Chameleons and people

#1
Hi all! I'm considering getting a chameleon in a few months and have a few (ha!--many) questions.

I don't have much experience as a herp keeper and have never cared for a chameleon, so I am leaning toward a panther. However, I have some concerns about my ability to provide a comfortable environment for such a large lizard. I hope I am being overly cautious, but at any rate, here is my living situation. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

I currently live in a co-op house while I finish my PhD. The house is actually two houses, joined together, so there is lots of space per person, but we have 12 people and four indoor cats.

Here's my first dilemma, though: I have a very large bedroom that has the footprint to accomodate a large chameleon cage, but my ceiling isn't very high and I also have one of the cats, with another cat choosing to spend time in my room. I also have a betta tank and a shrimp tank and have both set up on platforms or shelves where the cats can't get to them. It would be easy enough to do the same thing for a chameleon cage, but a 4' high cage would only be 3 feet off the ground (assuming room on top for lights). I assume that a chameleon in my room might be stressed out by the sight of the cats and spend most of its time up at the very top of its cage. Could I make up for this by having a wider cage? Would it still be a stressful life for a little lizard?

Here's my second dilemma: There are two, possibly three, common rooms that could physically fit a large as well as tall chameleon cage. These places are also not parts of the house that the cats currently have free access to. My ideal location is a large living room with giant south-facing windows and ceilings that are around 15 feet tall. But there's also an outside door (it's not a main door to the house, but it does get some traffic throughout the day). It is also a living room with a tv, where people go to socialize from time to time or, more frequently, to read and hang out by themselves for a bit in a space that isn't their bedroom. I'd say, most days the living room sits empty for most of the day with some activity in the early evenings. The seating area in the living room is around the side of the perimeter with the windows. The whole back of the living room is basically storage for large paintings, a book case, etc. The cage would be kept pretty far from the couches, tv, etc. It could also be both very tall (assuming I decide to go custom) and be kept several feet off the ground.

So, here's my concern: Is the living room a better spot than my bedroom? Is the sight and sound of many people stressful to a chameleon? Would being five feet off the ground and at least ten feet from where people usually are make up for this? What about the location of that door? Honestly, I also like the idea of the living room because I would like to set up sort of a planted vivarium and I'd like to keep it in a spot where the people in my house can enjoy it--and whatever glimpses can be caught of the vertebrate inside.

The health and comfort of any animal I bring into my home is paramount. I'd love to hear people's experiences of how they share their living space with their chameleons.
 

Carlton

Chameleon Enthusiast
#2
Depending on those particular cats, if they sit and stare at the cham they will stress it out to the point it won't move around its cage normally. Which means it may not eat, bask, drink when needed. Some people say their cats ignore the cham but not all will. A cham's vision is extremely acute and they do react to "predator" faces and large eyes...like a cat's. Hours of being observed every day builds up.

A cham that is trying to sleep at the very time people are watching TV and active in that room could be a problem. Chams don't hear well so noise isn't a major concern. Lighting and flickering motion is more of a problem. Chams can't sleep well in light. You could create drapes or curtains for your cage that block the light.

In general chams do better in quieter places in your house with a daily schedule of light and dark.
 

JacksJill

Chameleon Enthusiast
#4
On a side note since you already have 2 excellent answers to your question, chameleons unlike some other pets don't mind when you are not with them and feeding and cage cleaning can take less time than a cats care but caring for their live food can take up a lot of time. If you have a busy schedule at this time in your life it may be best to wait.
 

OldChamKeeper

Chameleon Enthusiast
#5
My wife owns three cats. So how do I keep my chameleons safe? Do the cats just leave them alone?

Well to start with, Carlton is one of the best keepers on the site. Good info when she decides to give some and I agree with her words.

My Chams are in a room the cats have been trained to stay out of. Before that they would just stare at the reptiles in the room (they are house cats... what else do they have to do) and when the furry predator was in the room the chams would "freeze". That being they would not move, like they are supposed to in the wild if you think on it. It would not be good for them in the long run. Usually over time a cat gets bored with looking at a cham, hence why some cat owners have chams. If anything the cats are usally attracted to the crickets in the cage. In your case I'd wait a little while.
 

