How Long Can Chameleons Be Left Alone?

‘It’s been a hard day’s night and I’ve been working like a dog’ once sung The Beatles and I’m sure you know that feeling. We all work hard for the money and we all need time away to de-stress. As a veiled chameleon owner myself I know the bit of extra added stress this can cause when trying to figure out what to do with our scaly companions when we take a well deserved break.

How long can chameleons be left alone? A weekend is fine but any longer and you will need to have a few pieces of equipment in place, like a timer for your lighting setup and an automatic mister if possible. You will also need someone to check in with your chameleon from time to time.

How long can you leave your chameleon alone?

During the years I had my chameleon I went away on vacation a few times, had to go away for short trips and to go back and see my folks at Christmas and New Year.

Chameleons can be left alone for the weekend without any problems. When I went I would just set the light timers going, give him a good feed and misting before I left and off I went. Upon my return, the first thing I’d do was mist and feed him and I never had any problems.

If going for longer I would do the same thing, give him a damn good misting, a big bunch of morio worms in a feeder cup and off I’d go but I wouldn’t even think of going away longer than a few days without having a sitter come in every day or every two days to check on things as there’s too much that can go wrong with the equipment without one.

Having a sitter in requires you to train them how to deal with any problems that may arise with the equipment, how to feed and water the chameleon and what to do if your chameleon becomes ill.

I had a specific set of instructions in place for when I went away which I will share with you later in the article.

Should you leave a baby chameleon alone?

My answer to this would definitely be a no. Baby chameleons are far too small and fragile to leave alone for any longer than when you’re out for the day at school or work.

Babies require such large amounts of food when they’re young that it would be virtually impossible to feed them enough before you went away.

You could, of course, get a sitter in but it’s difficult to find someone who is experienced with chameleon keeping, in general, let alone caring for a baby.

A neighbor can be taught to feed and water an adult chameleon but a baby requires extra care. Plus I would be so nervous about leaving my baby chameleon in someone else’s care I just wouldn’t be able to do it. Leaving my adult chameleon was hard enough at times!

The first time I left my chameleon alone was when he was around 18 months old and that was only for a couple of days. It will likely be ok a couple of months younger but I would strongly advise against leaving a chameleon alone for a few days if they’re less than a year old.

What’s needed before leaving your chameleon alone

Before going anywhere you really need to have your lighting taken care of, automatic water mistings set up, feeder insects left where your chameleon can find them and some extra items like instructions for your sitter if you need one and extra pieces of equipment.

Lighting – This shouldn’t require much setting up at all because you should already have automatic timers for your lighting. Don’t worry if you haven’t they’re not essential for day to daycare but it does make things so much easier if you do. They are, however essential for when you go away on vacation.

I recommend getting digital timers as they’re more reliable, easy to set and they don’t make the annoying ticking sound the analog ones make. You can pick them up for around $10. Get one for your chameleon’s heat bulb and UVB light. I set mine for around 12 hours on and 12 hours off.

You’ll need a spare bulb for each light if going away for longer than a few days. Make sure you instruct your sitter how to change each bulb before you leave.

Related article: Chameleon Lighting Guide

Water – Probably the most important part of your setup regardless of going on vacation or not. Chameleons need good amounts of water to drink, clean themselves with and to help with shedding.

I recommend having an automatic misting system by mist king in place. Misting systems make your life so much easier and ensures your chameleon gets the amount of water required.

Before leaving figure out how much water your mister uses each day and fill the reservoir with enough to last the time you’re away. If going away for longer leave a covered jug of water by the enclosure and instruct your sitter on how to refill the mister.

Related article: Water For Chameleons

Food – Understandably you’re going to worry that your chameleon isn’t going to get enough food while you’re away. There’s a tendency among chameleon owners to overfeed chameleons and think reptile metabolisms are the same as ours.

Chameleons don’t move much or burn many calories. Adults only really need to eat every two or three days, that’s how often I fed my chameleon. They can go longer but I wouldn’t recommend this.

So you need to have some feeders either in a dish or an automatic feeder so your chameleon can access them easily. If going away for a longer period of time a sitter will need to come in and feed.

Set up two feeding bowls in your chameleon’s enclosure, that way you can provide more feeding options and have more feeders in with your chameleon.

