Pets and Improved Mental Health: It’s Not Just for Cats and Dogs

It is fairly well-known that having a pet can provide significant mental health benefits. But, when we read the studies or see the news clips, the coverage mostly relates to owning cats or dogs, and not often more exotic pets like chameleons. However, owning any pet can be beneficial to your mental health. And that includes our unique chameleon friends.

So, how can owning a chameleon help your mental health? Let me count the ways!

1. Pets Soothe and Relax

Most studies show that pet owners have lower blood pressure and heart rates when dealing with challenging mental stresses. This could pertain to everyday situations like paying bills, helping children with their homework, or watching your favorite sports team getting knocked out of the playoffs. Just their presence can relax and soothe their owners, regardless of whether they are of the furry variety or not.

In fact, one piece of research demonstrated a connection between lower stress and simply watching a fish tank, even when the fish didn’t belong to the individual being observed. And, if you want to talk about a pet that can’t provide physical affection, then a fish is likely the epitome of that. Yet, their presence is enough to cause a positive reaction.

2. Pets Don’t Judge

Another benefit that applies to any pet, including chameleons, is that they don’t judge their owners. There is no negative feedback about the decisions you made, the clothes you wear, or the quality of your resume. And that means we can say anything in their presence without fear of ridicule or reprisal. In some cases, that is more than we can say of our closest friends, so it’s no wonder so many people cite feeling as close to their pets as some of their friends and family members.

3. Pets Give Us Purpose

Research on depression has shown that the responsibility of owning a pet is beneficial to mental health. We develop skills in caring for our animal brethren, and we know that we are being relied on for their care. By managing the tasks successfully, our self-esteem can improve. It also ensures that we maintain a particular schedule, as not getting out of bed and skipping a feeding, misting, or cleaning isn’t necessarily an option.

4. Chameleons Help Fill a Gap

Therapy animals have been on the mental health scene for some time. But that doesn’t mean everyone wants to own a traditional fuzzy creature like a cat or dog. In fact, someone suffering from serious allergies to cats or dogs may actually find their mental state worse with this form of animal companion and not better. And that’s where some of the more exotic choices come in.

Chameleons, snacks, toads, and other reptiles and amphibians give options to those who aren’t as enthusiastic about owning a furry friend. And that means those individuals can get the companionship they need to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression in the same way that many others do.

And that, my friend, is a beautiful thing.

http://usherp.org/tag/therapy-reptiles/

https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/05/19/6-ways-pets-relieve-depression/

How to Introduce a Child to Your Chameleon

Whether you have your own children or have friends or family members with kids, introducing a child to your chameleon for the first time can be a stressful experience for everyone involved (including your chameleon!).

It’s only natural that children would be curious about your chameleon, as they are truly fascinating creatures. But young kids don’t always understand that how they treat their dog or cat and how you handle a chameleon is different.

To help you make the introductions a pleasant experience for all parties, here are some tips to manage their first hello.

Step One: Make No Promises

You know that chameleons are not always the most fond of being handled, and are generally not considered to be physically affectionate at all. However, kids who aren’t familiar with reptiles might not realize this fact.

If a child asks if they can touch (hold or carry or hug) you chameleon, your first step is to make no promises. Whether any physical contact will be possible depends on how your chameleon reacts as the introduction moves forward. Obviously, if you chameleon exhibits signs of stress while within the safety of their habitat, it isn’t wise to push your luck. Chameleons may bite when scared or threatened, so it isn’t a good idea to rush contact if your chameleon doesn’t seem game.

Step Two: A Sight-Only Introduction

The first step to introducing a child to your chameleon needs to involve the eyes only. Allow them to observe each other while your chameleon stays in his or her enclosure. Make sure that the kid keeps their hands away from the habitat, avoids quick movements, and that they maintain a reasonable volume.

This step helps you gauge your chameleon’s response to a new person in your space. It also lets you see how the child will react as they get closer.

Some kids will have issues containing their excitement, which may cause them to move unexpected or exclaim their enthusiasm. Since children can be as unpredictable as your chameleon when exposed to something new, it is better to take the slow and steady approach.

Step Three: A Chance to Touch

If your chameleon is keeping a fairly calm demeanor, then it might be possible for the child to touch the chameleon, but only if you can safely remove your chameleon from the enclosure. Use whatever handling technique traditionally works best, and make sure the child stays back a bit while you see if your chameleon is up for some handling.

Once (or if) your chameleon is safely removed, continue keeping things slow. It will help kids keep themselves calm if you keep your level of energy down. Monitor your chameleon’s reaction as you bring them closer, and make sure to reverse course if signs of stress appear.

If everything continues favorably, then you can invite the child to gently touch your chameleon. Make sure they keep the pressure light, and that their hand is clearly within the chameleon’s view as they move forward. Additionally, have the kid keep their motions slow to avoid starting your chameleon along the way.

Once a short contact has been made, you can determine whether any additional handling is an option. Stay with them both to make sure everything remains calm and peaceful. After a few minutes, even if things still seem to be going well, feel free to bring your chameleon back to the enclosure.

With any luck, by taking things slow and steady, you’ll have a successful introduction. Just remember, you have a duty to your chameleon as well as the child during this meet and greet. Ultimately, the most important part is to keep everyone involved safe and secure and, if that means cutting an introduction short, then that’s for the best.

 

 

http://www.muchadoaboutchameleons.com/2012/04/to-handle-or-not-to-handle.html

http://www.reptilesmagazine.com/Lizard-Care/Handling-Chameleons/

http://thereptilereport.com/how-to-handle-a-chameleon/