The Taming of the Chameleon

“Come and play with me,” he says to the fox.
“I cannot play with you,” the fox replies. “I am not tamed.”
“What does that mean – to tame?”
“It means to establish ties. To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you.
And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other.
To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…please, tame me!”
“I want to, very much,” the Little Prince replied, “but I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
“One only understands the things that one tames,” the fox said.





The Taming of the Chameleons:



My new chameleon:

I will start from the very beginning; you have your new little friend in a box the FedEx driver just handed you. You want to resist the temptation of ripping the box open and yanking the cham out like a Beanie Baby.
Lower the lights, and carefully and slowly open the box, remove the packing, and gently place the deli cup containing your little guy or girl in the new home which you have already prepared and heated up in advance. Remove the lid and see the frightened face of your new friend for the first time, looking up at you.
Now, just walk away and let him come out of the deli cup and explore undisturbed. Remember, he/she has been through a very frightening ordeal in that dark box. You may want to even cover the cage loosely with a bed sheet for added privacy. If your cham knows he is being watched, he will simply find a good hiding place and freeze there.
You don’t want him to do that, you want him to explore freely without worries, so covering the cage will help with that.
Be sure to keep other pets and kids away from your new cham’s home. How your cham initially reacts to you depends on how he was treated previously, and how bad is ‘trip in the dark box’ was.
He may take food from you right away, but likely not. It doesn’t hurt to offer it to him anyway. Just get a small cricket and hold it between your fingers and slowly hold it in front of your cham.
If he stares at it from a safe few inches away (you don’t want to invade his “comfort zone”) without backing away, that’s a good sign. You may have to hold your hand very still while that tiny cham brain analyzes the situation. Holding dead still is something you are going to do a lot of, so get used to it.
Don’t freak out if your cham does not eat for a few days, this is a normal reaction to unfamiliar environment and your cham needs time to fully assess any potential threats from predators.
Your cham may not take food for a few days, so just keep him/her covered and private.

While acclimating your chameleon to his/her new invironment, avoid making any changes to the inside of the cage. Chameleons hate change, and rearranging, adding or removing things from their already unfamilier territory may cause them some stress.

Ask your breeder, or previous owner how much they handled your chameleon, and what they were feeding him.
Your chameleons experience with human contact will go a long way in taming.
Many small scale breeders handle and pamper their animals from the time they hatch, and your cham may already be very comfortable with handling.

Dinner time:

In my opinion, the best way to start feeding your new cham is to let them hunt the pray.
This gives them some activity, and familiarizes them with the geography of their home.
Just dust a dozen or so cricket nymphs (not adults) and release them on the vines or screen side walls of the cage. You want to keep them climbing, not falling on the floor where they will die.
If your cham consistently stays in open view and does not slowly slink away to find a hiding place when you approach and open the cage door, you are already 1/3 of the way to taming.

Getting to know you:

After 2 days of keeping your new cham’s cage covered, you should now be able to remove it and only use it at night, which is VERY important that he/she gets a good night’s sleep with lots of nice jungle dark.
It's best to have your chameleons cage elavated so he/she is looking slightly down on you when it his basking spot. Placing the cage on a stand or small table will give you the height you want.
Chameleons feel much more secure when they are looking 'down' on the world.

At about the same time every day, attempt to hand feed your little guy/gal. Open the cage slowly and hold the food item between your fingers or in the palm of your hand (chams often mistake fingers for food). Watch your chams reaction very carefully. If your cham is not retreating from you, hold the prey about 8’’ from him, making sure his eyes are fixed on the prey, and not at you.
If he sees the prey, but is more interested in keeping his eyes fixed on you, or if he seems to be “frozen” like a rabbit in a headlight, give up and try again later. It’s important to know how far you can go each time, the object here is to earn your cham’s trust, this may not come easy.
Do this routine every day, trying to get a little closer each time, and each time pulling out at the first sign of fear.
Remember, move slowly, hold the food item as still as possible, and do this at the same time every day and eventually (patience needed here, may take days, weeks, or even longer!!) , your cham will snap it right out of your hand. It should not be necessary to “starve” your cham to force a stubborn cham to eat out of your, but a day without food will not hurt him, and use food items that you already know your cham likes.
When hand feeding, avoid 'staring' at your chameleon, turn your head away. If your pet see's that you are staring at him, this may be considered a threat.
If your cham does decide to climb onto your hand, remember to keep still, and do not move away from his/her cage.
Your cham may slowly walk up your arm, and to your shoulder. As they tend to travil in a fairly straight path, and while still standing close to the cage, you can extend your other arm and your cham may follow along and you can guide him back to his cage.
While your chameleon is on your arm or hand, try to keep your face at a distance, and hold him up slightly higher then your eye level.

Offer him a treat every time he climbs on your arm willingly.

Remember, when you get his on your hand/arm for the first time, they will be very nervous.
Stay very close to the cage as this is their security blanket and you want him/her to know they can retreat into there familiar territory whenever they want.

