Animals / Reptiles / Interesting and useful

Do chameleons make good pets?

The word, “Chameleon” comes from the Greek words, “chamai” and “leon”, meaning “earth lion”, and they come from the lizard family. Chameleons come in all shapes and sizes, with great variation. Their lengths can range from a mere one inch (2.5 cm) to thirty inches (76 cm) long.

Chameleons have become popular as exotic pets because of their characteristic color-changing capability. The purpose of this color change is for communication, and to regulate body temperature.

Some baby chameleons are grey or brown in color. Others, like the most commonly Veiled Chameleon, can be purple at hatching and then quickly turn green. Chameleons have the ability to change colors the same day they hatch. (They may even be capable to do so while still in the egg.) The color spectrum ranges with variations of green, black, turquoise and blue green. Some colors reveal their emotional levels, such as stress, sense of temperature change, excitement and to communicate with other chameleons. Brighter colors exhibit good mood, while darker colors such as black, grey and brown depict stress. Few other colors are seen.

They have five toes on each foot, with three of them facing forward, and 2 facing away from mid line, helping them get a firm grip while climbing trees and branches. In the wild, chameleons spend most of their lives in treetops. Some chameleons have prehensile tails which also help them get a good grip and help with balance.

Chameleons have the ability to rotate their eyes in two different directions, and both eyes are independent of each other. They can rotate their eyes to get a panoramic view.

Chameleons are insectivores. In captivity they eat: crickets, dubias, silkworms, hornworms, flies, and more. A few species also supplement their diet with fruits and leaves, but it is a very small percentage of the diet. In the wild a large chameleon would even eat small birds and other lizards.

It’s easy to see why people find chameleons fascinating and want to keep them as pets. A word of caution though. Chameleons are very difficult to maintain and inexperienced reptile owners should not start with this reptile. Having said that, they are also not the most difficult exotic pet to take care of.

Chameleons don’t cuddle. If you’re looking for cuddly pet or one that likes to be held, then look elsewhere.

Wild reptiles are more than likely to be infected with parasites. If you do insist on getting a chameleon, buy one from a respected breeder. Avoid the big chain stores. While selecting the pet chameleon, it is important to determine the health of the animal. The chameleon should be active and look healthy, and their colors should be bright.

The most popular species that are kept as pets are Panther Chameleons, Veiled Chameleons and Jackson’s Chameleons. Chameleons basically are solitary animals and they shouldn’t be kept with other pets. It is a very bad idea to keep two male chameleons together as they will fight and injure each other. They should be put in a cage with a lot of foliage to climb and to provide privacy.

In a nutshell, chameleons make good pets, but please don’t be in a rush to get one before you have thoroughly research their care requirements. They come with a price, meaning their initial equipment is pricey, and their ongoing care can be as well. They need housing, lighting, heating, specific water needs, food, vet visits. Talk to experienced reptile owners before you decide.

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