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Is A Pet Chameleon Right For Your Family?

So, you are wondering if pet chameleons are a good family pet? You came to the right place!

Well, you will be happy to know that yes – chameleons can make a great pet, but there are a lot of things you should know before jumping in to get one of these reptiles.

A chameleon is a reptile and they are not a good option for every home as their care requirements are not as simple as you may think.

Then there is the decision whether to buy or adopt one from a Reptile Rescue – if you know us you know we recommend you adopt a pet chameleon – not buy one!

Let’s kick off this article with the pros and cons of having a pet chameleon – then we will follow up with some general information to help you decide if it is a good option for you to own a chameleon.

PROS

  • This a reptile that has little energy so they need less in terms of habitat and entertainment.
  • Many types of chameleons can live up around 10 years – meaning you will have your friend for a while.
  • No noise! They are a quiet pet.

CONS

  • Diet needs are very specific for a healthy happy chameleon.
  • Specific temperature needs for different breeds.
  • Health issues can be hard to address without a local vet who has experience.
  • Habitat environment needs can be costly as they need items like tree branches and a stable humidity level.

So, generally speaking if you are a first time pet owner – we would NOT recommend you start with a chameleon as a pet.

Can You Bond With A Chameleon?

If you are looking for a pet chameleon to bond with – then this is probably not the right pet for you. They require a lot of care – but you will not get the reward of snuggles or admiration from these guys like you would a dog or sometimes a cat (we know they can be loners too!).

There is an interesting thread about whether or not chameleons can show affection to owners you can read to learn more about this!

What Are Common Types Of Chameleons?

There are several species of chameleons and understanding the differences in each of these species will help you pick the right chameleon for your family! While the information below is general – you will want to do a deeper dive into finding out more about the specific breed you are interested in to ensure you can meet their unique needs.

Veiled Chameleon

The most popular species for those looking to own a chameleon as a pet! The Veiled Chameleon is known for its ability to adapt well to more captive conditions than some of their counterparts. They can also change colors based on their mood or temperature of their enclosure. The beautiful blue and green colors will magically change before your eyes!

This species typically live for about 6-8 years as a pet and male veiled chameleons have been known to grow up to a foot long – which is pretty big and will require a larger enclosure!

veiled chameleon pet
image credit: Vaughan Leiberum/Flickr

Senegal Chameleon

These are a more difficult species to keep as a pet due to their high sensitivity to change.

They are smaller than the Veiled breed typically only measuring up to 8 inches in length and live no more than 5 years on average.

senegal chameleon pet
image credit: Philip Gould

Jackson’s Chameleon

One of the cooler looking chameleons in our opinion because this one features horns on the males! The breed does not particularly care for being handled and can become stressed if they are so these are a breed that you are better watching than touching.

They can grow to 8 to 12 inches and males can typically live 8-10 years while females 3-5 years. It is recommended only one adult should be in an enclosure that should be roughly 18″ x 18″ x 48″ in size.

Jackson Chameleon as a pet
image credit: Nany Merolle/Flickr

Panther Chameleon

Last, but certainly not least is the Panther Chameleon which is the brightest colored of the bunch! You can see beautiful colors ranging from green to yellow to orange! The typical length of a male panther chameleon is 12 to 18 inches and 10 to 14 inches for a female panther chameleon.

Males can weight about 140-170 grams on average and females from 70-100 grams.

The typical life span for a panther chameleon is 5 to 7 years if they are well cared for.

Panther chameleon as a pet.
image credit: Andreina Schoeberlein/Flickr

Interested in seeing how one of these guys changes colors?

This video is an amazing journey watching a panther chameleon change from green to bright yellow – they sped up the video as it does take a while in real life to happen, but the process is amazing!

Important Pet Chameleon Information

Housing & Care Tips For Chameleons

While each species of chameleon requires variations in their housing and care needs – there are some general concepts that remain the same for all.