You have to kind of judge a good time to attempt handling. If he is in the back of the cage, and you cant see him, this may mean he does not want you to!!
In this case, leave him alone.

The best time is when you see them out in front, maybe climbing on the screen door or ceiling.

Just open the cage door for a few minutes and establish eye contact but don't stair at him for long, and if he eats out of your hand, he may be very shy to let you see him eating and may 'freeze' with the food sticking out of his mouth.
If you just turn your head and look away, this usually works.

Hand feeding is used for bonding and taming purpose only, not intended as primary feeding. A few food items per day hand fed, and the rest put into feeder cups, or allowed to roam for your cham to hunt.
Something else I have noticed with new chams.
When they are new to their surroundings, a bit scared and hiding a lot, they may be afraid to expose themselves to come to the top where their basking branch is. They are still too afraid to be out in the open. Instead, they are more likely to find a spot somewhere in the middle of the cage, either center, or the back so they can stay out of sight and feel for secure.

Unfortunatly, this means their body temp. may not be increasing enough for good digestion.

In this case, you may find that your cham is not eating.

If you can, raise the room temp to mid 70'sF.

Don't worry, as your cham slowly gets comfortable, he/she will loose it's fear and come up to bask.

During this stage of acclimation, it is VERY important to LEAVE HIM ALONE. Ignore him except at feeding and cleaning.
Make sure family member do the same.

Once your cham is eating from your hand every day, and not wanting to hide from you, we can go to the next step.

PATIENCE!!! KNOW WHEN TO CALL IT QUITS FOR THE DAY! :eek:

Free ranging:

199.jpg


Okay, so now your cham is taking food from your hand, great! Don’t think this means it’s time to get him to climb on your hand, though he may be willing to climb on you without baiting at this point, but more likely not.
For that, we need to get him out of his guarded territory and out of the cage without causing him any undue stress.
Several ways to do this, but my favorite is to buy a bendy ¼’’ vine, ZooMed and Flukers (and others) make them.
Secure one end of the vine to one of the upper branches of your chams cage, and the other end to a large fake tree or a climbable free range area a few feet away from the cage (yes, the cage door will still shut, but it’s tight!).
Now, just open the cage door and step back and wait for him to find his way out.
They may be reluctant and insecure to leave their territory, but they will eventually venture out. So, this may take several attempts.
Once your cham is out, and seems to feel comfortable outside his home, you can do the hand feeding again, just like you did before, but now you can get a little closer. You don’t want to move to fast, or in a hurry, but you want your cham to touch/smell your finger when offering the food.
Develop a daily routine; let your cham out the same way, every day, do not change the position of anything he uses to climb on. Make sure you gently touch his nose or head every day and flatten your hand with a worm in your palm so he has to climb on your fingers to get it. Remember, hold very still, and no jerky or sudden movement.
Do this as often as possible. You should work with you cham everyday for at least 15 minutes, even if it’s only to open his cage, hand feeding, and getting close to him.
Never over-do it, once your cham does climb into your hand, that doesn’t mean he is tame yet. Always let him “lead the way” in your relationship, always give him a “way out”, never push, corner, hover or grab.
You will find that your cham will not go back to his cage after free ranging. This is where you will most likely be able to handle and pick him up, esp if they have been without a heat source a several hours.
Flatten your hand directly in from of him (he must be able to see your hand) and gently nudge it under him so he grasps it, one foot at a time. You can use your other hand to gently guide him forward.
Once on your hand, slowly escort him home. Do not get him close to your face as this may scare him and he may jump off of you.
Your cham may gape and get a bit huffy, but he probably will not try to bite you. Be very slow, and try to gently stroke his chin or leg with the tip of your finger.
If he turns and bolts away from you, take a break, and try again a bit later.


Finally:

Use this as a guide, you will find things that work better for you and your unique animal, but stick with it, every day.
Most animals will respond in a positive way


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Comments

Nice work! Way to see it from the cham's point of view. This should help a lot of owners who may be a bit frustrated and disappointed that their new friend wont come out to play!!!
 
WOOOO HOOO!!!

Your students, Prometheus and I, have made some, slight progress! We had our first "stand-off"! That is drastic progress for this boy. Usually if we get within 5 feet of his viv, he is diving for the bushes.

So, thanks for the advice. It is taking forever but 9mos. old is waaaaay better than nothing, right?

PS: Patience is definitely a virtue when "taming" a chameleon. Thanks for reminding me of that.
 
this is great info, will be putting it to use with my new baby! we're already partway there! he generally doesnt like being hand fed, prefers to hunt down prey inside his terrarium instead. he does however seem to like coming out of his home and onto my hand once a day. its great to read this and see more of his way of looking at it! thanks for the great advice!!
 
Decadancin;bt1619 said:
Nice work! Way to see it from the cham's point of view. This should help a lot of owners who may be a bit frustrated and disappointed that their new friend wont come out to play!!!

Thanks for your comments :)
 
HolyToledo;bt1651 said:
WOOOO HOOO!!!

