When I told people I had a pet chameleon I would get all sort of reactions about how cool and exotic it is to have one. A question I’d get asked more often than I expected though was ‘what does it do?’ as if the chameleon has to do something to justify its existence or me having one as a pet.
What do chameleons do? Well chameleons just sit around most of the time. What makes them interesting is what they do when they sit around and, more interesting still, what they do in between just sitting around.
In this article I’m going to tell you things they do and answer a few questions about what they don’t do.
1. Chameleons just sit around all day
Yep as I already said in the introduction they just sit around all day. They sit around under lamps, just to the side of lamps, they sit around in plants, they sit around on the screen and very rarely they sit around on the floor, something that’s usually a bad sign if they do it too long and too often. So that’s the most boring thing they do out the way.
2. Chameleons climb plants
The best plant I got for my chameleon was a pothos plant that I hung from the ceiling of his enclosure. Pothos plants just grow and grow at quite a fast rate and eventually my pothos reached to near enough the bottom of the enclosure. Watching my chameleon do laps down to the bottom and then climb up the trailing pothos vines all the way to the top is one of the nicest memories I have of him. There was something very calming and meditative about it.
3. Chameleons can calm you
Following on from being calmed by watching a chameleon climb I often found just watching my chameleon in general had a meditative affect on me. There is something about them being so still that can induce a sense of stillness in you. In fact my friend used to call my chameleon a moody zen monk! Which seemed very appropriate to me.
4. Chameleons carry out daring feats of acrobatics
I can’t remember how many times I saw my chameleon doing crazy things in his enclosure, particularly in his younger days. Anything from standing up on his back legs and wobbling around, climbing up the side of his screen cage in a way that defied the laws of physics, hanging off a branch by one leg and, most crazy of all, hanging upside down from the roof of his cage and watching him figure out a way back down.
Of all the times I saw him do these things I very rarely saw him fall. Chameleons are truly masterful at climbing.
5. Chameleons change colour
This is the thing chameleons are most well known for. While it’s true that most of them change colour, certainly ones you will likely keep as pets, there are many species that don’t. Chameleons change colour based on their moods, from brightly coloured when excited to completely black when they’re scared.
They don’t change colour to match their environment though. So placing a chameleon on a red background will not make it turn red. This is a myth that continues to this day thanks to videos like this. The chameleon is not changing colour to match the glasses, it is a fake effect added in.
6. Chameleons shoot their tongue to catch food
This is perhaps the second thing chameleons are most famous for. They have a tongue that can shoot distances twice the length of its body and at speeds that meant if it was a sports car it would accelerate from 0-60 mph in 1/100th of a second!
All this means that feeding time for your pet chameleon is quite fascinating to watch. Not to mention seeing how quick they move when they know you’re about to feed them and trust me, they know! You do feel kinda sorry for the insects though…
7. Chameleons eat plants
Now you may file this as being about as interesting as number one on this list and yeah, maybe you’re right. But for me I always found it interesting and actually quite funny watching my chameleon chow down on the plant matter in his enclosure. I guess because he was the type of chameleon that very rarely did this, I think he did it less than five times in all the years I had him. Some chameleons eat plants all the the time as part of their regular diet but most of them don’t.
To me there is something very satisfying and cute about watching this beautiful female veiled chameleon eat this hibiscus flower.
8. Chameleons shed their skin
I’m always surprised at how many people aren’t aware that most lizards shed their skin and that chameleons are no exception to this. Watching my chameleon do this, particularly when he was younger was fascinating for me. When their younger, chameleons pretty much shed their whole skin in one go so you can see the outline of their shape in the shed!
I kinda felt a bit sorry for him to because you could see him getting a bit angry with it and he’d have to open his mouth wide to get rid of it. They shed their skin as they grow and to keep themselves clean. It kinda makes them look like zombie lizards!
9. Chameleons drink water off leaves
Chameleons are not the greatest creatures for recognising water. In fact it’s pretty funny just how bad they are at recognising it and sometimes a little frustrating.
Chameleons cannot recognise standing water. Sure they can recognise it’s there and some chameleons can even swim… Sort of but they cannot recognise it as a source to drink from though. The only way they can see water to drink is by seeing it gather in droplets on leaves, on the side of their enclosure and on their heads.
This can be frustrating as actually getting them to drink can be a challenge and a little concerning if you’re not sure they actually drink or not. Seeing my chameleon drink though is another thing I found pleasing to observe. Again, there’s just something very relaxing about seeing a chameleon and elegantly dabbing its tongue out to get at the water droplets. In case you haven’t realised now I find chameleons relaxing and fascinating to watch!
10. Chameleons make funny faces
Chameleons with their googley eyes swivelling around all over the place and a seemingly permanent grumpy look on their face was always a source of amusement to me. My chameleon often either looked like he was drunk, miserable or both! He had a look that carried a certain attitude about it as if to say ‘What you looking at? Are you still here? I thought you’d left already. Just feed me then go away.’
Chameleons will make you work hard to earn their trust and even then it’s very rare you’ll earn it anyway. They’re just not wired that way. To me it was a source of amusement but I can understand why others may feel frustrated about providing for all their needs and getting little to no love in return. It’s another reason why you should do plenty of research and learn about whether a chameleon really is the right pet for you.
That’s all for this post. I hope it gave you more of an idea of what chameleons do and helped you understand they’re not just boring creatures that sit around all day. Maybe you have a chameleon yourself and have some more things to add to this list? Or maybe some funny and unusual things it likes to do? Share them in the comments below.