Not all chameleons are friendly...

This is a controversial topic, and so I want to preface this with a quick memo... This post is just a product of my experience with my first chameleon ever. I'm in no way, shape, or form, an experienced keeper. I am in no way, shape, or form an expert. I write my blog posts a little bit for the story, a little bit for my own record-keeping as I learn more about general herp care, and a little bit in hopes that it will provide some useful/helpful knowledge to someone out there. I'd also be lying if I didn't admit I'm also fishing for a little advice here and there. So feel free to DM me, or reply to this post.

The warnings are out there. If you do your research then you should already know that not all chameleons, especially veiled chameleons, are friendly. It's just a fact of nature. I knew this going into this commitment and hobby, yet I still hung on to the hope that my chameleon would be friendly enough to at least handle him every once in a while. I actually decided on getting a chameleon instead of the standard household pet options (cat, dog, etc.) because I love that they like their space, just like me. Trust me, I did my research. Still, this a creature I'm caring for, and as a human I still have the desire to interact with this little guy and hold him every once in a while. To me, "every once in a while," means once every week or two. That would be enough interaction for me to trust my chameleon understands I'm the one who cares for him and feeds him...and yeahhh, it would be a nice bonus to get a picture or video with my little booger. (Even though I've never considered myself the vain type.)

I've had little Pepe for about six months now, and we have made no progress when it comes to trust. I go around this "hope cycle," so to speak, around and around. I get my hopes up, thinking it's possible to gain his trust slowly. Then I work with him doing all the right things based on all the extensive research I've done, spending as many hours as I possibly can and being as patient as humanly possible. Seemingly out of nowhere, when I think we've made great progress, we will back-slide and Pepe is flaring up, hissing, and biting in my direction when I'm putting feeders in his cup 1.5 feet away from him. For days, and usually weeks I have to go back through the motions of being cautious around him, giving him lots of time and space, and being patient, all just to feed him without stressing him out to the point of hissing and biting. It's a little frustrating, but really I just keep reminding myself that I'm a human and he's a chameleon and this is what I chose. I put his needs above my feelings.

Too often on social media sites, and even this site sometimes, it's easy for newbies to think all chameleons are going to want to crawl all over you and be curious enough to want to interact with you. There are many sides to this topic. Lots of experienced keepers might offer me all kinds of advice. I'd be surprised to hear/read advice I haven't already found through my research, AND tried with Pepe for the past several months. And so ultimately, I think I'm starting to reach the reality that my chameleon might not ever come to realize that I'm not a threat. For whatever biological/intuitive reason, he might always think I'm a threat to him. He might always flare up when I approach the cage. He might always hiss and bite when I put feeders in his cage. He might always walk/run away as soon as I open the cage door.

I did my research, knew this was a great possibility (especially with my first chameleon, and reptile for that matter), and I figured out that I was going to be okay with this reality if I reached it. Before I even started buying supplies or a chameleon I had to realize that people generally get pets for companionship. If they happen to accomplish this with a chameleon it's a well documented victory that becomes a little bit sensationalized.

If you're considering getting a chameleon for the first time, especially a veiled chameleon (often recommended for newbies), then just keep all of of this in mind. Take it seriously when the experts say that chameleon keeping is for advanced reptile keepers. He/She may never want anything to do with you, and this is just one of many factors that will go into his/her care. I feel like I should also mention this makes it an even bigger challenge to keep your husbandry on point so you can avoid a vet visit....can you imagine trying to get a chameleon like mine to the vet?! If that day ever comes for me I truly don't know how I will handle it, but I think about it and worry about it a lot.

Just some food for thought, letting the community know that my chameleon is definitely not a friendly one, and I'm okay with that. Of course if I make progress or if anything changes, I will keep the readers updated. :)

Having said all of that, here are some latest pics of my grumpy little dragon who wants nothing to do with me. (mostly of him sleeping...duh.)

Sleeping teenager - around 9 months old (definitely edited with photoshop...I can't hold him so I photoshop...):

Accidentally spooked him in his sleep and flared up...scared the crap out of me!:

I usually wake up, roll over in my bed, he's sitting there staring at his feeder cup, and gets dark because I'm now looking at him... grumpy, goofy, hungry chameleon!


