Chameleons are fascinating, that is true. With their crazy eyes and their ability to change color, it is not a wonder why so many people want to get one at home. And they are right, as they make absolutely adorable pets. But they are actually not that easy to take care of, and if you never had any reptiles at home, you should probably try with an easier species. Still, if you want to get a chameleon as a pet, here are the basic information you need to take care of it at best.
Few facts before we start
Just so you know, the word chameleon comes from the Greek chamai and leon, which literally means the lion from Earth. These exotic reptiles come from the lizard family and the most likely species you will find in pet stores are the Panther, the Veiled and the Jackson’s chameleons, as they are the ones that are the most commonly kept as pets.
Chameleons’ ability to change color
If so many people want to get a chameleon as a pet, it is because of their fascination for its ability to change color. But why did Nature gifted it with this incredible feature? Not to have people staring at it constantly, no. They can change their color for two specific reasons:
Regulating their body temperature
A chameleon changing color may indicate a change in surrounding temperature, as it will, thanks to its modified color, warm up or cool down. Have you ever tried to wear a black shirt in a hot summer day? Now you understand…
Communicating with other chameleons and sharing its emotions
Another reason why chameleon can change color, it to communicate with other chameleon, but also, and this will be very helpful if you get one as a pet, to tell his feeling. Generally bright colors indicate that it is in a quite positive mood, as darker colors would rather tell that it feels a negative way, mainly being stressed. This may happen when you clean its tank for instance.
Significant facts about its physical appearance
Chameleons size can vary a lot, from only a couple to more than 75 centimeters. But that is without counting with their tongue, that can stretch up to 1,5 time the length of their body ! Speaking of their head, they are provided with eyes that are independent of each other, allowing them a full panoramic view.
Wild chameleons live mostly in forests, mainly on top of trees. That is why Nature gifted them with a prehensile tail that helps them to get a strong grip on branches. It also gives them their balance, a little like rats.
They also are provided with five toes on each foot – until there, nothing special about it –, unless as three of them are facing forward, the two other are facing away from mid-line. This also gives them a strong grip while climbing.
What to feed a chameleon?
A chameleon is insectivore, meaning he mostly eats insects. Its favorite is definitely crickets, which you can breed at home (follow our guide). You can also give it some worms and flies, but also fruits and vegetable in small quantity. In the wild, the biggest species would even eat little birds and smaller types of lizards.
What you should know about chameleons’ behavior
Like bearded dragons, chameleons are not cuddly at all. If you were looking for a new pet to play with your children, you made the wrong choice. They do not love to be pet, or held, or even simply disturbed. Also, they don’t like noise that much, so make sure to provide them with a quiet environment and do not bother them unless you have to.
Chameleons are solitary pets, don’t mix them with other animals, nor even with other chameleons. They need a tank of their own as they would probably fight if they share it with another one, in which case both would probably end up injured.
What are chameleons’ common health issues?
When you get your chameleon, make sure to buy it from a conscientious seller as big pet chain stores usually don’t take that much of a great care of them. The most common issue would be your chameleon to be infected with parasites. To make sure your pet is in good health when you buy it, make sure it is active and shows a bright coloration.
What environment do they need?
Choose a tank at least 5 times its size in length and 3 times in height and width. Make sure to provide it with enough hiding places to guarantee its privacy, and enough climbing material so it can exercise enough.
Chameleons can make great pets, but they are not the easiest to take care of, so make sure to get enough advice from experienced owners or specialized sources before buying one. Also, be prepared to spend some money to get it a comfortable environment, which is essential to its happiness and well-being, as well as its long lifespan.