Chameleon Taming advice?

I adopted my first chameleon recently (his name is Reginald and he's fabulous) and I'm looking for advice on making him more tolerant of human interaction. He is 5 months old, male, and he
has been in my care for about 3 weeks.

So first off, I'm going to preface this by saying that I've done lots of research and it seems as though there is a big disagreement in the herp community regarding the handleability of chameleons in general and particularly of Veilds, some saying NO interaction is best and others saying LITTLE interaction is ok, though everyone seems to agree that lots of interaction is a bad idea.

After much reading from people with a lot more experience than myself, I am of the belief that they can be tolerant enough to be handled for short periods.
I believe this because not only have I read many statements from keepers who swear their chams are tolerant of them and even "enjoy" the time spent out of the cage (even if they are apathetic about the actual human contact, they seem to enjoy the experience out of the cage), but also because I have some personal experience with a "tame" Veiled Chameleon years ago when my High School teacher had a class pet veiled who was extremely "friendly" and never hissed or bit and was very willing to come out of his cage when prompted and didn't even puff up in a defensive position, or at least I never saw it.

I'm also not naive about their temperament, and you may have noticed I put "tame" and "friendly" in quotes. I don't need a lecture about their temperament as I'm well-aware they generally like to be left alone and that they are prone to grumpiness. I knew this going into getting him; I know they aren't "tame" or "friendly" like a dog. What I'm trying to achieve is for him just to tolerate me, just enough that I can pick him up sometimes to be able to handle him for SHORT periods or be able to more easily remove him from the cage for reasons like cleaning the cage, putting him on an indoor tree for some free ranging if I choose to do so in the future, (and that is some thing I'd like to set up eventually) and transport him without a
fuss if I ever need to take him to the vet or transport him for any reason.
This last one is a huge motivator for me, because I would hate to have to battle a hissing, pissed-off, 2-foot-long adult chameleon in the future just to get him veterinary help, as that scenario sounds bad for both me and my lizard.

So I'm speaking to the people who have had experience getting their chameleon to the level of "tame" that the species is able to achieve. With all due respect, I'm not going to listen to
anyone who just tells me not to handle him at all. I know that's a common opinion, but I've seen enough experts disagree with that opinion, and having personally interacted with a cooperatively handleable adult veiled, and knowing that I'm a responsible enough keeper (albeit inexperienced) to not handle him for too long, I feel confident insisting that I attempt to get him to a handleable state. He's still young, which makes me think there may be hope to push him in the right direction, but currently he will not tolerate my hand at all.

So with that in mind, here's what I've been doing so far. Let me know if you have anything else to add to what I'm already trying, or if any of what I'm already doing is a bad idea for the ultimate goal of him tolerating me:

-I hand feed him every single day, and he will almost always eat a cricket or a mealworm out of my hands, (I think only once has he refused) which I've heard is a good sign. This is about as far as he goes with willingly interacting with me on a consistent basis, and even so he still eyes me distrustfully before taking the food from my hand.

-I NEVER make sudden movements in his general vicinity, I've been very careful about this, but one time a friend of mine who is used to handling much tamer bearded dragons did stick her hand in his cage a little too quickly and made him jump. She didn't touch him, just offered her hand to him in a manner that was too quick for his comfort. However, this was just one time about 2 weeks ago, so I can't imagine this would have too much of an effect on his tolerance for humans unless their memory is a lot better than I would've guessed.

-I have also read that frequently putting your hand in the cage and NOT touching them or even going near their personal space bubble, but instead just coexisting with them in there, is a good idea because it can show them that you are just a part of their environment that is not going to interact with them every time they see you. So in addition to hand-feeding every day, I will also adjust plants, stick my hand in the cage to spray the plants, etc., all without actually going right up next to the lizard.

