Chameleons are truly fascinating creatures. They have several intriguing features, such as the ability to change color, a long, quick tongue, and eyes that can move to one side. However, having a chameleon as a pet is not for novice reptile owners. If you're thinking of purchasing a chameleon, know what you're getting into before making the purchase.
Part 1 of 2: Buying a Chameleon
Step 1. Find out if you are ready to buy a chameleon
This animal can have a high maintenance cost. Before you buy it, find out if you are ready to commit. You can start by analyzing what the cost of maintaining a chameleon is – the annual expense (eg food, supplies, veterinarian) can be between R$3000.00 to R$4500.00.
- See what your current budget is to find out if you can spend an extra R$350.00 per month on pet care.
- A cage may require a reasonable amount of energy to set up and maintain. For example, humidity and temperature must be monitored daily. The cage should also have a lot of branches and foliage so the animal can climb and chew.
- Talk to a chameleon expert or someone who cares for one to get a better idea of what's needed.
Step 2. Choose a reputable pet store or nursery
Buying the pet in one of these famous places is a guarantee that the animal is healthy. A veterinarian specializing in exotic animals can recommend reputable chameleon breeders. If there is any reptile exhibition in the region, it is a good idea to go to such fairs to meet the breeders or ask for directions.
- It is possible to get some information about chameleon breeders from reptile magazines.
- Find out if there are any local pet stores that sell chameleons. If not, store employees can name other trusted locations that offer this option.
Step 3. Buy a captive bred chameleon
Compared to wild-caught chameleons, the captive-bred animal is healthier, less stressed and less likely to carry many parasites. In addition to having more parasites, the chameleon that is captured is usually more dehydrated than those raised in captivity.
- It is illegal to catch and transport wild chameleons.
- Shipping wild chameleons can shorten the life of the animal in captivity and increase the mortality rate during transport.
- A reputable pet store or breeder should not be involved in catching and transporting wild chameleons.
- Wherever you buy the chameleon, make sure it was bred in captivity and not captured.
- The chameleon species that are most often bred in captivity are the Yemen chameleon and the panther chameleon.
Step 4. Buy a puppy
Longevity varies from one chameleon to another, but in general, most of them reach up to 10 years of age. When buying a puppy chameleon, it is possible to have the pet's company for a longer time.
Step 5. Look for signs of illness in the animal
The breeder or reputable pet store must provide the complete medical history of the chameleon you intend to purchase. However, you should check on your own whether it is healthy before you buy it.
- Check your eyes. Sunken eyes indicate dehydration. Eyes closed during the day indicate a general malaise in the animal.
- If the chameleon is a dark or dull color, it is stressed, sick, or cold.
- A chameleon with bone abnormalities (eg, curved spine, swollen jaw, bowed legs) likely has a metabolic bone disease due to calcium deficiency.
- If you notice cheese-like material or a green tinge in the animal's mouth, it may be that it has an infection called ulcerative stomatitis.
- He's likely to be sick if the animal can't stand being picked up and handled (and wheezing or opening its mouth, for example).
- In order to ensure that the chameleon is healthy, the breeder or store employee can perform routine stool tests on the animal, in addition to administering a dewormer for parasite prophylaxis.
- Don't buy a sick chameleon.
Step 6. Don't buy a chameleon online
You should avoid buying an animal this way for several reasons. First, the chameleon tends not to look good when it's shipped for delivery. Transport is very stressful for him, which can make him very sick (or cause death) during the journey.
Also, you can't see the animal until it's delivered if you buy it online. That way you can't tell if he's sick or injured and then it's too late
Part 2 of 2: Preparing the Chameleon Habitat
Step 1. Choose a model and cage size for the chameleon
Prepare the reptile's habitat before taking it home. In fact, you can start doing this after you decide to have such a pet. The chameleon grows fast, so you need to buy a big cage. The recommended minimum size is 90 cm x 90 cm x 1.25 cm.
- A mesh or wire cage, a glass aviary with a mesh cover, or a large bird cage are suitable places for a chameleon. These options are only advisable if you live in a place with an ambient temperature above 30º C. Otherwise, the chameleon will feel very cold.
- These animals like to climb and perch on branches, so a tall cage is ideal.
- The vivarium is the ideal housing solution. It has three sides made of wood or some insulating material and a glass facade. It is a good solution to maintain the temperature, in addition to having good ventilation.
- In pet stores there are several models of cages to choose from.
Step 2. Place the cage in a quiet room in the house
The chameleon can easily get stressed. Put the cage in a location that is relatively free from noise and distractions. In this room, keep the cage out of direct, continuous sunlight to prevent overheating.
Position the cage so that it can remain in the shade during the day
Step 3. Place a substrate
Substrate is the material that is commonly used to cover the bottom of the cage. It should facilitate cleaning and also be comfortable for the animal to walk. A good example of a substrate is wrapping paper, newspaper and paper towels.
- Do not use wood chips, sand or moss as a substrate. These materials can cause a blockage in the animal's intestines if ingested by the animal and can also harbor bacteria, mites or mold.
- Substrates must be replaced once a week and the bottom of the cage must be washed with bleach and water.
- Every cage must be carefully cleaned once a month.
Step 4. Put branches inside the location
Since the chameleon loves trees, he'll want lots of branches to climb and perch on. The branches must have different diameters. The variety of branch thickness encourages the chameleon to use their feet in different ways.
- Placing horizontal and vertical branches can also provide more diversity in the environment for him to climb.
- Branches with different thicknesses and meanings enrich the chameleon's environment.
- A pet store may sell twigs along with items to secure the twigs to the cage.
Step 5. Add foliage to your pet's cage
It is important to choose the correct type of foliage to place there. Hibiscus, python and fig trees are all good foliage choices. Areca-bamboo and imbé are also good choices.
- Don't forget to wash the leaves before placing them in the cage to remove any chemicals.
- You can also use plastic sheets, but it is preferable to use real ones.
- Spray water daily on the foliage to keep the ideal humidity (between 50 and 70%) inside the cage. Fogging also creates a water source (water drops falling from leaves). You can purchase a timer nebulizer at your local pet store.
Step 6. Place several bulbs in the chameleon cage
Lamps provide a source of light and heat for the pet. One type of lighting you'll need is a special reptile lamp that heats a specific spot on the chameleon's cage. The recommended temperature in that location is 32 to 40 ºC.
- The incandescent lamp can be used as lighting for reptiles, but it may be necessary to experiment with different wattages to find out which one produces the ideal temperature.
- The fluorescent lamp can be placed close to the reptile lamp. This lighting provides the UVA and UVB rays that the chameleon needs to produce the active form of vitamin D3.
- A light fixture helps keep the lights situated above the cage.
- Do not use heated stones as a heat source as they can burn the chameleon.
- Night lights are not recommended as they can overheat the cage at night.
- Use a thermometer to keep the cage temperature between 26°C and 32°C during the day and around 20°C during the night.
- Lamps should be changed every 6 or 12 months.
- Chameleons are not interactive animals. If you prefer to have a pet that you can interact with, the chameleon may not be the right choice.
- Insects are the main food in the chameleons' diet. You can't be disgusted with messing with insects if you want to adopt a chameleon as a pet.
- Approach the animal slowly to prevent it from getting scared and stressed.
- Having a chameleon is expensive. Don't buy one if you are not financially prepared to take care of it.
- Certain plants are toxic to chameleons. Be sure to research which plants are good for the reptile and avoid all others that are not on the list.