Do your kids want a pet chameleon?
Have you always been interested in these animals, and are finally ready to bring one into your home?
If you are considering adding a chameleon to your home, you might wonder:
How hard is it to take care of a chameleon?
Chameleons are fascinating creatures, and understandably, they are gaining popularity as pets, but they are not the easiest pet to care for. They can be difficult, and owning one is not recommended as a starter reptile for inexperienced or first-time reptile owners. Caring for chameleons is made easier if you have the proper set up to start.
For more information on taking care of chameleons, keep reading this article.
How Hard Is It To Take Care Of A Chameleon?
It is no wonder chameleons are becoming a popular choice for pets.
They are colorful, interesting, and so different from other pets.
If you are new to reptiles, a chameleon might seem like a cool pet, but the truth is they are a bit challenging when it comes to their care and general maintenance.
We don’t recommend taking on these reptiles straight out of the gate, as they are tricky even for experienced reptile enthusiasts.
These animals are fragile, shy, and solitary creatures, who have very specific needs.
If those needs are not fulfilled and the animal not well cared for, it can become stressed, sick, and even die very quickly.
There are over 180 species of chameleons, and only a few of them thrive in captivity.
If you are committed to caring for these animals, the care won’t be exceptionally difficult, but they truly are a commitment.
Caring for a chameleon, like with most pets, is made easier if you have proper equipment and knowledge from the beginning.
Do your research on the requirements for a proper enclosure, equipment, and food before you purchase a chameleon.
This will provide you with a good base as you begin to care for your new chameleon.
Chameleon Set Up
If you have the proper set up for your chameleon, it is much easier to care for the animal.
Chameleons are highly susceptible to illness, and most often, these illnesses are caused by mistakes you can inadvertently make.
Proper Housing For A Chameleon
In the wild, chameleons will be found primarily living exclusively in trees.
If you decide to become the owner of a chameleon, make sure their enclosure has plenty of branches for climbing and foliage for privacy.
Enclosures have to be large, with ample ventilation and temperature variations, to house this reptile.
They require a misting or drip system to ensure they stay hydrated, as chameleons will not drink their water from a bowl.
Dehydration is a common problem with chameleons, which can cause health problems and a shortened life.
With an automatic misting system, it is also a problem with an easy solution.
For their lighting, chameleons need to have exposure to both UVA and UVB rays to stay healthy and happy.
Feeding Your Chameleon
Besides lighting, feeding your chameleon is one of the biggest challenges.
Chameleons, for the most part, survive on a variety of insects.
There are some, like the veiled chameleon, which will eat leafy greens, and some larger species can be fed a pinkie, a small baby mouse with soft bones.
Pinkies offer variety and the occasional protein boost, but they should only be fed to large chameleons and never feed your pet anything larger.
Because they like a varied diet of insects daily, you will basically have to have an insect farm in your house.
These insects remain alive and are put into the cage alive for the chameleon to catch with their long, sticky tongue.
Their favorites and the main staple of their diet will be crickets, but other insects they enjoy include flies, grasshoppers, mealworms, and cockroaches, to name a few.
Variety is important to maintain proper nutrition, so have different insects readily available to feed them.
You will need to properly gut load the insects, and even dust them with supplements before feeding them to your chameleon.
With gut loading, you are feeding the insects nutritious food, so when your chameleon eats them, the good nutrition is passed along to your pet.
Insects are purchased at the pet store or from an online or mail order insect supplier.
With those suppliers, you will have access to a wider variety of insects; you might not be able to find at a local pet store.
In captivity, your chameleon most likely will not get all the vitamins and other nutrients they need to survive.
You will need to dust the insects you feed to them with supplements.
Calcium is a common supplement you will find available for dusting.
This must be done multiple times per week, depending on the age of your chameleon and even on their stage of life.
If you have a female chameleon who is about to lay eggs, she will require additional supplements to maintain her health.
In the wild chameleons only live a few years, because of disease, parasites and natural predators.
In captivity, your chameleon is expected to have a longer life.
For males, their lifespan increases to as long as eight to 10 years with some species, but females have a shortened lifespan.
Even in captivity, females will only live four or five years, and researchers suggest this is because they are weakened due to the stress and energy required to produce the next generation.
With proper care and supplements, her lifespan will be extended by a few years.
Like any animal, for both male and female chameleons, quality care will help them stay healthy and extend their life.
Chameleons are shy and easily stressed animals.
They prefer to live a more solitary lifestyle, being around other members of their species only during breeding.
Chameleons, especially males, are extremely territorial and will get aggressive towards each other, so if you have multiple chameleons, keep them in separate cages and out of sight of each other.
Do not get frustrated when you put a lot of care and effort into these animals, and they do not want to be held, petted, or cuddled.
They simply are not social creatures and are not going to give you the companionship you might want.
Some chameleons, like Jackson’s chameleon, can learn to tolerate being held and even gentle petting under their chin or on their back, but they are going to let you know when they don’t want your attention or have had enough.
Which Chameleon Species Do Well As Pets?
Not all chameleons make good pets.
Of the over 160 species identified by researchers, only a handful are even available for you to purchase.
Some chameleons do not have the kind of disposition you would want to see in a pet.
They can be aggressive towards you or other animals.
Other chameleons require such a specialized environment, making it difficult to recreate and maintain in your home.
Without the proper environment, the chameleon cannot hope to survive.
We have included a list of chameleon species which will do best as pets:
- Carpet Chameleon
- Fischer’s Chameleon
- Flap-Necked Chameleon
- Four-Horned Chameleon
- Jackson’s Chameleon
- Meller’s Chameleon
- Panther Chameleon
- Veiled Chameleon
Veiled chameleons are among the most popular and are among the hardiest of chameleon species, making them a great choice for new chameleon pet owners.
Despite this list, remember, chameleons are relatively new to being domesticated.
These semi-domesticated animals have only been bred in captivity for a short period.
Some might still show signs of aggression, and they are not keen on being held and cuddled, opting instead for a solitary lifestyle, like their wild counterparts.
Where To Get A Chameleon
If you are experienced with reptiles or have decided to commit to the challenges raising chameleons brings, where to find one might be your next question.
There are a few options for you if you are looking for a new chameleon.
Breeders are an excellent place to start, as they will have detailed records on the animal and you will
Remember, there are only a few species available as pets, and it is illegal in most places to catch and transport wild chameleons.
Besides purchasing your chameleon from a breeder, these animals are found at specialty pet stores, reptile shows, and even rescue centers.
Chameleons have such amazing characteristics, and it is no wonder they are becoming more and more popular pet choices.
While they are fascinating, they are difficult to care for and maintain, which makes them a better option for a more experienced reptile owner.
If you are looking for a pet to handle daily with lower maintenance, there are other options instead of a chameleon, but if you are up for the challenge, there are plenty of resources to help.
We hope after reading this article, you have a better idea about the challenges coming from making a chameleon your pet.