colder seasons.


It is quite common for monitor lizards to try hydrate their bodies both by drinking water and by soaking their bodies in the water. The Cape Monitor is no exception. Since they live in dry and arid places, they love drinking lots of water and are fond of soaking in water dishes that are large enough for their entire bodies. Use a large water dish that can contain a lizard that can grow up to six feet in length. They may also defecate in their water dish from time to time, so keep an eye on it so that you can replace the water and sanitize the dish immediately.

Development and Reproduction

Cape Monitors are ready for reproduction once they reach a length of about 1.5 feet. This can be as soon as about 4 to 5 years, but you may want to make sure they are ready for breeding by checking out how big they are. Some may be ready by the time they reach a foot and a half, but it might be better to wait for them to be more than 2 feet long.

How to Breed

Sexing a Cape Monitor is a matter of comparing the size of these reptiles, especially when they are about the same age. Male White-Throated Monitors will be much larger and more muscular than the females, which are generally smaller. Try to separate the males from one another as early as possible because they tend to be very territorial and will not be afraid to attack another Cape Monitor regardless of whether it is a mating season or not.

Mating season in Cape Monitors happens during August and September and is usually before the peak of the wet seasons. The females will be very receptive to mating during this season and will release pheromones that can attract males that can be as far as 2 miles away from them. Males will mate with the females for a period of a few days and will generally seek out other females in one single mating season.

During the mating season, make sure to feed your females with more than usual because their body masses increase. This allows them to build up enough body mass and energy in preparation for mating and egg-laying. These reptiles can lay as many as 50 eggs in one sitting.

Common Health Problems

Like a lot of other reptiles, Cape Monitors suffer from many different common health problems when they are not taken care of properly and when they are left to live in environments that are less than ideal for them. Here are the health issues you should know about to know how to prevent them:

Respiratory Illness

When they are left to lie in a lace that is too cold or too humid for them, your Cape Monitor will suffer from respiratory diseases. The most common symptoms of respiratory illness are mucus. At this point, it will be common for your reptile to be breathing from the mouth and to be wheezing from time to time. They may also feel fatigued and will not be as active as they usually are.

Metabolic bone Disease

This health issue is very common for a lot of reptiles, especially if they have high phosphorous levels in their bodies but low calcium in their bloodstream. When your cape monitor is suffering from metabolic bone disease, it will most likely have weak bones that are easily fractured. At times, they will also have deformed bones due to the lack of calcium in their bloodstream.

Internal and External Parasites

Cape Monitors caught in the wild will most likely have a higher chance of suffering from internal parasites. However, wild-caught reptiles usually have immune systems that are strong enough to fight against internal parasites. But the one thing you should consider here is that the stress of getting captured and then transported to an entirely new environment can weaken their immune system and will make them susceptible to internal parasites.

Meanwhile, external parasites are a result of poor sanitation on your part. Mites and tics can easily infest your cape monitor if you are not too careful in keeping their environment clean and sanitary.

Preventing Illness

Making sure your Cape Monitor has a pretty good and healthy diet is essential to make sure it does not suffer from nutrient-deficiency, such as metabolic bone disease. In such a case, gut-load the insects you feed your reptile and then sprinkle them with calcium supplements. Using an ultraviolet B lamp is also helpful in providing vitamin D3.

Meanwhile, for all other illnesses, probably the best way of keeping your Cape Monitor healthy is to make sure that they live in a clean and sanitary environment to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria as well as of parasites that can harm your reptile and even potentially decrease its lifespan.


Here are some of the things that Cape Monitors usually do:


Cape Monitors prefer to spend a lot of time in burrows and mounts to keep their bodies away from the hot sun and to keep themselves hydrated. In the wild, they like to use termite and rodent burrows if they are not digging their own holes.


One of the most common things you will notice from your Cape Monitor is its aggression. These reptiles are very territorial and are not afraid of acting aggressively against other animals that try to invade their space. As such, do not be surprised if your cape monitor acts aggressively towards you to the point of possibly even biting you. In the wild, they are so territorial that a male can have a personal territory that spans 7 miles.


If you have a big enough water dish in your cape monitor’s enclosure, you will notice them swimming from time to time as these reptiles are very active swimmers that use their strong tails as rudders for steering.


Like any other reptile, the Cape Monitor sheds its skin from time to time to make way for new skin to grow in the place of the old one. These reptiles may shed on a staggered basis, such as when they will shed in some areas first before shedding the skin in the other parts of their body. Cape Monitors will also shed their teeth from time to time as a new tooth grows in its place. Shedding usually occurs in juvenile Cape Monitors, especially because they are still growing into their bodies.


Cape Monitors are large pet lizards that need to be housed in an environment that can fit their large and long bodies. It might be best to keep them in an enclosure that is at least 8 feet long and about 5 feet wide. Keeping them caged in a place that is about 4 feet high might also be a good idea so that you will be able to provide them with a substrate that is deep enough for them to dig into.

