Are Chameleons Good Pets? The Pros & Cons Of Owning One

  • By: Dave

When I was thinking of getting a chameleon for a pet I couldn’t decide whether they were a good choice or not. I did lots of research before I got one and have written this post of pros and cons to help answer this question.

Are chameleons good pets? Chameleons can be good pets but they have very specific care requirements that may be challenging to learn. They are not good for people who want to physically interact with their pets as they don’t enjoy being handled and are better suited as a pet to observe.

Unless you do want a pet you can cuddle frequently you needn’t let the specific care requirements put you off buying one. You can easily learn these requirements and this website is a great place for that!

There are many positives to owning a pet chameleon but it’s important to have the whole picture before deciding if they’re a good pet for you. For those in a hurry the pros and cons are:

Pros of owning a pet chameleonCons of owning a pet chameleon
1. Don’t require a lot of attention1. Can be expensive and difficult
2. Quiet2. Can Get sick easily
3. Fascinating to watch3. Don’t like being held
4. Don’t smell or make a mess4. Eat live insects
5. Good conversation starter5. Females lay eggs every few months

Each of these are discussed in more detail below:

Pros of owning a pet chameleon

1. They don’t require a lot of attention beyond maintenance

Chameleons require a lot of attention to detail when first setting up their enclosure. They also need to be maintained and monitored daily by feeding, watering, and checking their enclosure temperature.

This may sound like a lot but it will really only take you around half an hour a day or less to tend to their needs. Beyond that they don’t require anything else and in fact prefer being left alone.

2. Chameleons are quiet animals

The only noise you will hear from a chameleon is the relaxing sound of rustling leaves as they move about. You may also hear the sound of hissing if they get stressed but beyond that chameleons don’t make noises like other pets do.

3. They are relaxing and fascinating to watch

Watching a chameleon can have a very calming effect on you. There’s something very soothing about observing their stillness and graceful movements.

If you have ever stopped and looked at an aquarium of fish and felt that calmness you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Chameleons are pretty weird creatures and there’s always something fascinating about something that’s weird.

Seeing their eyes swivel around, their tails grasp branches, the color changing and that long tongue catching its food all make for a fascinating experience when watching them.

4. They don’t smell or make a mess

Chameleons don’t omit any odor from their bodies in the same way a dog or cat might. Their poop doesn’t smell either. In fact, the only smell you may get from their enclosure will be down to poor maintenance.

Of course chameleons, like all pets, will need cleaning out but they don’t make that much of a mess in their cage. They certainly don’t make the same mess other pets do like, for example, rabbits and hamsters.

5. Chameleons are a conversation starter

OK so you probably don’t buy a pet to start conversations with people but one of the things I love about having one is the level of interest people show when you tell them you have a chameleon.

Owning a chameleon is quite an unusual thing so people want to talk to you. ‘Oh you own a chameleon? That’s cool, how do you feed it? Does it change color’ etc, these are the sorts of questions you discuss with other people.

Things get more interesting when they actually see it in person. Not only that they’re often fascinated by the enclosure.

A well planted chameleon enclosure bathed in light from the UVB and grow lights looks amazing in the corner of the room so they’re great for brightening up the place too.

Cons of owning a pet chameleon

1. They’re a bit expensive and difficult to keep

To get everything set up for a chameleon, in the beginning, can cost around $650 or more. Some people spend more up to $1000 and if a lot is bought second hand it can be around $400 but for most people it’s over $500.

After everything is set up you then have to factor in costs of maintaining your pet on an annual basis. Taking everything into account, including electricity costs and having money set aside for potential vet bills, this can run at over $1000 per year.

Whether this is expensive to your or not entirely depends on your financial situation but this can be a lot of money to spend on a pet that doesn’t give you much affection in return.

What makes chameleons more expensive than many other pets is that they are more difficult to care for because require more equipment. They need special lights, live plants, live food and a large enclosure.

To make it more difficult still you need to make sure their enclosure is the correct temperature, that they get enough water, that their food is well cared for and you need to be vigilant for signs of illness.

2. Chameleons can get sick easily

Really easily if you’re not careful. They can get sick easily with diseases you’ve likely never heard of too like metabolic bone disease and mouth rot, yes, they’re mouth can rot in places.

This reason my be enough to put you off buying a pet chameleon but most illnesses result from poor habitat set up. This is why it’s so important to set your chameleon’s habitat correctly in the beginning. It prevents a lot of problems in the future.

3. They don’t like being held

If you search youtube for chameleons being held you will find lots of videos of people holding their pet. You can also read blog posts about chameleons hanging out on shoulders and how chameleons seem to greet their owners and want to be let out in the morning.

Of course, this all sounds cute and there are some chameleons that seem to enjoy being held. The important word in all this though is seem. The truth is the vast majority of chameleons want to be left alone. Although a chameleon my seem to enjoy being held, the truth is they’re likely just tolerating it and inside they’re feeling very stressed.

Chameleons live solitary lives in the wild and they’re prey to many predator animals. They won’t suddenly be sociable as a pet and a large person picking them up is, in most cases, terrifying to them.

That’s not to say you can’t hold them but should you get a chameleon as a pet you will be giving them a happier and longer life if you just let them be.

Think of a pet chameleon as a bit like a fish. You can look but you can’t really touch.

4. They eat live insects

Yep, you’ve gotta feed them bugs and they’ve gotta be alive. So if you’re completely freaked out by insects then chameleons, and most reptiles in fact, are probably not the best choice of pet for you.

That being said you do get used to the bugs pretty quickly.

As your chameleon only eats live insects it means you have to feed and care for live insects too. You have to ensure they eat a good diet of nutrients, mainly vegetables, because whatever they eat your chameleon eats.

In addition to feeding insects nutrients, you also need to supplement them at every feed with calcium and/or vitamins.

5. They lay eggs

This only applies to female chameleons and it can be an extra factor to deal with in their care.

Chameleons will lay eggs every three to six months. In addition to the usual care you need to provide an egg laying bin of dirt at the correct consistency. Extra food, supplementation and hydration also needs to be provided as egg laying is very energy intensive for a chameleon’s body.

To sum up

Hopefully, after reading this list you’ll have a better understanding of whether chameleons are a good pet.

It’s not easy to judge though as what might be a con for some people, like chameleons not enjoying being held, is actually a pro for others. It certainly was a pro for me as I prefer to watch animals rather than interact with them.

Some people may relish the challenge of doing the prior research and setting up their enclosure while others may prefer an easier animal to care for.

It really depends on the type of pet you want, how much money you’re willing to spend and how much time you have to invest in research, not only at the beginning but throughout the time you have your chameleon.

At the end of the day if you’re the type of person who loves learning and research, is ok with not physically interacting with their pet, and can get used to dealing with live insects then a chameleon will be a great pet for you!

Thanks for reading. Any questions or comments leave them below and I’ll try and answer as best I can.

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