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Can I Keep A Pet Chameleon?

Updated on May 9, 2019
Jana Louise Smit profile image

Jana worked in animal welfare with abused and unwanted pets. She loves sharing her hands-on experience regarding domestic and wild critters.


They are Kept as Pets

The chameleon is a firm favorite of reptile lovers. Yes, they are indeed kept as pets. However, this does not mean that all of the animals are kept legally or correctly. On the other hand, there are many owners who are the perfect guardian of a chameleon; they know just how much and what to feed the critter, how much attention is enough and stay within the legal side of this business.

Check with the Law

Before purchasing a chameleon, find out if your regional laws allow them as pets. Many places forbid certain species of chameleon while allowing others to be kept with permits. Some places have no laws against keeping them.

Are You Compatible?

Another thing to consider beforehand is your reasons for wanting a chameleon. If you like taking care of a reptile, have always admired the biology and looks of chameleons and you're fine with a pet that doesn't much care for you, then you are on the right track.

However, one must be realistic should those reasons include affection. It is perfectly fine to show your pet chameleon affection by letting it walk on your arm and giving it healthy snacks. But it will not appreciate being treated like a mammal. Repetitive stroking or too much handling could cause it a lot of stress. For its part, the chameleon will also not show its owner any sign of love. The closest you can hope for is for the animal to display a tame nature.

Gentle Handling Required

A chameleon that is stressed or frightened might bite. Stay patient and gentle when handling one and don't overdo it.
A chameleon that is stressed or frightened might bite. Stay patient and gentle when handling one and don't overdo it. | Source

Diseases and Injuries

Chameleons are hardy creatures, but they can and do get sick. Familiarize yourself with the most common illnesses and injuries and make preparations beforehand. Preparations can include first-aid items and “baby-proofing” the animal's living quarters. Additionally, a reptile is an exotic pet. They need specialized vets and that too can be costly. One must be prepared for this as well.

The Living Area

The chameleon home needs air, correct heating, plants, and water. Never use an aquarium to house one of these animals. They need an airy environment and a screen-type cage is best. It needs to be large, to accommodate sturdy plants and a stimulating space for your pet to explore. The heating must be safe and the temperatures correct for the different seasons, day and night time. You need to stay on top of the humidity as well. Never let it go above 40 percent or drop below 30. It is also best to keep only one chameleon per cage. They are territorial and fights get ugly.

Food and Water

Chameleons drink water from leaves, twigs and other surfaces. One can provide water by using a mister to dispense water onto plants. Their food won't be available in the pet aisle at the local store. Chameleons love insects, but some research is required to make sure that your specific species get their natural prey and a balanced mix of multivitamins.

They Forage For Water

In their natural environment, chameleons lap up    drops of rain and dew that they find on leaves.
In their natural environment, chameleons lap up drops of rain and dew that they find on leaves. | Source

Where to Buy a Chameleon

After you've done the research and decided you still have the commitment, time and money to invest in this exotic pet, then it's time to buy. For a first time owner with no connections, this could be daunting. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Never take a chameleon out of the wild. This is unethical, messes with their natural population and the stress could kill it
  • There are many people who sell chameleons, but illegally. Buying from such a fraudster, even unknowingly, could get you into serious trouble
  • Join reptile groups and start talking to people. Some clubs and forums are priceless sources of knowledge and breeders
  • The golden rule is to be patient and get confirmation that the breeder is ethical and legal
  • Avoid ordering online if it means the animal must be mailed. If it arrives dead, the seller probably won't refund you and a chameleon has unnecessarily died in the process
  • Don't be disheartened if you cannot immediately find a good seller. Take the time to make connections, prepare the cage, and brush up on your own expertise.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2019 Jana Louise Smit


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