Brodybreaux25

Chameleon Enthusiast
#6
Agree with above^. Not trying to beat a dead horse but If you type cats into the search bar here you’ll get hundreds of results from horrified Cham keepers that can’t pbelieve their harmless loveable kitty decided to suddenly act like what natured designed them to be, a skillful predator.

If you truly care for the health of the Cham, and I know you do because you have obviously put a lot of thought into this, I think you should wait until you have a bit more control of your living situation. We will be here when your ready!
 
#7
Wow, thanks for all the responses! Especially all the words of encouragement! You guys gave me some warm fuzzies.

First, it sounds like keeping a cham in my low-ceiling'ed, cat-inhabiting bedroom would be a bad idea (I figured). As for the other options, it is good to know that chams aren't sensitive to noise. In that case, setting up a curtain system is totally doable.

A couple of things: I am very busy, but I am also flexible in my busy-ness as I am writing my dissertation from home. I believe I have plenty of time to take care of all the routine tasks required of a cham and its food. I also am not sure that I will move from this house when I graduate. For now, I have no plans to do so, but it IS a possibility. Finally, the disadvantage of my living situation is also an advantage when it comes to pet care: I have to negotiate common space usage with many people, but there are also always a few people willing and ready to step in and help out with plant/pet care. In fact, one reason I'd like to have a chameleon in the living room is that I'd like for people to feel a similar sense of attachment and interest in the animal through regular exposure to what they have with my cat. The non-pet owners enjoy many of the benefits of pet ownership without the responsibility, but in turn they are also happy to step in and help out when needed and even people who arn't particularly fond of animals can also be counted on to help out in a pinch.

So, I actually see my current living situation as ideal for keeping a cham--assuming, that is, that the animal wouldn't be disturbed by people in the same room in the evenings or hurt by a distant draft from the outside door on the opposite side of the room. It sounds like a curtain system will solve the first problem. What about the second? Are panthers especially sensitive to drafts? As a former bird owner, I'd say that I'd be fine with keeping a lovebird or cockatiel in the same space. What about a chameleon, though?
 
#8
Agree with above^. Not trying to beat a dead horse but If you type cats into the search bar here you’ll get hundreds of results from horrified Cham keepers that can’t pbelieve their harmless loveable kitty decided to suddenly act like what natured designed them to be, a skillful predator.

If you truly care for the health of the Cham, and I know you do because you have obviously put a lot of thought into this, I think you should wait until you have a bit more control of your living situation. We will be here when your ready!
Hmm. It sounds like you are saying I should wait till I don't live with cats to get a chameleon. Is that right?

To clarify, my current house has two space options for a 4' or taller cage: the room where cats usually hang out in with a low ceiling; rooms with high ceilings where cats can only get to if someone brings them over and stays with them (both these rooms are closed off from the rest of the house and don't have cat boxes so we have a pretty iron-clad rule about NOT leaving animals in them, unattended).

Does the second situation still sound risky to you? If so, it sounds like I might just have to wait till my cat passes away because even if I move out of the co-op and in with my bf, the cat will come with. :(
 
#9
You mention that you are a former bird owner... what was your cats response to the bird? If the cat was super interested and stalking the cage then it will more then likely find the well lit cham stealthy moving equally as interesting. But if your cat showed no interest in a bird you may be fine. It is one of those 50/50 situations... Yes, there is risk but only you know your cat and its behavior. :)
 
#11
As a breeder, I would not want to sell you a panther the way your current living situation is! I would fear for it's wellbeing and longevity! But, having seen your expressed intellect and desire to provide well, I would be honored to sell you one in the future when your living situation has changed. Pardon me saying it like this but I have to urge you to wait till things change! Please!
 
#12
The birds are from my childhood, years ago, and predate my current cat--or any of the others. The cats chase bugs but ignore the fish tanks with the betta and the shrimp (but I also have these high enough off the ground that I doubt they have even caught sight of the tiny animals inside them).

I really don't know about these cats.

So...it sounds like people keep cats and chams, but probably best to keep them in separate rooms if at all possible.
 
