Owning a pet chameleon comes with its own unique set of responsibilities. Not only are they housed differently from other pets their cages are cleaned differently too.
From my own first-hand experience, I can tell you that cleaning a chameleon cage is a pretty simple task but one that requires consistency.
How to clean a chameleon cage? A chameleon cage is spot cleaned daily to remove any poop, dead insects and other mess. Substrate and decorations need to be changed and cleaned weekly. The whole cage should be emptied and disinfected once or twice a year.
Why clean a chameleon cage?
The reason you clean a chameleon’s cage is the same reason you clean a rabbit’s cage, a cat’s litter tray or even your own bathroom. The world can be a filthy place and someone has to clean up regularly.
Keep a chameleon for any length of time you will start to notice that they are remarkably clean and organized animals.
They use one area of their cage for pooping, one for basking, another for hiding and they sleep in the same spot.
Move things around and change things up then yes, these routine spots will change but before long your chameleon will again settle on specific areas for specific things.
So what does this have to do with cleaning? Well, because a chameleon shows such organization of cleanliness you should help this process along by keeping these areas as clean as possible.
We all know the saying a clean room is a happy room and the same applies to a chameleon’s cage. Also, a clean cage means a happy chameleon because chameleons are highly susceptible to stress and anything that reduces that, such as keeping things clean is a good thing.
Of course not to mention that any pile up of feces, dead insects and other waste material can be a breeding ground for bacteria and other parasites that can cause a whole load of health problems for your chameleon.
You also need to clean the cage just for aesthetical reasons because who wants to look at a filthy cage? It also reflects badly on you to not keep it clean because if you want to show guests your chameleon, and why wouldn’t you? You could be the best at caring for your chameleon but a dirty cage gives the impression you’re neglectful even though you’re not.
What do I need to clean a chameleon’s cage?
Before we can start talking about how to clean a chameleon’s cage, how often to clean it and so on, we need to know what tools are needed for the job.
For Daily Cleaning:
- Paper towels – This is one of the most effective tools in your cleaning arsenal. You’ll need it to wipe any surfaces, accessories and they’re useful for picking up any dry or wet chameleon poop.
- Damp cloths/Sponges – For the same reasons as paper towels but these are more effective at cleaning poop off of leaves and for wiping more stubborn areas.
- Tweezers – This is only for the more squeamish among you. Useful for picking up dried poop and dead insects.
- Surface cleaner – Some people insist on products like wipeout as they’re labeled as reptile safe. I personally find this unnecessary and using a standard unscented antibacterial spray or even white vinegar is fine. Obviously don’t spray it on the chameleon itself or near to it though. This should be used to spot spray any areas of the cage that poop and dead insects have come into direct contact with.
For weekly cleaning:
Pretty much the same tools are used but you’ll need some rubber gloves as you’ll be giving a bit more of a thorough wipe down and any cleaner can irritate the skin.
You’ll also need to replace the substrate if you use any and a dust pan and brush can make cleaning out the bottom of the cage easier for any bit of dried poop you missed or for removing fallen leaves.
For annual cleaning:
Again all the tools above will come in useful but as you’re really giving it a deep clean you’ll need:
- Buckets – These should be large enough to soak any accessories you’ve removed like vines and branches.
- Antibacterial Dish Soap – This should be used to soak the removed accessories in to disinfect them. Also used for weekly cleaning.
- Window Scraper – This is useful for scraping any stubborn bits of dirt from glass enclosures as well as for scraping any stubborn bits in general from any type of surface.
- Steam Cleaner – Optional but highly recommended as no chemicals are used which is great for you, your chameleon and the environment. It can also be used around the house in general and not just to clean your chameleon’s cage. You’ll need to get a larger one as smaller cleaners don’t get the steam hot enough to properly disinfect. I’ve used this one to clean my chameleon’s cage and my entire apartment to great effect.
- Back Up Cage – Again this is optional but if possible you can use it to house your chameleon in the sun for a few hours outside while you give the cage an annual spring clean.
How often to clean a chameleon cage?
As you may have guessed by now there are 3 frequencies of cleaning that need to occur for your pet chameleon’s cage. You may think it will take a lot of time but really, apart from the annual or twice-annual clean, cleaning your chameleon’s cage only takes around 10-15 minutes.
- Daily – Spot cleaning should form part of your chameleon care routine on a daily basis.
- Weekly – This is similar to your daily cleaning routine but involves the substrate being removed and changed as well as a more general wipe down of surfaces that need it.