***-On that last point, so far I have always done this after having already having hand-fed him. As in, I will hand feed him, then I will leave the cage open and fiddle around with plants in the cage and stuff and not go right up near him. Maybe I should do more of this? Would it be a good idea to increase the amount of time spent interacting with nearby plants, while not going near his personal space? Perhaps during other times of the day other than just right after feeding? So far I was thinking that doing that right after feeding would be a good idea so that he would begin to expect to get food 100% of the time that he sees my hand, but maybe the additional nearby interaction with plants in his cage would help?

***Thoughts on ^^^ this specific point ^^^ would be appreciated, this is probably the thing I'm least certain about.***

-Sometimes after hand-feeding him I will gradually get my hand closer to him with each cricket/worm, and he will usually go for this even after I get pretty close to him. After he eats it, I will leave my hand near him to offer it to him to climb on, without actually touching him, sort of angling my fingers to where he can easily climb on them if he wants. This will fairly consistently cause him to recoil a bit and sometimes puff up, and once he responded with a hiss, which unfortunately made me jump just a little bit (the only time I've made a slightly sudden movement around him). Is this something I should stop doing, or is that a good idea? I really try to position my hand in such a place that is as non-invasive an offering as possible. While doing this, two or three times he has used my hand as support for the front half of his body to lean over further and eat a cricket crawling on the wall. I don't know if he was even aware of the fact that the hand was a hand at that point, but maybe this is also progress?

-I'm about 6 feet tall and his cage is 30 inches tall, (gonna upgrade the size when he gets bigger) but it's propped up on a small table so the top is probably 4 feet off the ground. So every time I approach the cage I actually kneel to lower myself to his level, and my hand ALWAYS approaches him from below -- I'm very careful not to approach from above him.

-I've also read about leaving the cage open for periods to let him crawl out on his own and explore on his own terms so he gets used to leaving the cage. I've tried that a few times and yesterday was the first time he actually left the cage. However, when I first noticed he had climbed out, he was starting to climb on the top of the cage where the lamps are, and was ascending the heat lamp itself. This seemed bad, as I didn't want him to get burned, nor did I want to pick him up, which would stress him out and possibly get me my first bite, so I put a ruler next to him, kinda straddling the heat lamp, to give him an easy way off the heat lamp. He didn't like this because it meant putting the ruler right next to him, and so he hissed at the very scary, threatening ruler (this was the second and last time I've heard him hiss in the 3 weeks he's been in my care).


Perhaps the strangest thing is that when I first got him 3 weeks ago, I was able to get him out of the cage and on my hand without much of a fuss 2 different times. I gave him 24 hours to
get settled in after first getting him (I read later on that I should have waited longer, but I didn't know that at the time and I'm pretty sure it's too late for that now, but correct me if I'm wrong) and then the second and
the fourth days I had him I got him out for about 5 minutes and 10 minutes respectively. I did this by gently positioning my fingers below him and letting him crawl on my hand (which he did without recoiling or puffing up) then simply taking him out.
He didn't seem all that scared of me, he climbed on my shoulder and arm, and explored my couch and a small tree outside, and he seemed to enjoy basking in the natural sunlight. The next couple times I tried to pick him up he was NOT having it, locking his gaze on me as though I'm a threat and recoiling and all the frightened behavior I have already mentioned. I find it peculiar that he initially allowed this for the most part, but now is so much more afraid.

If you got through this whole post, thank you. I know it's long, but I'm trying to be thorough in doing everything I can to make this amazing lizard become more tolerant of sharing space
with me. I'm so utterly fascinated by these creatures and want to do everything I can to make him as nice an adult as possible. Still, I will be positive and enjoy keeping him/continue
taking good care of him even if he is an asshole for the rest of his life and thus makes cleaning his cage and moving him an unneccessarily difficult uphill battle, because he is a
non-domesticated exotic animal and I understand that means there are limited options for taming and his temperament is not his fault. Still, I'm willing to put in the time and effort to
increase my odds for improving his temperament, and I really appreciate any and all tips. Feel free to write an essay as long as this one, I will eat up every word! :)
 

laurie

Retired Moderator
I am way to lazy for long posts! But I have had a number of veileds, both friendly and not friendly. I had a very sweet veiled who would walk on my hand, just by me offering it to him. I have also had one who would love to have a bite of me. It was hate as soon as she saw me. I interaction is always to let the Cham adjust to my hand and not see it as a threat. Food usually works for me. That and patience. I am much better at food than patience. Lol

The best veiled keeper on the forum is JannB. I watched her veiled come to her like puppies. She can give you pointers. Send her a note and ask for help.
 