#13
As a breeder, I would not want to sell you a panther the way your current living situation is! I would fear for it's wellbeing and longevity! But, having seen your expressed intellect and desire to provide well, I would be honored to sell you one in the future when your living situation has changed. Pardon me saying it like this but I have to urge you to wait till things change! Please!
I appreciate the honesty! Can I ask what particulars about my situation are alarming to you?
 
#14
On another note if you want to learn more to see how you feel about what all is required... I highly recommend listening to Bill Strand's podcast. He also makes Dragon Strand enclosures which are awesome by the way :) Here is the link to the podcast there are something like over 90 episodes. https://www.chameleonbreeder.com/
I've been working my way through the all the episodes for the past couple of weeks. It is definitely a treasure trove of information, but also super entertaining.
 
#15
I appreciate the honesty! Can I ask what particulars about my situation are alarming to you?
The problem is the unpredictability of the human factor in this equation! There are too many people! Each person there (12 mentioned) will each potentially be having many visitors a day! Let's say each person has 12 visitors a month. Now you have 144 people a month coming and going! Mmmm, let's see, still feeling like you chameleon will be safe? Even if each human that will enter the structure were to received detailed training followed by tests to proof that learning has occurred, mistakes will be made! Many of them! There are too many complex factors vital to the wellbeing of the chameleon pivoting on people not making mistakes! In theory you could keep a chameleon alive under these circumstances, but unless you find a way to trick me, it will not be one of my chameleons.

All of this said, I want to repeat myself, it is not because of you or your intellect! What I read about you makes me feel that you can do a good job being a chameleon keeper! It is the other unpredictable factors that leaves the chameleon part of my brain scream "NOOOOOOO.........!"
 
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#16
Thanks for explaining this to me. I definitely feel the alarm bells sounding for you and I think I can see why, but I also suspect that you have a different understanding of my household than I do. I worry that I've made my house sound like a college dorm and it's really not!

I think what you're worried about is random people touching the chameleon or doing stuff around it without me knowing. I personally am not concerned about this and here is why. We are an intentional community with a governance system and other formal structures that make our social set up a little different than most situations, including families. We have lots of rules and agreements and people generally live by them because all of us contributed to their creation.

Additionally, we're all older, responsible adults who have deliberately chosen to live in this agreements-based home, so rule-breaking doesn't happen a lot. Many of the rules have to do with visitors, so we have an extensive guest policy (which includes a requirement of being physically attended by the host) and this policy already includes rules around visitors and pets (like when we had a dog, the dog had to be kept in a separate room from visitors unless her owner was present). It would be simplest to just have a rule like, "no visitors near the cham area".

We also have a pretty rigorous process to bring any animal into this house. I have to prepare educational materials and draft a proposal for all my housemates and then we all have to discuss. Assuming people are open to the idea, we have to establish collective guidelines and agreements around the cham.

The truth is, I am not sure that I will get approval to adopt a chameleon. I've brought the idea up with some people and have so far the response has been positive, but if one person feels like the inclusion of such a creature into our home would be inconvenient for them OR, equally important, if one person thought that out house would be a bad fit for a chameleon, then I wouldn't get that approval. The process of making that decision will involve them getting a lot of education on chameleons, too.

There are lots of grey areas around my current living situation that I see might potentially be bad for a cham, but the attitudes of my housemates is not one. I definitely live with incredibly thoughtful, respectful people who care about animals (it is one of our core principles as a community) and who also care about and respect me. I would absolutely trust my housemates to respect any rules about a cham just as they currently respect all the expectations I have for my pet cat.

My main concern was really the visual/auditory impact on a chameleon of living around cats (if it was in my bedroom) and living around people (if it was elsewhere), but I certainly don't expect anyone to be randomly trying to handle my cham or mess with its cage. I don't have any expectations of having a cham that would like me handling it, let alone other people. I would like to have a large, beautiful planted enclosure for a cham in a far corner of the room that people can admire the same way they admire my orchid set up or the spanish moss I have growing--look, don't touch.
 