  1. Because in nature chameleons live in trees, their enclosure or habitat needs to be rather large and include enough foliage and even tree branches for elements and climbing elements to keep them happy.
  2. Make sure the foliage is not toxic as they are known to eat some foliage.
  3. Ventilation for chameleons is critical to allow fresh air to get through their habitat.
  4. Variations of temperature within the habitat to allow the chameleon to enjoy varying temperatures will also keep them happy. Typically ranges from 50 to 70 degrees fahrenheit are a good range.
  5. Each species has unique needs in terms of humidity and temperature so be sure you learn about these needs for the breed you decide to get.
  6. A mister or drip system is best for their water needs since chameleons do not drink from bowls or water bottles. If this is not an option – sometimes ice cubes on a screen at the top of the cage – letting the droplets drip through to the leaves can work too.
  7. Typically – chameleons enjoy a variety of insects as their main source of food like worms, crickets, wax moths etc. On occasion they may also enjoy small bits of veggies like lettuce of spinach – and some enjoy small bits of fruit. But make sure you read up on the breed you decide to get to ensure they are getting the right nutrients!
  8. Chameleons should be alone in their habitat – they are a solitary creature.
  9. Their home should be away from busy areas of the home to help prevent stress.
  10. You should try to find a veterinarian that has experience with reptiles to ensure their health is properly assessed and maintained.

You may have some trouble finding local stores that offer what your chameleon needs to stay happy and healthy, but Chewy offers a large selection of food and habitat needs to make sure you have one happy pet!

FAQ About Chameleons

Where Can I Learn More About Chameleons?

Great question! We hope you will take some time to learn more about them before deciding to add one to your family! We also hope you will talk to those that have experience with this species so they can really offer you the best way to bring a chameleon into your home.

1 | Chameleon Education & Outreach Inc. (ChamEO)

This nonprofit organization is solely dedicated to helping chameleon lovers learn more about them and how to properly care for them. They also take in chameleons and do rehabilitation then adopt them to great new homes!

They are located in Woodland Hills, CA and you can visit them online here.

2 | Chameleon Forums

Yep – a forum just for chameleon owners and lovers. It is a fairly active forum that covers everything from care to photographing your chameleon. We highly recommend reviewing these forums before making a decision on the breed you want – and if it really is the right pet for your family!

You can visit the forums here.

3 | Books

There are a few great books out there to help you learn more about these amazing creatures before you decide to get one to make sure it is right for you!

Both of the books below give an overview of the different breeds and general care.

Chameleons: Care and Breeding of Jackson’s, Panther, Veiled and Parson’s

Chameleon Handbook

Can I Rescue A Chameleon?

As with just about any domestic animal – there are opportunities for you to rescue a chameleon as opposed to buying one. Many will recommend buying a captive bred chameleon if you do decide to purchase one, but we always recommend adopting.

Because chameleons do require very special care and equipment to keep them healthy and happy and sometimes owners do not realize how much work they are, they give them up to rescues.

The bonus of adopting is that most rescues will make sure the chameleon is healthy and have them throughly vetted before adopting them out so you can be assured you are getting the healthiest pet possible.

1. ChamEO as noted above does offer adoptions – you can learn more about the chameleon adoption process here.
2. Sunnyside Lizard Rescue is located in Hastings/East Sussex England and you can visit them online here.
3. While we do not love this option – you can check Craigslist or Reddit to see of others are giving their chameleons away. Many posts we found around the web showed people acquiring their chameleons this way.
4. Check out local Pet Expo’s or fairs that are pet related and you may find reptile rescues exhibiting to get more information and possible adopt.

We love this story from a couple of years ago about the heroes that saved over 100 chameleons and geckos – it is people like this that you want to seek out so you can adopt!

Realize A Chameleon May Not Be Right For You?

If your answer to the question “do chameleons make good pets” is no for your family, you can still help them in other ways! Donate to a local rescue – or even something simple like sharing a post can make a huge difference.

There is also the Adopt A Chameleon campaign from the World Animal Foundation that allows you to “adopt” a chameleon. In return you can feel good about doing good for them and you will receive a Chameleon Kit with a photo of a chameleon you are helping! This is also a great gift idea for the animal lover in your life.

Are Chameleons Good Pets?

For the right home, yes – chameleons can be good pets!

While I would not recommend them for a first time pet owner – If you read all of the above and are willing to do what is needed to keep your chameleons happy and healthy – then go ahead and adopt one. They may not be as cuddly and playful as other pets, but they have their own unique qualities that will keep you entertained and amazed.

Do you own and love a chameleon?

Please feel free to tell us about your chameleons! The best way to learn is from those that own one.

Think we missed something important in this article – do tell and we will be glad to update it!

chameleons as pets

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2 thoughts on “Is A Pet Chameleon Right For Your Family?”

    • Hi Priscilla, I would reach out the organization you are looking to adopt from for more detailed information as they would be the best to guide you. Good luck!

      Reply

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