Considerations when buying a Chameleon

Things to Know Before Buying a Chameleon

Chameleons are captivating creatures that can change color, move their eyes independently of each other, and catch prey with their long, sticky tongues. It is no wonder that so many are keen to keep these exotic reptiles as pets.

If you are considering offering a home to a chameleon, keep in mind that these reptiles have unique habitat and feeding requirements that make them more difficult to care for than some other small or exotic pets. Let’s look at five important things to consider before buying a chameleon.

Chameleons Need Specialized Housing

Chameleon sleeping on a branch

Kameleon007 / Getty Images

This reptile requires specific conditions to stay healthy and happy, therefore providing a suitable cage setup is no small task.

Chameleons live in the trees, which means their tall enclosure must include a large number of branches and plants to provide the dense foliage that these reptiles have in their natural habitats. Doing this helps them feel secure, offers them an opportunity to explore and hide, and minimizes stress.

A typical setup should be at least 3 x 3 x 4 feet. Ideally, the cage should be tall and positioned higher up (like on a table, rather than on the floor). This will help your chameleon to have a preferred, more elevated vantage point.

Branches and plants are not all that is needed. Chameleons also require extra supplies like a UVA/UVB light source, thermometers, humidity gauges, and misters or drip systems.

These extra supplies can easily add up in cost, so be sure to calculate how much your desired setup will cost. Some can get quite pricey.

Chameleons Require Live Food and Regular Misting

Chameleon eating a cricket

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A simple food dish and water bowl won’t work for this exotic pet. Just as their cage must be as close to their natural habitat as possible, so must their food and water supply.

Chameleons eat a diet of live gut loaded bugs. This means you will need to have a supply of crickets, mealworms, or wax worms on hand. Additionally, you may need to dust the insects with supplements to ensure that your chameleon is getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

As for water, chameleons drink from water droplets that condense on leaves. Therefore, regular misting is required to ensure your chameleon is properly hydrated. This can be done by hand, but automatic misters can also be used.

Chameleons Are Not Cuddly Pets

Close up of a chameleon on a woman's hand

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These eye-catching pets are best kept for observation, not for handling.

Chameleons are solitary animals that do not like much handling or company. In most cases, it is very important that you house only one chameleon to prevent fights and stress. Males can be particularly violent to other males.

Chameleons are rather calm animals when in solitary settings, however. They are slow-moving and fascinating to watch.

Chameleons are not very vocal about disliking a situation. When a chameleon is stressed it will most likely freeze or open its mouth, but it does not lash out or squirm. Therefore, when inexperienced chameleon owners try to handle their chameleons and see this behavior, many can confuse it with acceptance rather than stress. Learning a chameleon’s habits and nature can help you properly read signs of distress or happiness.

A Good Cage Cleaning Routine is Required

Chameleon in its enclosure sleeping

slavadubrovin / Getty Images

As with any animal that lives within a cage, there are cleaning requirements. To keep your chameleon healthy and happy, there are simple cleaning routines that can be done daily, as well as deeper cleanings weekly and yearly.

For daily cleaning, a simple spot clean is best. Remove any dead insects or poop and wipe down any stubborn areas.

On a weekly basis, you will need to wipe out the cage more thoroughly, including a quick wipe-down of the plants and branches within the cage.

At least once per year, it is best to move your chameleon to a safe, secure area so you can completely take apart the cage. This allows you to soak any branches or accessories, thoroughly wipe plants, and wash the inside of the cage.

Chameleons Can Easily Become Stressed

Close up of a chamelon on a branch in an enclosure

Haje Jan Kamps / EyeEm / Getty Images

Chameleons are highly susceptible to stress, but their displays of anxiety can easily be missed or misunderstood. It is very important to be able to understand when your chameleon is anxious since elevated stress-levels can make these pets more prone to illness or disease. You should also minimize handling and changes in the environment.

You should buy a chameleon raised in captivity, rather than attempt to tame a wild-caught chameleon. Chameleons, in general, do not adapt well to captivity or changes in their environment, and this is especially true of wild-caught chameleons that are forced into a new, captive environment. On top of this, wild-caught chameleons can also have other health problems, such as parasites.

Females chameleons can be prone to extra stress from egg-laying and may be more prone to sicknesses. Male chameleons usually live longer.

Other common health issues for chameleons may include calcium and vitamin A deficiencies, stomatitis, and metabolic bone disease.

A chameleon’s care requirements are more detailed than many other pets. Therefore, the decision to bring one into your home should be carefully evaluated.

However, with the proper knowledge and setup, chameleons can be extremely enjoyable pets that offer endless amounts of wonder to your daily life.

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