#17
The unpredictability of the human factor in this equation! Many people all potentially having many visitors. Even if each human that will enter the structure were to received detailed training followed by tests to proof that learning has occurred, mistakes I'll be made! Many of them! There are too many complex factors vital to the wellbeing of the chameleon pivoting on people not making mistakes! The theory of it all seems possible, feasable. The reality of it all is impossible!
Doh! I'm not sure the loooong message I just posted was as a reply to you. I'm not used to this forum, apparently.

To add to my rambling message: I hope I didn't sound defensive--or like I'm going to get a chameleon, regardless. I just want to make sure that your advice NOT to get a chameleon isn't based off of a misunderstanding of my living situation. I really don't expect anyone to be handling the cham or doing things like feeding and cleaning but me. I also absolutely expect my housemates to honor any requirements I have for not bothering the cham, just like they honor other house agreements, including those concerning the pets we already have.
 
#18
It's so wonderful to see someone as thoughtful and well-spoken as you are interested in chameleons. I, too, would suggest you hold off on adopting a chameleon until you have left the living situation, but I think my reasons have already been enumerated above and don't bear repeating. Use this time to learn more, and enjoy the photos of other people's chameleons. This way as well you don't have to search How to Move a chameleon in 2 years when you are planning on moving out.
 

Brodybreaux25

Chameleon Enthusiast
#19
Hmm. It sounds like you are saying I should wait till I don't live with cats to get a chameleon. Is that right?

To clarify, my current house has two space options for a 4' or taller cage: the room where cats usually hang out in with a low ceiling; rooms with high ceilings where cats can only get to if someone brings them over and stays with them (both these rooms are closed off from the rest of the house and don't have cat boxes so we have a pretty iron-clad rule about NOT leaving animals in them, unattended).

Does the second situation still sound risky to you? If so, it sounds like I might just have to wait till my cat passes away because even if I move out of the co-op and in with my bf, the cat will come with. :(
No clarification needed, I understood you the first time. Yes, I am saying you should wait until you have a home of your own to get into Cham keeping.

I understand the reply’s you received were not what you were hoping for. You asked for our honest opinions. They were respectfully given and will not change because, like you, we put the animals first. Given that, you will fit right in when the time is right.

The “generally” part of this line is what I think is bothering Matt and the rest of us since they are beyond your control:
We have lots of rules and agreements and people generally live by them because all of us contributed to their creation.

You also have to look at it from the Chams point of view. Him being locked in a house with a cat is the equivalent of you being locked in a house with a T-Rex with only a chain link fence between you. Now multiply that by the total number of cats in your house. It’s going to be just a bit tense.

For the most part you have only received answers from some of our most senior members and we are all in agreement. We’re not trying to rain on your parade, only share our collective knowledge and experiences.

How about this, since you mentioned a beautifully planted viv multiple times.... Take this time to build his home, fully planted and bioactive, and run it for a while without the Cham. It will still be a beautiful centerpiece for whatever room you put it in and it will be fine tuned by the time your ready. A lot of Cham keepers do this out of respect for the animal! As I said before, we will be here when your ready!
EA862FD1-26B4-46B2-AB77-3A4A8FD1617D.jpeg
 

jamest0o0

Chameleon Enthusiast
#20
There are people here who have cats, dogs, lots of people, kept in the living room, and/or other unconventional cham situations that make it work. I agree that cats staring at a cham can make them a little upset, but I believe they also will get used to the cat being around given the cham has plenty of space/hides and obviously that the cat can't jump on the cage or mess with anything(they can tear through screen, it's happened here). You could get strategic with it, maybe add some scat mats around the area and put some plants or something outside the cage to block the view if it seems to be a problem. We have had 3 cats. My chams were never bothered and the cats always ignore them(not that I'd leave them alone together). I'm lucky in having a separate room for the chams though. If I didn't I could still make it work through some planning. Would suggest a solid enclosure like glass or similar with a canopy to protect the lighting.

I don't have time to read your whole post atm, but if you do have another room away from the cats, but near people, then that will be fine. As long as no one is harassing the chameleon, and they get their day/night cycle with a well set up enclosure, they'll get used to people just fine.

You seem to be plenty more capable than about 90% of the people that I see with chameleons and obviously you must be pretty intelligent. The fact you're even here posting the situation honestly and taking criticism so well makes me confident you'd be able to make it work. I don't think you should be discouraged.
 
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