A Guide to Chameleon Grooming and Hygiene
As with any pet, regular cleaning of your chameleon’s habitat is essential to maintain his health and well-being. Because reptiles are particularly susceptible to skin and bacterial infections, chameleon owners should establish a regular hygiene routine to keep your chameleon’s cage clean and disease-free.
Good cleaning habits also keep the cage attractive so you can enjoy showing off your pet, and reduce unpleasant odors that can accumulate in a poorly maintained environment.
If you’re new to chameleon husbandry, here’s a checklist of items you’ll need to keep in your chameleon cage-cleaning kit. To prevent cross-contamination, store these items separately from your other household cleaning supplies, and don’t use them for any other cleaning tasks.
Assemble Your Cleaning Kit
- Backup cage – an environment where your chameleon can safely stay while you’re cleaning
- Scrub brushes – Choose the right size to get the job done in your cage. A toothbrush is handy for hard-to-reach corners and crevices.
- Sand sifter – removes feces and other debris from substrate
- Sponges – one for cleaning, one for rinsing and one for disinfecting
- Disinfectant – Select the proper disinfectant carefully. The disinfectant must be strong enough to kill disease-causing viruses, bacteria and fungi, without causing harm to your pet. Reptiles are sensitive to toxic fumes, so be sure to move your pet to another room while disinfecting.
The most readily available disinfectant for cleaning a cage is household bleach at a dilution of approximately 1/2 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water. Your veterinarian may be able to recommend other safe disinfectants, as well.
After a thorough disinfection, rinse all the surfaces carefully, and be sure to allow your cage and all its accessories to fully dry before returning your chameleon to his habitat.
Good Cleaning Habits Are Key for Long-Term Health
Cleaning is also a good opportunity to look for signs your chameleon may be ill, such as any evidence of parasites, or abnormal or discolored feces or urates. Also, watch for hazardous conditions in the cage, and remove or repair them.
Plan to do a full cage cleaning at a least once a month. However, don’t overlook daily cleaning tasks such as removing uneaten food, dead feeder insects and shed skin. Chameleon fecal matter may carry bacteria that cause disease in humans, so it’s very important to remove feces from the habitat every day. Before and after touching your chameleon or his cage, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water. This will also help you avoid infection.
Following these good hygiene habits can improve your chameleon’s quality of life and make your home environment healthier, as well.