Tips for Finding a Caretaker for Your Chameleon

Canvas Chameleons - Ambanja - Panther - Fireworks

Ambilobe Sire Bolt (4)There will come a day when you will need to head out of town. Whether it is for business, pleasure or a medical emergency, the option to bring your chameleon with you is likely not there. So, what is a responsible chameleon caretaker to do?

It’s simple! You will need to find a pet sitter. Whether you are looking to have a friend or family member take over as temporary caretakers, or you are looking to hire a professional, setting your sitter up for success is important. Not only will it make things easier on the sitter and your chameleon, you will have the additional peace of mind that proper preparations have been completed.

Choosing your Chameleon’s Caretaker

There are a few key factors when choosing a pet sitter. Whether they are a friend doing you a favor or a professional, the most important thing is that they are comfortable with reptiles. Ideally, they may have experience of their own, but, if not, making sure they aren’t afraid to do what needs to be done is critical. Additionally, the caretaker will need to be comfortable handling your chameleon’s cuisine (in this case, live crickets) if they will need to handle any feeding responsibilities.

Your next focus should be on finding someone responsible who can follow specific instructions. Even if the sitter has previous experience in the handling and care of reptiles, not all reptiles have the same requirements. Even more so, not every chameleon will have the same needs. If there are specific rituals or requirements for your chameleon’s care, make sure you feel confident the person can follow them to the letter.

If you have no idea where to begin your hunt for your ideal caretaker, speak to your veterinarian of choice. They may have connections to help you locate someone who can handle the job well. Alternatively, there are numerous websites listing pet sitters and the services they offer. Some even come with built in reference checking, background checks, and user reviews. This can help you get moving in the right direction.

Preparing for your Chameleon’s Needs

Prior to your departure, take the time to make sure your pet sitter will have access to all of the materials they need. Make sure there is enough food available, or sufficient funds and instructions on how to obtain some. Take the time to make sure your chameleon’s habitat is cleaned prior to your trip, and provide specific instructions on any cleaning duties that may be required.

It may be worth setting up any lights of lamps used for your chameleon’s comfort set on timers, as this fairly easy to setup (you can find timers at most supercenters or home improvement stores) will alleviate one duty for the pet sitter.

Preparing your Pet Sitter

Anywhere from one week to a few days before your departure, have your chosen caretaker come by to go over the information. If this is the first time they will be meeting your chameleon, this gives them a chance to see them in their normal state and may make for an easier introduction. Show them where any pertinent written instructions are kept, as well as any emergency numbers and your contact information. Provide them with a written letter (and send a copy to your veterinarian) giving them the authority to bring your chameleon in should they become ill or injured in your absence. Give the sitter the opportunity to ask any questions they may have, and be sure you answer them to their satisfaction.

Now that you have taken the time to locate an ideal pet sitter, and made every attempt to make sure they are confident they will be successful, it is time to head out on your trip. Before you go, don’t be afraid to ask the pet sitter to go through your instructions with you one more time, ensuring they have an additional opportunity to ask any last minute questions, confirm contact information, and then be on your way. You’ll sleep sounder knowing you have done the best you can for your chameleon, helping to ensure he or she is a healthy and happy critter in your absence.

Do Chameleons REALLY Change Color to Match their Environment?

Canvas Chameleons - Ambanja - Panther - Wild Caught

It’s a long-standing belief that chameleons change their appearance through controlling pigments within their skin, similar to how an octopus or squid can. Recently, it has been determined that this is NOT how a chameleon adjusts its color. In fact, it is much cooler than that.

A chameleon’s skin is quite unique from other color-changing creatures. Instead of adjusting pigment within the cells, a chameleon’s skin changes how it reflects light. These changes cause the color of the chameleon to appear different when observed.

This doesn’t mean that a chameleon’s skin has no color of its own. The base pigment in the skin cells actually affect, and limit, the colors a chameleon may appear to be. When their skin was studied, it was seen that the chameleon has two thick layers of iridophore cells. Iridophore cells are iridescent, having both their own color as well as the ability to reflect light.

How Iridophore Cells Work

Inside the iridophore cells are nanocrystals. The nanocrystals may be arranged in different patterns with varying sizes and shapes. When stimulated, such as by a loud startling noise or a change in temperature, the skin may go from a relaxed state to an excited state. This change in state is ultimately what causes the color to change.

When in a relaxed state, the nanocrystals are very close together within the iridophore cells. This leads them to reflect shorter wavelengths of light, resulting in a cooler color such as blue. In the excited state, the nanocrystals spread out. The increase of space leads to the iridophore cells to reflect longer wavelengths resulting in colors such as yellow and red.

Can Chameleons Use Iridophore Cells to Turn Any Color?

While their specialized cells give them the ability to reflect a wide range of wavelengths, resulting in a wide spectrum of color, the color we see is limited based on the chameleon’s base pigment. For example, if a chameleon is in a relaxed state, reflecting shorter blue wavelengths, but the cells base pigment is a yellowish hue, then the chameleon’s skin will appear to be a shade of green…an ideal shade for hiding in the trees and plants of their native lands.

Should that same chameleon become excited, such as if another chameleon comes into his territory, the changes in the nanocrystals will cause the light to reflect different and our well-hidden green chameleon may seem bright yellow or orange. This serves as a warning to the rival male that he is unwelcome in our chameleon’s territory.

Does this Mean Chameleons Do Not Change to Fit the Environment?

In fact, it does mean they do not change color to fit their environment. Instead, a chameleon’s coloring when their skin is relaxed is often designed to go well with their natural environment, making them harder to spot by predators and prey alike. Their excited coloring is used when they are stimulated. Whether they are threatening an intruder, threatened by a predator, or attempting to attract a mate, the brighter colors are designed to draw attention and not to match their current environment.