Yes, chameleons make good pets. But they are not for everyone. You should never take a new pet home without first learning as much as you can about them, and this is true for chameleons. As pets, these reptiles are quite hard to maintain. They require specific care, and the quality of care you provide them will determine how long they would live.
If you are up to the challenge, keep on reading to discover how you should handle chameleons.
Basic Facts About Chameleons
Chameleons are more than a color-shifting creature. Here are some chameleon facts that will be helpful for you.
• The word chameleon is derived from the Greek words chamai and leon, which translates to earth lion. They belong to the lizard family.
• There are more than 200 species of chameleons. The largest of them is the Parson’s chameleon that can range anywhere from 1-30 inches in length. It also has the longest lifespan, living from 5-10 years.
• They make great exotic pets because of their color-changing ability. Interestingly, they use this capability to communicate and regulate body temperature. Some colors may also show their emotional levels, such as stress and excitement.
• They have long tongues that can stretch up to one and a half-length of their body.
• They can rotate their eyes in two different directions and get a panoramic view.
• They are insectivores. They eat crickets, silkworms, flies, and hornworms, to name a few. But, few species also eat fruits and leaves in small quantities.
How to Take Care of Chameleons
In a nutshell, chameleons require housing, lighting, heating, water, and food. They also need occasional vet visits. Here are the specific details.
Chameleons are arboreal—they live only in trees. You should set them up in large cages with abundant foliage for climbing and privacy. Sufficient ventilation is necessary, too. Your best option would be a cage that is screened on three sides with several basking areas, preferably with various temperatures. It pays to know the chameleon you are looking to breed as their preferences in their habitat may differ.
Chameleons need exposure to both UVA and UVB rays to process calcium. It is better to expose them to natural sunlight through open windows to make sure that the glass doesn’t filter out the necessary UV radiation. You should also invest in UVB lights and keep them on for a maximum of 10 hours a day.
You should also put on a low wattage heat bulb as chameleons like a little drop in temperature at night.
As said above, chameleons feed on a wide range of insects. You can try feeding as many types of insects as possible to them, including super worms, wax worms, cockroaches, and mealworms. Occasionally, you can also offer them fruits and vegetables, but give them in small amounts.
Keep them hydrated as well. But, you should know that chameleons don’t just take water from a dish. Instead, they get their water from droplets. You can purchase a drip system or fashion one using a water container with a pinhole and place them above the cage.
Chameleons may suffer from vitamin A and calcium deficiencies as results of poor diet. They are also prone to mouth rot (stomatitis), which symptoms include redness around the mouth and excessive drooling.
They should be checked-up at least every 6-12 months. Whenever they look ill or stressed, it is also necessary to consult a vet.
Chameleons can be quite territorial and aggressive. They are solitary, too, so they should not be around other pets. It is better not to keep two male chameleons together as well, as they are bound to fight and injure one another.
Keep in mind as well that as pets, it is better to give chameleons some privacy. They are more suited to be watched rather than handled—regular handling can be stressful for them.
How Often Should You Handle a Chameleon?
Now, you may wonder how often you should handle a chameleon. It is going to be different with different types of chameleon—what one may tolerate, the other may not. They will send you signals if holding them stresses them, such as hissing or turning color. They may even move away, too. Remember, chameleons are shy and solitary creatures, so they are not as open to receiving such attention. They may tolerate handling, but that doesn’t mean they want it.
Chameleons make good pets, but please do not get one unless you are prepared to look after them and provide all their needs. Aside from being high maintenance, chameleons as pets can be quite expensive. So, you not only have to be mentally and physically ready but financially-prepared as well.
Already have a chameleon? Tell us about it and don’t forget to share this article online!