Chameleon – A Tricky but Amazing Pet

chameleon-as a petChameleons with their perfectly spiky body, protruding and revolving eyes, firm grip taken on branches with feet as well as tail and the wonderful color-changing ability make amazing creatures. However, they may not be the best as pets, at least not for beginners. Their requirements are quite specific and they are stressed easily. They don’t like to be held and handled. So, if you wish to be able to handle reptile, let this creature pass by! However, if you really wish to have chameleon as your pet, you need to consider some basic points about chameleon care. Let’s learn them.

Range of Colors

Chameleons are famous for their color changing ability; however when they are young, chameleons are of dull brown/gray color. They can change their colors a bit, but the true ability as well as a bright body color starts developing at about 5 months of age. This range of colors is amazing and includes shades like green, turquoise, blue green and black. They change colors in order to camouflage with the surrounding, for temperature regulation and also as a way of communication with their other comrades. Stress, excitement, lighting conditions and temperature, presence of other chameleons, etc are also some more factors responsible for the color change. You can roughly identify the state of the chameleon from its color. Usually, a stressed chameleon is dark brown to black, while a happy one shows brighter colors. Moreover various colors can be manifested as a result of color mutations as well as other color phases.

chameleon-as a pet

Tongue and Other Unique Features

A unique feature of chameleons is their tongue with which they catch their prey. This special tongue is almost 1 ½ times longer than the body of the creature! Thus chameleons can catch insects perfectly from quite a long distance. Watch this amusing video by MrSideliner!

Chameleons are tree-dwellers and have feet with three toes – one pointing the inner side and two pointing outwards – which they use to hold branches firmly.

Some species of chameleons have a prehensile tail, which too help in gripping branches.

Eyes of chameleons are perfectly globular and turn like turrets. They move independent of each other. So, chameleon can keep an eye on all directions, which serves both its purposes – hunting and self-defense.

Diet

Mostly chameleons are insectivorous. However some species live on vegetation too, while some others eat some small invertebrates like slugs.

Chameleon shoots out tongue

Which One to Choose?

While choosing a chameleon as a pet, it is beyond any doubt that you should have one that is captive bred. If you decide to keep a wild caught one, remember that they are often extremely stressed. They also carry a lot of parasites and find it difficult to adjust to captive conditions.

Chameleons are certainly not the easiest reptile to keep. Moreover starting with a stressed pet can only make things worse. To worsen it even more, capture and transport of chameleons (which is strictly regulated) may cause death of the creature because of stress, starvation or dehydration. Actually the number of animal that die in the transit is more than that which make up to the pet shops (this applies to many other exotic species too).

veiled-chameleon

While considering buying a pet chameleon, observe it to check if it is bright and active. It should be able to change colors and its body should be fleshy. Experienced keepers of chameleons recommend to keep males, particularly to beginners. This is because male’s nutritional needs are a bit simpler and they also seem to be a bit hardier.

Chameleons are solitary animals and are territorial. Keep well in mind not to keep two males together because then they tend to be extremely aggressive to each other.

Caring for Your Chameleon

Chameleons’ natural habits make them extremely tricky to care for! They are arboreal – living strictly in trees. Therefore you need to have a cage for yours one with plenty of greenery to provide your pet privacy and climbing. The cage should be pretty large, the more the space the better! Ventilation too should be ample. Ideally an enclosure screened on three sides is the best, with vinyl or poly mesh coated wire to eliminate the possibility of injury to feet. You need to keep lots of branches with varying diameters in the cage to facilitate climbing. The bulk of the enclosure should be full of live foliage. Needless to say that the plants should be non-toxic.

cage with greenery

Many species are kept as pets, the commonest being Panther, Veiled and Jackson’s chameleons. Veiled chameleon care is comparatively easy as they are large and pretty hardy. They are even up to 2 feet long! So, they need a larger enclosure. Panther chameleons too are pretty big, especially males are much bigger than females. These show some superb colors. Jackson’s chameleons being smaller require less space. Males have three horns on their head; so, they look like small triceratops. But they are not very hardy.

Jackson's chameleon

Another thing needed the most is natural sunlight. At least some exposure to natural sunlight should be provided through an open window to keep your pet healthy and happy. You can also keep the cage outside if the weather allows. Choose a space with adequate shade to avoid overheating of the cage.

You cannot provide water to your chameleon in a dish! They drink water from droplets fallen on leaves. Therefore you should provide sufficient water in form of either misting the cage or through dripping, at least twice in a day. You can even place ice cubes atop the cage which will melt slowly to drip inside and provide the necessary hydration to the pet.

chameleon in branches

For feeding your pet chameleon, keep as many types of insects as you can, like mealworms, crickets, wax worms, super worms, non-infesting roaches and so on. These preys should be gut-loaded with nutrition in form of fruits, veggies and leafy greens before feeding and for additional nutrition, should be peppered with vitamin D and calcium supplement.

If your chameleon is a female, keep an eye on the signs of her becoming gravid, i.e. ready to lay eggs. Consult an expert for knowing how to care for pregnant chameleon.