How to Begin Handling Your Chameleon

Each chameleon has its own unique personality, and regardless of what you do, your chameleon may never be fully tame. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up hope on ever being able to handle your pet chameleon.

Getting a chameleon comfortable with regular handling is important beyond just wanting to interact closely with your pet. If your chameleon is used to being handled, it can make all the difference if he ever gets sick. Taking a terrified, struggling animal to a vet’s visit compounds the stress for everyone involved. And needless to say, if the time comes when you need to give your chameleon medicine, it can be potentially life-saving if he’s already used to being handled.

Image source: Flickr

Here are some tips to make it easier for you to begin handling your chameleon.

1. Give him time to get acclimated to his environment.
Chameleons are highly sensitive to changes in their surroundings, so being in a strange new home will be a major source of stress for the first several days. When you first bring home a new chameleon (regardless of age), give him at least 2-3 weeks to become familiar with his new cage, home and routine.

2. Be patient and work on steadily building trust.
Even if you’re being gentle, your chameleon will initially see you as a stressor and threat to be afraid of. Initially, you can try spending a lot of time in the same room as your chameleon’s habitat, so that he gets used to being around you. Eventually, you can open the cage door and begin by offering your chameleon a stick to climb on. Once he finally does come out, you can offer your hand as another surface to explore. This eliminates the “scare factor” of reaching directly into the cage, in addition to helping your chameleon begin to bond with you. Handle your chameleon in brief intervals to let him get used to the experience. Over time, you can build trust with your chameleon and help him become accustomed to being handled.

3. Hand feeding is your best tool.
If your chameleon sees you as the bringer of tasty treats, he’ll begin to expect positive things from you, rather than defaulting to a fear response. Again, as with any stage of this process, patience is the key. Don’t expect your chameleon to immediately take the treat. It’s a good idea to try hand feeding as your chameleon’s first meal of the day; if he’s hungrier, he’ll be more willing to take the food from you. Hold the food for a few minutes, and stop for the day if he doesn’t seem interested. It may take weeks or even months before he goes for the food, but don’t get discouraged – just keep trying daily and you’ll see your efforts rewarded.

4. Associate handling with positivity.
Over time, your chameleon will learn that whenever you open the cage, you either bring a snack or are planning to take him out for some independent exploration. It’s worth restating that each chameleon will respond to handling differently, depending on personality. Though not all chameleons become friendlier with handling, that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of building a trusting, accepting relationship with you. Patience and positive reinforcement are essential to developing a good bond with your pet chameleon.

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