- Annual – Or twice a year during the spring and the fall depending on your requirements. This is a deep clean where the entire cages is emptied and deep cleaned.
How to clean a chameleon cage?
Here’s where we get to the main nitty gritty of the article and how to actually go about cleaning your chameleon’s cage.
Daily chameleon cage cleaning
- Remove all poop – Use a paper towel for dried or moist poop and check the urates (white part) for any signs of dehydration. If it’s white or a bit yellow then it’s ok. Check the poop, in general, to make sure it’s healthy and not showing signs of parasites or other illnesses.
- Remove dead insects – Do this either using paper towels or tweezers mentioned earlier.
- Remove live insects – Chameleons don’t always eat all their food and any leftover live insects can bite your chameleon and eat your plants so check thoroughly for these and remove any you find.
- Clean feeding cup – This only applies if you cup feed your chameleon. Remove the empty cup, wash with soapy water, dry and replace.
- Spot clean – Use a tiny bit of antibacterial cleaner sprayed onto a damp cloth and wipe any areas where poop has come into direct contact with the cage or if any is stuck to a leaf. Skip this part if you use paper towels as substrate and the poop landed on it as this can be changed later in the weekly clean.
- Check your numbers – Make sure your temperature and humidity gauges are showing the correct levels.
- Wipe any pooling water – This only applies if you see any on the floor of the cage. Soaking up with a paper towel will work fine. Don’t clean any drops off of leaves or from the side of the enclosure as your chameleon may want to drink them.
- Check the chameleon over – Don’t pick them up or anything just have a look at them. Does everything look OK or do you notice anything different like sunken eyes? Stuck shed skin? Any unusual marks? If so investigate further.
Weekly Chameleon Cage Cleaning
In addition to daily cleaning, you’ll need to do a weekly clean and care routine. This involves watering the plants as most of them require weekly watering and removing and cleaning the substrate.
This is the main reason I prefer paper towel substrate because it absorbs water and is extremely easy to remove and change. You can simply gather up the paper towels into a ball, collecting up any poop, leaves or other mess and throw into the garbage.
Most screen cages have a removable bottom section that will need to be taken out, sprayed with antibacterial surface spray and wiped down.
It’s unnecessary for a chameleon to have decorations like fake rocks, caves and so on but if you do, or you have any plastic vines, remove these and soak in a bucket of soapy water using scentless antibacterial dish soap.
I wouldn’t recommend completely removing all plants every week to clean them as this will stress your chameleon.
Instead, remove a different plant each week and give it hosing down in the shower or outside. Gently wipe the leaves with a separate sponge that’s been dipped in soapy water.
Wipe down all the cage surfaces using an antibacterial surface spray and a damp cloth.
Rinse any soap off all the items you’ve cleaned, allow to dry and then place back in the cage. Clean your hands with antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer when finished.
Annual Chameleon Cage Cleaning
This is where you do an annual, or twice-annual, deep cleaning of the cage. You’ll need to remove your chameleon for this and either place them in a separate backup cage outside or place them on a plant out the way.
After that, it’s similar to a weekly clean but everything is stripped out and removed from the cage, including all the vines and plants.
Clean all the plants in the same way you would clean one of them in a weekly clean but do it much more thoroughly than just a gentle wipe down of the leaves.
Soak all the accessories and vines in soapy water like during the weekly clean. Afterward, allow them to dry and then spray with either the wipe away reptile disinfectant mentioned earlier or use a 10% bleach solution.
While the accessories are disinfecting you need to really get into the cage and clean it with the disinfectant or bleach solution. Use a separate sponge for this. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or so then rinse thoroughly with warm water.
If using a steam cleaner place the cage either outside or in the shower and give it a thorough going over with the steamer. This will kill any germs as effectively as a disinfectant, providing it’s a large steam cleaner.
Regardless of what method you use for disinfecting make sure you allow the cage to dry out completely first.
All the accessories and plants need to be rinsed thoroughly with warm water, allowed to dry completely before being reassembled back inside the cage.
Finally, you can place your chameleon back inside its freshly clean and sparkly home.
To Sum Up
As long as you stay on top of cleaning it’s really easy to keep your chameleon’s cage looking spotless and to prevent any hygiene related problems occurring.
Don’t worry if you miss a day or two with daily cleans, clean every other week instead of weekly sometimes or deep clean once a year instead of twice. Your chameleon will be happy and healthy. It’s when you start to go longer without cleaning that the cage looks unsightly and dirty.
Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of what cleaning a chameleon cage involves.