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What Are the Pros and Cons of a Chameleon as a Pet?

Alex Tree
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Some benefits of having a chameleon as a pet include the fact that they do not need much direct interaction from their owners and have the unique ability to change colors. In fact, some experts recommend never handling a chameleon beyond transporting it for medical attention or to clean its habitat. Chameleons are low-energy pets and can become nervous if over-handled, which can be viewed as either a pro or con, depending on the owner's expectations. These animals do require daily attention, however, because they need to eat live food and require misting.

Unlike a lot of popular pets, chameleons are not fast-moving, energetic animals that require frequent stimulation to stay happy. They are usually happy with a good enclosure with plants and branches to climb on, plus the release of live food to hunt and catch. Under most circumstances, they do not have to be touched or handled at all. Some people may prefer this type of pet because they find high-energy pets too demanding or cannot dedicate enough time to keep such a pet happy.

Some species have a rather unique ability: changing color. These chameleons can change their skin color to match their surroundings. In the wild, it serves as camouflage to protect them from predators, but when the animal is in captivity, the ability is mostly for show. Having a chameleon as a pet means being able to witness this natural wonder on a regular basis.

A chameleon is mostly a display animal and cannot be treated like the average household cat or dog. Most dislike handling by their owner and become stressed out if held too long. Of course, their personalities differ, and it is possible for a chameleon to enjoy climbing on people. For the most part, however, prospective owners should assume that owning a chameleon is much like having a snake, fish, or poorly socialized bird.

Adopting a chameleon as a pet can mean never going on vacation without paying someone to pet sit. Chameleons usually do not recognize water dishes as a source of hydration. They are rain forest creatures that hydrate by drinking fallen rain from tree leaves. In captivity, the chameleon’s owner mists its enclosure two or three times a day to hydrate the animal. An automatic misting system can be made or purchased, but daily feeding can also be a problem for people who occasionally spend nights away from home.

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Alex Tree
By Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and All Things Nature contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon995490 — On May 03, 2016

I love my pet chameleon and he loves coming out of his house. He will hang on the door when he wants out. The feeding can be a little gross at first but from my point of view you get over it quite fast.

By bythewell — On Mar 22, 2012

@Mor - To be honest I would count feeding the chameleon live insects as a pretty big con. Most of the insects available at the local pet store seem to be things like cockroaches and meal worms and I wouldn't want to have to handle those every day. Gross.

I would also be concerned about whether or not the animals had been obtained legally. Be careful that you get them from a reputable breeder as I know that many species of chameleon are endangered in the wild. They are very interesting and unique creatures and it would be a tragedy if they went extinct because people wanted to display them like a trophy on the wall.

By Mor — On Mar 22, 2012

@umbra21 - Really, it's not that bad. Chameleons are quite easy to look after if you have the right setup. If you have an automatic mister all you need to do is keep it filled with water.

And they do need to be fed regularly, but the food they eat (live insects) can be obtained from almost any large pet store, or you can even breed them yourself.

If you have a trusted pet-sitter, you won't have any problems. I would call a dog or a cat a much bigger commitment, as they live longer and they need much more attention and care. You can't casually leave your dog with just anyone as most dogs need hours of attention per day.

A chameleon just needs water and food and that's it. Ten minutes tops. You probably won't be able to go away for six months, sure, but you can't do that with any pet really.

By umbra21 — On Mar 21, 2012

Another con for owning a chameleon as a pet is that they can be very expensive to buy.

They aren't too bad to maintain but if you aren't able to swallow the cost of one easily, then don't buy one.

They aren't very hardy animals when it comes down to it and they can easily die. And if they die, then you've lost all the money you invested in one.

You also have to bear in mind that if you are successful at looking after it, it will probably live for around 10 years. That's a pretty long term commitment and you won't be able to leave it alone for any of that time, as they need constant care like it says in the article.

So, think carefully before you get one. Don't just jump into it like buying a new bit of electronics.

Alex Tree
Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and All Things Nature contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
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