Have a piece of sweet potato or carrot with your feeders so they can remain hydrated for longer. Do not worry about supplementation while you’re away as this will shorten your feeder’s lives and will only overwhelm your sitter with too much information.

Set up two plastic take away containers with the same amount of feeders in each, with a piece of carrot in each, and have two clean empty feeder containers next to them.

This makes it much easier for your sitter to come in and change the feeder bowls over. It will also keep the feeder insects healthier for longer.

What if there’s a medical problem when leaving your chameleon alone?

This is a problem that can occur any time but it’s an added worry for when you’re on vacation. All you can do is make sure your sitter has access to the vet’s numbers and any out of hours numbers in case something happens then.

If they call you just keep calm yourself otherwise you’ll risk making your friend feel panicked. If needed instruct them how to remove the chameleon from its enclosure, get the chameleon taken to the vet and ensure your sitter you’ll pay any vet bills.

Instructions for your chameleon sitter

So you’re going away for longer than a few days and you need a sitter to come in and take care of things.

If you’re lucky you can find someone who knows what they’re doing with chameleons, luckier still you’ll find someone who knows what they’re doing with chameleons.

Chances are though you’ll have to depend on a friend or relative to help you out. This is fine but in my experience, you have to provide very clear instructions whilst at the same time not overwhelming them with too much information.

First, you should have everything in place mentioned above before giving instructions to your sitter.

I strongly recommend you do a practice run with your sitter first so they know what to do. You have to strike a balance between giving them enough information about as much as possible and not overwhelming them.

For example I really wouldn’t worry about supplementation while you’re away as this can be confusing for a friend trying to help you out.

On the other hand, you need to be very specific about certain things. I once forgot to tell a friend that my chameleon’s lights were on a timer and that going in at certain times meant his lights would be off and that he shouldn’t go in the cage at this time.

Cue a panicked phone call about the lights not working and what should he do!? Thankfully no harm was done.

Also, don’t forget to tell them that chameleons shed their skin! This can really freak a sitter out if they’re not prepared for it and could see them rushing them to the nearest vet’s emergency room!

Caring for chameleons is quite difficult, trying to relay this information to others is tricky but just print these instructions out and you should be ok.

  • Come in every two days.
  • Check both lights are on. If one isn’t, change with new bulbs provided.
  • Check the water level in the mister reservoir and refill it to the top. If hand misting, fill the hand spray container provided and spray his enclosure until all plants are wet.
  • Check food has been eaten and for any dead feeders. Change feeder bowls.

Checklist to run through before leaving your chameleon alone

Up to four days doesn’t require a sitter

On the night or morning before you should:

  • Clean the enclosure
  • Fill mister reservoir up to the top or if hand misting give the enclosure a thorough misting
  • Put two feeder bowls in, one in a different area from the other and provide a day’s worth of food in each

Away for a week will require a sitter to come in every two or three days. Make sure you have done a practice run first with your sitter.

On the night before you should:

  • Clean the enclosure
  • Fill the mister reservoir up to the top.
  • Leave spare bulbs next to the enclosure and write down vet’s phone number
  • Prepare two fresh feeding containers for when feeding dishes need to be changed over

On the morning you leave:

  • If hand misting give the enclosure a thorough misting
  • Put two feeder bowls in, one in a different area from the other and provide a day’s worth of food in each
  • Make sure heater or air conditioning is set to turn on and off when required as keeping your house an acceptable temperature is important for your chameleon’s well being

If you’re away for longer, you will need a sitter to come in every two days. Make sure you have done a practice run first with your sitter.

On the night before you should:

  • Clean the enclosure
  • Fill mister reservoir up to the top.
  • Leave spare bulbs next to the enclosure and write down vet’s phone number
  • Prepare four fresh feeding containers for when feeding dishes need to be changed over
  • Leave the instruction list clearly next to the enclosure

On the morning you leave:

  • If hand misting give the enclosure a thorough misting
  • Put two feeder bowls in, one in a different area from the other and provide a day’s worth of food in each
  • Make sure heater or air conditioning is set to turn on and off when required as keeping your house an acceptable temperature is important for your chameleon’s well being

That’s it for this post. I hope you found it useful and it’s put your mind at rest for going on your well earned vacation. Any comments or questions leave them below and I’ll do my best to answer them.


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