Is Two a Crowd? How to Own and Properly Care for Multiple Chameleons
As many pet owners will testify, having pets is similar to the old potato chip slogan, “No one can eat just one” (minus the eating part, of course). If you’ve successfully kept one chameleon, you may be contemplating adding a second to your household. But having two or more chameleons is a bit different from keeping other types of pets. Here are four things you should know before adopting a second chameleon.
1. Chameleons Are Loners
As humans, we are pack animals who instinctively feel a sense of safety and comfort when surrounded by others. We share this trait with dogs, birds, horses, rabbits and many other members of the animal kingdom.
However, it’s important to understand chameleons don’t share our desire to gather in large groups. In the wild, chameleons are solitary animals that come together only to breed. Because they don’t form long-term bonds with other animals, they don’t get lonely when they live by themselves, the way an “only dog” might pine for other canine company. Your chameleon will be perfectly happy its whole life without a friend.
2. Separate Lives
If you do decide to bring home a second chameleon, be prepared to set up and maintain a separate enclosure – possibly even in a different room. When chameleons are forced to live in the same cage, it can be tremendously stressful for them, which leads to serious long-term health problems. Even if chameleons do not exhibit obvious signs of hostility toward each other, they may subtly intimidate or threaten each other until one or both of them become ill.
Adult male chameleons are extremely territorial, and will usually start threatening as soon as they see a rival male. Even if you are doing the right thing and keeping chameleons in different cages, they will engage in territorial displays as long as they can see each other. Again, the constant stress of trying to establish dominance will wear them down and eventually make them sick. For this reason, it’s a good practice to set up your separate habitats in different rooms.
Even a reflection of another chameleon can trigger the territorial behavior, so it’s also important to ensure two males cannot see each other if you have any glass as part of your enclosure, or if there is a mirror in one of the rooms.
3. The Mating Game
If you decide to try your hand at breeding chameleons, you obviously need to bring a male and female chameleon of the same species together. However, don’t just put them in the same enclosure and expect them to immediately hit it off. The established best practice is to first bring two chameleons together to determine if the female is receptive to mating.
If the female doesn’t exhibit threat coloration and behavior, you can allow the male and female to be together for a day or two. You’ll be able to tell if they have mated because the female’s coloration will change to indicate her gravid status.
Once a female is gravid, separate the pair to allow the female to go through the process of laying her eggs without being stressed out by the presence of the male. In some cases, a nesting female will be so protective of her eggs that she will not hesitate to bite the male.
4. A Chameleon Nursery
Speaking of breeding, newly hatched and juvenile chameleons are the one exception to the rule of keeping chameleons separate. Some keepers have successfully housed hatchling chameleons together in small groups. However, chameleons generally require individual accommodations by the time they reach 3 months in age.
When housing immature chameleons together, ensure each baby has enough food, water and climbing/perching space. Additionally, you must set up plenty of visual barriers, such as real or fake plant leaves, in your cage.
With the appropriate precautions, you can keep more than one chameleon happy and healthy. Just make sure you’re ready to put in the additional time and effort it takes to maintain two enclosures with all the appropriate lighting, temperature, moisture and humidity requirements.