I am way to lazy for long posts! But I have had a number of veileds, both friendly and not friendly. I had a very sweet veiled who would walk on my hand, just by me offering it to him. I have also had one who would love to have a bite of me. It was hate as soon as she saw me. I interaction is always to let the Cham adjust to my hand and not see it as a threat. Food usually works for me. That and patience. I am much better at food than patience. Lol

The best veiled keeper on the forum is JannB. I watched her veiled come to her like puppies. She can give you pointers. Send her a note and ask for help.
Thanks for the tip!
 

Zephalia

Established Member
Good morning! Crunched for time so I didn't get through your whole post but I believe I got the basis of your inquiry and will tell you how I managed to get my mean little panther to tolerate me, feed from my hand and drink from the misting bottle...

I got him at 4 months old - he HATED me. Go anywhere near him and he puffed and hissed and tried to get me. First several months I minimized handling, only doing so to bring him out to free range. Cage aggression is real. Once he was out (coaxed with a stick onto my hand most times) he calmed down a fair bit. I also offered him a cricket from my hand before every feed - it took him months to accept the first one and even after that he wouldn't take them all the time. Fast forward to approx. 1 year of age - he STILL hated me. Still brought him out to free range most weekends and continued to attempt hand feedings. Over the next 6 months - when he reach adulthood and full maturity - he seemed to settle down some. I was able to get him out by hand most times without him trying to bite me. He also started coming to the front of the enclosure when I misted instead of hiding in the back. That's what I began letting droplets fall from the nozzle and after a few attempts of this, he began drinking from the misting bottle. That was a huge success for us.

He did lose that trust we had built a bit a couple months ago, however, as he had some stuck shed around his eye and I didn't want any complications so I had to restrain him and remove it. And he reverted back to his hateful self after that.

Sometimes, they will never come around. I have a young female who is the meanest little thing you've ever seen and she's bit me on several occasions - nothing I do with her seems to make a difference.
 

Katacara

Avid Member
Hello there, if your still looking for taming advice I would suggest reposting your thread in the general discussion forum. Unfortunately that's all the advice I can give you, but from what I have read on the subject it seems like your doing a good job! And I have to say that I agree with your views on the "taming" debate.
 

jamest0o0

Chameleon Enthusiast
Chameleons are so overrated with handling. Yay climb to my head and scratch my face. They never stay put, and always end up on my back where I can't grab them, confused, and upset at how they got there. :mad: I'll just look at them for now on.
 

jannb

Chameleon Enthusiast
I have never had a problem with my chameleons not being friendly. I just love them, respect them, try to keep them healthy, do fun things with them (like let them explore, allow them to crawl up high in their inside trees and take them outside. I do see on here where people have problems with theirs though. I don't cage mine and think that might have something to do with it. When caged they can become territorial and cage aggressive. Here's a blog below that one of our senior members wrote to help with taming. https://www.chameleonforums.com/blogs/the-taming-of-the-chameleon.746/
 

CharlieCharmingo

Avid Member
For the light thing maybe when you leave the cage door open turn off all the hot lights or all of them (either is fine) so that way by the time he makes it up there they will be cooled down. Or you can try removing them then opening the cage that way he won't even think to climb up there.

Also another thing that helps with the leaving the cage door open and going about your business etc. is when you see them stick in a tricky position offer a finer like a bridge to help them cross over or gain balance or whatever it is their goal is.

I wish you the best of luck!
 

funnyCAT140

Established Member
Watch Mike Tytula on YouTube. His veileds scratch at the screen to come out and crawl up his arm when he opens the cage. He has a video on "taming" them.
 
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