Your students, Prometheus and I, have made some, slight progress! We had our first "stand-off"! That is drastic progress for this boy. Usually if we get within 5 feet of his viv, he is diving for the bushes.

So, thanks for the advice. It is taking forever but 9mos. old is waaaaay better than nothing, right?

PS: Patience is definitely a virtue when "taming" a chameleon. Thanks for reminding me of that.

Thanks, I was really pulling my hair out with Smidget. He simply would not respond. I had to keep at it, every day.
I finally got him to eat a silkie out of my hand, and have learned a few new tricks because of his unusual stubbornness :D
 
ReptileLove18;bt1655 said:
this is great info, will be putting it to use with my new baby! we're already partway there! he generally doesnt like being hand fed, prefers to hunt down prey inside his terrarium instead. he does however seem to like coming out of his home and onto my hand once a day. its great to read this and see more of his way of looking at it! thanks for the great advice!!

Thank you. I hope it works out for you. Please let me know how your baby responds.
It's always best to start as young as possible.
It's also good to buy your cham from a breeder who handles the babies and are around them a lot. Those chams are already used to people.
 
Hi there,

not sure if you're still responding to comments posted to this thread, but just in case, here goes:

do you have any recommendations for taming a chameleon you've already mis-handled to some degree? by mishandled, i mean that in the past, a couple of times, i have chased my male veiled around his cage trying to get him to climb up on my hand. can i still go back to trying to start hand feeding if i've already been a jerk?

I think as long as you haven't actually hurt him and caused him pain, you should always be able to go back to square one, just like a new arrival.
Just give him the same privacy as you would a cham who is not yet acclimated to it's surroundings. Then gently follow the hand feeding method and progress
from there.
Where there's a will (and tons of patience) there's a way ;)
Good luck
 
poppototamus;bt1728 said:
Hi there,

not sure if you're still responding to comments posted to this thread, but just in case, here goes:

do you have any recommendations for taming a chameleon you've already mis-handled to some degree? by mishandled, i mean that in the past, a couple of times, i have chased my male veiled around his cage trying to get him to climb up on my hand. can i still go back to trying to start hand feeding if i've already been a jerk?

I think as long as you haven't actually hurt him and caused him pain, you should always be able to go back to square one, just like a new arrival.
Just give him the same privacy as you would a cham who is not yet acclimated to it's surroundings. Then gently follow the hand feeding method and progress
from there.
Where there's a will (and tons of patience) there's a way ;)
Good luck

Hi, I wouldnt worry about that. Esp. if he was very young. They are bound to be more fiesty when they are little, but they settle down in time.
I was affraid Squee would hate me forever when I had to get hime out of his baby cage and into his big boy cage.
I simply could not get him out!! I finally had to slowly take the sticks and vines out.
But he kept hissing, snapping, puffing up all black, doing the 'suicide drop" all over the place, etc.
I finally got him in his new cage, and after a few weeks, he became the friendliest, sweetest panther cham I have ever seen :D

So, not to worry :)
 
Thanks for this guide! Today I got him to allow me to handle him and he was on my shoulder/back for a while. I did the vine to a good size scheflera outside the cage once or twice before and he came out a bit but went back in. I wanted to try it again today and he came out into the plant and got real ballsy and started to go for my entertainment center where I ushered him onto my hand and put him in the cage and he came right back out a few minutes later. My veiled on the other hand....not going there. He didn't get dark while on me, he did have a bit more bright, but didn't puff up or get really bright, I'm sure he was a bit stressed since the first time he was climbing on me.
 
J'adore Le Petit Prince. I enjoyed that quote :3 and I also liked the way you describe the relationship. I tell my friends that dog's are your best friend, cats are your friend, and exotic animals are acquaintances. You wouldn't just make physical contact with an acquaintance without permission.

I had 2 questions though....
1. I use a dripper that falls into a bowl on the floor and I have to dump the water out every night before he goes to bed, is that going to overly disturb him? Is there a better time to do it?
2. Are there any pros/cons to using tongs instead of fingers for hand feeding?

I also just noticed its been a while since anyone posted on this, so here's hoping you still check it.
 
I have a weird question...I have 5.5 month old blue bar ambilobe I got from Kammerflage Kreations and I am trying to get him used to my dogs. I have 2 dogs, 1 of which was best friends with my previous panther like they took baths together. They would sit and watch TV together and everything.
My oldest dog really misses my other cham so when we got this one I was excited that maybe he wont be so sad and missing Turk anymore. Well Kau'i hates the dogs he makes himself as dark and big as possible and tries to hide behind my hand its insane. Both dogs are pretty good about giving him his space and leaving him be but when he gets mad they get curious.
So what would your advice be to get him to at least tolerate the dogs better. I don't want him all stressed out, but I need to continue handling him. It only took him 2 weeks to get used to me and crawl out of his cage up my arm. He goes every where possible with me. He sits on my hat lol. Please help if you can.
 

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