Reptiles - Chameleon
Chameleons are remarkable to watch, but are not the cuddliest of pets. Chameleons should not be purchased on impulse because there are many different aspects to tend to in their daily care. Chameleons require a considerable amount of care including visits to the vet, daily feedings of live insects and expensive enclosures. Many people purchase a chameleon because they think they are cool, but lose interest quickly because of the amount of work involved. Chameleons are usually antisocial and prefer to be left alone. Chameleons do not like to be handled because it leads to stress which can cause them to become sick or even die. Make sure that you do the proper amount of research before purchasing a chameleon because they require a lot of care.
Chameleons get their water from droplets on leaves and as a general rule they will not drink water from a dish. Water should come through a drip system or from misting your chameleon’s enclosure twice per day. Drip systems can be bought or manufactured from a container. Make sure that you make sure that the water always drips into the same area so that your chameleon will know where to get a drink if he is thirsty. Keep a close eye on the humidity levels though when adding this extra water. A chameleon’s diet is primarily made up of a variety of insects. Edible insects for your chameleon include meal worms, crickets, super worms, and non-infesting roaches. Make sure that you feed the insects plenty of nutritious food, including vegetables and fruit, so that your chameleon will also ingest these nutrients.
Care and Handling for Your Pet
Chameleons are not a social pet and do not like to be handled. If you do have to handle your chameleon, do so very gently so that it does not become alarmed and bite. They have very long tongues and very distinctive eyes. The upper and lower eyelids are joined, with only a pinhole left for them to see out of. Chameleons can see in both visible and ultraviolet light. Exposing a chameleon to ultraviolet light can make it more social and have a higher activity level. One of the most interesting traits of some chameleons is that they can change skin color for camouflage or in reaction to temperature. The average male chameleon can live up to eight years, and females live to be approximately five years. There are many different types of chameleons and their reproduction habits vary drastically.
Common health ailments in chameleons include parasites. A common parasite is roundworm, which occurs due to food contamination. Food can be contaminated with roundworm eggs from which larvae grow and burrow into the intestine and then into the bloodstream of the chameleon. Chameleons can also get other parasites including Plasmodium which causes malaria and Trypanosoma which causes sleeping sickness. Vet bills can be very expensive for chameleons, so it is important to keep its enclosure as clean as possible to limit transmission.
Chameleons are easily scared and stressed, so keeping their enclosure in a low traffic area of your house is a good idea. It is also important to house your chameleon separately from any other pets because they are naturally solitary in the wild. There should be lots of barriers including foliage in order to mimic their lifestyle in the wild. Many people make the mistake of purchasing an aquarium for their chameleon, but the glass does not provide for enough ventilation. Poor ventilation and high humidity is a recipe for disaster for chameleons because it breeds bacteria. Glass can also act as a mirror, startling and stressing the chameleon because they are solitary animals that prefer to be alone. An all-screen enclosure that measures 36 inches high, 18 inches wide and 18 inches long is the best for adult chameleons because it provides them with enough room to roam and be active. Try to find an enclosure that has a half inch mesh that is covered with vinyl to prevent your chameleon from hurting itself.
There are many accessories required to furnish your chameleon’s cage. Many people prefer to use plastic plants for the ease of cleaning and low maintenance, but to better mimic their life in the wild it is better to use live plants. Chameleons like to hide and climb so make sure that the plants have dense foliage. Make sure that all plants you introduce to your chameleons cage are properly cleaned and non-toxic. Branches and vines will also give your chameleon a place to hang out as well as further resemble life in the wild. Make sure that you have some sort of water drip in place whether it be manually spraying the cage three to five times per day or purchasing a drip system. The biggest ongoing expense for your chameleon will be food as it will require live insects to supplement the nutritional value. These insects should be kept in a plastic container in a cool area.
Once you have your chameleon all settled in, it is time to enjoy. That being said chameleons are not the most social of animals, so you may be best at watching your new pet from a distance. Make sure that you keep your chameleon in a secure area away from children and other pets that may view it as prey.