A strong enclosure is a must for these big and strong lizards. It might be better if you make your own enclosure that is made out of sturdy wood and strong glass. This is to prevent your Cape Monitor from possibly literally breaking out of the enclosure using its strong frame. Try to keep the top screened but still covered to allow for ventilation. Put a door at the front for easy access whenever you are feeding the reptile or when you want to take it out of the enclosure.

If you can afford it or if your house is big enough, you may want to provide your cape monitor with its own small room. That way, you do not have to build your own enclosure. Put a drainage system in your Cape Monitor’s room so that it is easier to clean. If you do not have a spare room, you can easily build an enclosure that is just as big as a room so that your reptile will have enough space to roam around freely.

Lighting and Humidity

Cape Monitors are diurnal and are more active during the day. They expect to receive at least 12 hours of sunlight on a daily basis. They are also prone to metabolic bone disease, which may be prevented with the help of a UVB lamp at the coolest portion of the enclosure. At the hottest, keep a strong heat lamp that provides ample lighting and heat for the entire enclosure.

While Cape Monitors are used to environments and regions that are dry, that does not mean that you should forget about providing them with an enclosure that has enough humidity. Try to keep the humidity levels over 20% but not higher than 50%. Keeping a water dish inside the enclosure is a good way of keeping humidity levels consistent. You may also mist the enclosure with water from time to time.


Cape Monitors prefer to be housed in an environment that is very hot because of how they are used to the hot climates of deserts. At the coolest, the enclosure should be about 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 105 degrees at the hottest. The best way to provide them with the heat they require is to keep a good heat lamp that is powered by an incandescent bulb or any other strong types of bulbs. The UVB lamp may be placed at the coolest portion of the enclosure. You may also want to add rocks into the enclosure because these objects tend to retain the heat that comes from the sun or any other heat source.

Unlike other monitor lizards, Cape Monitors can be quite resistant to cold temperatures because of how cold the nights can get in desert areas. However, that still does not mean that you should allow them to live in an enclosure that is too cold for them.


Cape Monitors are known to defecate in their water dish. Make sure you keep an eye on their water dish to replace it promptly when you see signs of contamination. This is to prevent any form of bacteria and illnesses from possibly building up in the water. Sanitize the water dish as well to make sure that it is free from any form of bacteria and parasite.

Natural Environment – Substrate

Soft substrates are the best for Cape Monitors because they love to dig through their substrate from time to time. Make sure that the substrate is deep enough and should be at least a foot and a half deep to allow a lot of space for your reptile to dig through. You may opt for ordinary garden soil or mulch for the Cape Monitor’s substrate.


While they are used to living in dry environments, Cape Monitors still need to drink a lot of water because that is the best way for them to stay hydrated in a hot and dry environment. Their water dish should be large enough for their entire bodies and should be regularly replaced with fresh and lean water to avoid contamination and bacteria from building up.

Availability – Where to Get One?

Captive-bred Cape Monitors are regularly sold by reptile breeders in many different localities. Avoid buying wild-caught cape monitors because they tend to be more susceptible to internal parasites and because they are more aggressive in terms of their temperament and behavior. Going online to look for a Cape Monitor might be the better choice for you if you do not know where to find one in your locality.

How to Care for a Cape Monitor?

Here are some tips on how to care for a Cape Monitor:

  • Keep your Cape Monitor away from other Cape Monitors because of how aggressively territorial they re.
  • If these reptiles have no recognized you as their handlers, try not to handle them because of how they are quite aggressive in nature and might even attack you.
  • Cape Monitors rarely eat small mammals or rodents and would rather eat insects and other reptiles.
  • These reptiles do not like living in environments that are very humid and prefer to be kept in enclosures that are hot and dry.

FAQ Section

Are Cape Monitors venomous?

Cape Monitors do not have venom. However, depending on their diet, their bites may contain harmful toxins that can potentially be life-threatening.

Are Cape Monitors good for beginner owners?

Cape Monitors might not be the best for beginners because of how these reptiles can get quite aggressive and because of their large size.

How Big do White-Throated Monitors get?

It is common for the usual White-Throated Monitor to grow over 6 feet in length. They are usually a few inches shorter than seven feet in terms of length.

Do Cape Monitors attack people?

Cape Monitors will attack just about anyone or anything if they feel threatened. These are very aggressive and territorial reptiles that prefer to be left alone and are not afraid of showing aggression to any incoming human.

Do Cape Monitors eat fruits and vegetables?

Cape Monitors are strictly carnivorous, but you can gut-feed their food and give them food supplements to provide a more balanced and nutritious diet to your reptile.

Can you handle a Cape Monitor?

Cape Monitors generally are not safe for handling because of their aggressive temperament. However, they may be receptive to handing so long as these intelligent reptiles already recognize you as someone who does not pose any threat.

Is it safe to put two or more Cape Monitors in one enclosure?

Cape Monitors are very territorial and have territories that span 7 miles in the wild. That means that you should never try to house them in the same enclosure.

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