Gosh, that's a good warning. I'm still thinking about whether to get a veiled chameleon, and I guess I am harboring the hope that it will perch on my shoulder. I had an anole when I was a kid that would turn green when I walked into the room and could pick me out of a crowd. All the other reptiles I've had (turtles, snakes, more anoles) were pretty interactive. My absolute worst pet was a hermit crab that clattered its shell on the bottom of the cage in a panicked retreat every time I made a sudden movement, even from across the room. Maybe I won't buy any chameleon unless it will crawl onto my or its keeper's hand?
Panther chameleons, and a few other species, are known to be more friendly (I actually like to use the word "curious" instead), so that's definitely something worth considering! Also, people can either get more lucky than I did, OR people are just more advanced in their knowledge and therefore are better at this "training" chameleons to recognize that you are not a threat. I really don't mean for anyone to get discouraged by my blog post, rather to just think about this topic and consider it. (Especially since I felt mislead in this area.) I thought that even if I followed everyone's advice with the "training" then he would warm up to me, but that just hasn't been the case for me, so I just wanted to share my experience.
Wow, sorry he's so prickly. And sorry you felt misled! On the other hand, it's six months and maybe the little guy still feels like he's adjusting.

I DONT KNOW chams, but having a bit of experience with other animals, I wonder if the situation might be helped by moving his cage away from your bed. You might be a little too close for comfort for him and then he is forced to be close to you for many hours. Maybe moving him to another room or even just further away would help him to feel a little less threatened by your presence because then you'd only be getting close for food. Just a thought.

But maybe he'll always be afraid of you. I feel like Instagram and FB are full of people's pics of their chams with captions saying things like "she hates my guts". It does seem like yours is a common experience.

So how can you enjoy your pet while respecting his boundaries? The Chameleon Breeder podcast has several episodes that touch on this and Bill Strand speaks really eloquently about how chameleons and humans are wired differently. Maybe trying to understand why your chameleon shies away from you will help you to appreciate this aspect of his personality.

Anyway, thanks for being open and honest about this kind of thing.
Thanks! I love Bill Strand's newsletters and bought a dragon strand enclosure for my booger. I love the company, so now maybe I'll finally get into that podcast! haha.

I've definitely thought about the location of his setup, and I still think it's actually the best spot away from all the traffic in my home and for keeping the humidity and temperature numbers where they need to be. It's tough for sure. Again, all things people need to consider before taking this plunge!

Thank you for the advice and kind comments! :)
Those cages look really nice! I'm sure you'll enjoy the podcast.

I hope the lil guy calms down a bit--or that your worries about him settle out after awhile. As for worry about having to handle him to get to the vet, Bill actually has an episode just on how to handle an angry cham lol! I can definitely sympathize with your worries in this regard.
To @Calummaty Jane and anyone else who stumbles on this... I did listen to several of Bill's podcast episodes...and queued up many more. They are excellent! Personally, I didn't learn a ton of new information about the basics of the "taming" process that I hadn't found in previous research. Still, Bill's experience brings a new perspective to someone like me that is incredibly valuable. I highly recommend these podcasts to all cham keepers and breeders. I will continue to keep trying these methods everyone swears by...but like my blog post above describes...that "hope cycle" is very real for me, haha. So...we'll see! I'll certainly keep everyone posted as time goes on. :)
I too am new to chameleons and have a veiled for only about a month now but he is very timid and runs for cover upon movement toward his cage. Maybe he has not had enough time to adjust and I am too anxious for him to calm down? Eats great and has good color but does not want anything to do with human companionship.
I too am new to chameleons and have a veiled for only about a month now but he is very timid and runs for cover upon movement toward his cage. Maybe he has not had enough time to adjust and I am too anxious for him to calm down? Eats great and has good color but does not want anything to do with human companionship.
Depending on what your own personal goals are with your new pet, I highly recommend doing as much research as humanly possible. I do think if I had spent many more hours doing all of the recommending things to gain trust with my chameleon when he was younger, instead of being timid myself, then maybe there would be a better chance of him being more curious and "friendly" towards me. Still, some chameleons just aren't friendly, which is why I wrote this blog post. Bottom line on this forum website: do your research! :) Thanks for commenting! :)

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