There are many species of chameleons – some that you may not have even heard of! While not all of them are commonly used as pets, there are some specific care guidelines to be followed with each type.
Currently, there are more than 160 different species, mostly found in Africa, Madagascar, Asia and Europe. Here is a list of some of the most common different species.
Different species all grow to different sizes and as such, have different living requirements and necessities. In fact, certain species will even grow to different sizes based on their gender. Knowing how large your pet will grow can help you prepare appropriately and give it the living space it needs!
As a new keeper, one of the worst things you can do is to keep your chameleon in overly high tropical temperatures. It’s true that chameleons like to bask and the temperature in their home should be high. However, having a basking temperature of 95 degrees is a bit high for the pet. More so, if you have a young pet, you should equally provide it with a less hot spot. For chameleons that are 3 months old and younger, you need a basking temperature of 80 degrees. Remember, young ones are not good at thermo-regulation and may not know when to move to a cooler place in the cage. Instead of moving to cooler spots they will just open their mouths and pant.
This means it’s important to provide your chameleon with a good temperature gradient to allow it to warm and cool itself when it needs to. While the basking spot should be at the top of the enclosure of up to 90 degrees, you should also have the coolest temperature at the bottom. This should come as low as 70 degrees. Believe it or not, chameleons can withstand temperatures as low as 50 degrees at night! While they can handle these low temperatures, they’re the most comfortable in 60-70 degree weather while they sleep.
Different species all have different standard temperaments. This is further compounded by the fact that each individual reptile will have it’s own personality as well! Fortunately, there are some basic guidelines to follow to help keep your pet comfortable.
While keeping a chameleon as a pet, avoid handling it as much as possible. Chameleons are not only shy animals, they also move very slowly. Before reading the rest of this though, keep in mind there are cases of extremely friendly chameleons that do not mind getting touched or picked up.
When first getting a chameleon try not to handle it too much when it is young. As it gets older, be very patient and cautious when your chameleon starts getting used to you. Chameleons are very trust-oriented, so if you grab them off their branch or make surprising sudden movements while handling your chameleon you may lose his or her trust.
When frightened, chameleons will puff up and hiss loudly. They will often change colors into a dark shade of grey/black. Handling them too much might also increase their chances of getting sick. In case you have to handle your pet, do not pick it up, but rather place your hand and allow it to climb on it’s own. Also, you should avoid holding its back, neck, tail or feet unless it’s very important to restrain it from hurting itself further.
As solitary animals, chameleons are very sensitive to stress. They are usually very aggressive and territorial towards other chameleons. The best way to keep more than one is by using separate cages. The presence of other animals or chameleons in the same enclosure or within sight can cause stress and even make them fall ill. Interestingly, even the sight of its own reflection is enough to make it stop eating. Some of the signs of temperament and attitude include not eating, feeling sick, and hiding.
Chameleons have different behaviors that should be watched. For instance, they are solitary animals and are very shy. Understanding this can help you know how to take good care of them. This means they do not thrive in places where there is lot of activity. Similarly, they don not like any constant interaction with humans even if you are their keeper. They react poorly to unneeded observation and frequent handing. To hide from disturbances, they tend to lean around branches.
Your pet’s main method of communication is through color change. This can indicate good health, stress or even reproductive condition. Understanding this can greatly assist you when caring for them.
Abnormally dark color is a big stress indicator. Sleeping posture and lack of eating may also indicate something. Patterning and vivid coloring can also be used to show stress. Chameleons can also use low frequency sounds to communicate. This is usually used in defense, courtship, and territorial displays. While chameleons cannot hear our sounds, avoid low frequency noises around their habitats. To hide from predators, they tend to mimic branches in the wind. They do this by walking slowly while rocking back and forth
Keeping your pet and it’s environment clean and hygienic is important for it’s overall health. There are some important cleaning supplies that you should always have on hand and some important factors to pay attention to when it comes to their overall grooming.
To maintain their cleanliness, chameleons require routine care to make for a healthy and safe home that is also odor free. Since they are very susceptible to skin and bacterial infections, their cages and housing must be kept clean. To make sure that cleanliness is maintained you need to have cleaning tools such as sponges, brushes, rubber gloves, and disinfectant. You need to carry out a full cage cleaning at a least once a month. However, daily cleaning such as removing shed skin, uneaten food, and waste should not be forgotten.
You should begin the process by removing any solid waste including sand. You can use sand filter to ensure that sand cleaning is done in an easier way. You can then use a disinfectant to clean out the remaining items found in the cage. After cleaning, give the cage time to dry while giving the branches, rocks and sand time to cool, before returning the pet. Before and after touching the cage ensure that you clean your hands with soap and water. This will help you prevent contracting infectious diseases. Do not forget to remove feces from the habitat everyday.
Although animals can handle short term stressor, chronic situations can make them sick. If you are keeping a chameleon as a pet, too much stress will not only cause illness but will also make them less social and dampen their spirits. Stress can also greatly decrease your chances of breeding them.
While living in the wild, chameleons have a lot to worry about. This includes getting attacked, eaten, and not getting enough of their daily necessities. That’s why it’s your job to ensure that your pet doesn’t have to deal with any of these issues in your home. When chameleons are in bad shape or look hurt it often means they are suffering from psychological stress.
When they are stressed they may show discomfort with their surroundings or even look for an escape route. Especially if you want to breed chameleons, you need to eliminate all the stress factors that might affect your pet. When you manage it’s stress well, your pet is likely to stay healthy. The main stressors that you should be aware of include strangers, handling, other animals, reflections, lack of water/food, and anything that it could perceive of as a predator.
Chameleons are very sensitive animals that need specialized care. Without proper care, your pet chameleon can quickly become ill. The most important thing for your designated caretaker to know is what can make it ill and how to keep it comfortable.
If you are only going to be away for a short period of time you should get a timer for your lights to ensure that your daily schedule remains the same. You should make sure that your designated caretaker knows to check that this is functioning correctly.
If you will only be away for a day, your pet will not be without regular misting and food since it may be on an every other day feeding schedule. However, if you will be gone for several days or if you are keeping a baby, you need someone to come and feed your pet. This person needs to be trustworthy and not afraid of insects! When you are going out of town, the more automated your system the better. It’s also very important to educate your secondary caretaker well about your specific chameleon’s personality.