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Chameleons make fascinating and exotic pets, but their specific needs must be met in order for them to stay healthy and happy. If you’ve never owned a chameleon before, be sure to research them thoroughly before bringing one into your home.
To help you choose the best chameleon, here’s an overview of some of the most common types of chameleons kept as pets.
Panther chameleon: At more than a foot in length, this type of chameleon is known for stunning colors. They also tend to be friendlier than many other types of chameleons, making them a popular choice for first-time chameleon owners. The panther requires daytime temperatures around 80 degrees F and 70 percent humidity.
Veiled chameleon: Like panther chameleons, veiled chameleons are good around people and adapt well to captive conditions. Veiled chameleons only live about 6-8 years in captivity, and males are the larger of the two sexes, growing to be about a foot long. They need daytime cage temperatures around 80 degrees F and a relative humidity of 70 percent.
Carpet chameleon: This is a smaller species of chameleon that also makes a good choice for a pet. They have a short lifespan, usually only 2-3 years. Daytime temperatures should be around 75 degrees F, with 65 percent humidity.
Jackson’s chameleon: Popular for their three small horns, these chameleons can live 8-10 years in captivity. Handling and human interaction can be more stressful for this type of chameleon than for the first three on this list. Younger Jackson’s chameleons are less colorful than some other types of chameleons, but their colors brighten as they mature. A daytime temperature of 75 to 80 degrees F and a humidity level around 65 percent is required.
Proper Care Starts With a Good Habitat
When you’ve decided what kind of chameleon to get, make sure you know how to properly create and maintain your pet’s environment. Since they’re solitary creatures, even smaller chameleons require a large amount of personal space. Be prepared to set up a habitat that includes lighting, plants, temperature and humidity control, and plenty of room to climb and explore.
Having done your homework about how to create the perfect habitat, it’s equally important for you to be able to recognize the warning signs of a sick or stressed animal. This will ensure you’ve chosen a healthy chameleon to bring home.
Choosing a Healthy Chameleon
First, make sure you’re purchasing a captive-bred pet chameleon. The capture and shipping process puts an enormous amount of stress on wild-caught chameleons, making them much more susceptible to illness. Ask plenty of questions about the care of the chameleon, and only buy from a reputable source.
As with any type of pet, many factors come into play when evaluating a chameleon’s overall health. Some things to look for when examining a potential chameleon include:
- Straight limbs (bent legs can be a symptom of malnutrition or metabolic bone disease)
- Healthy-looking skin (no wounds, scratches or bruising)
- Ability to strongly grip branches
- Alert, with bright eyes (chameleons who spend a lot of time with their eyes closed are probably sick)
- Clear, bright coloration (a brownish color is normal for some chameleons, but dark skin can indicate illness)
- No signs of swelling, scabs or discharge in or around the mouth
Getting a pet represents a lifestyle change and a commitment to another creature’s health and well-being. With proper care, a chameleon can be an amazing pet who can bring you years of enjoyment.