Do Chameleons have the ability to show affection to their owners?

Maurer3D

New Member
:( darn forgot to mention Prehensile-Tailed Skinks in my post lol. Thanks for posting that. The Philadelphia Zoo has a lovely family group of them in their reptile house.
 

Elizadolots

New Member
Shouldn't Jann post a picture of herself kissing her chameleons now?

I think some chameleons and their owners seem to develop a relationship that is sort of like affection on the chameleon's part.

On the general issue of reptiles and "mother love" some reptiles have a general "save the babies" approach to raising young. The American Alligator mother lays her eggs and walks away, not bothering about them at all, but if a baby alligator screams in terror, every adult alligator who hears it comes to protect the baby.
 

ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
On the general issue of reptiles and "mother love" some reptiles have a general "save the babies" approach to raising young. The American Alligator mother lays her eggs and walks away, not bothering about them at all, but if a baby alligator screams in terror, every adult alligator who hears it comes to protect the baby.
Well actually that's not entirely true. The alligator will guard the nest until the babies hatch and then gather them up in her mouth and take them to the water. She'll protect them for a while, I think the longer end is about a year. Just fwiw :)
 

pssh

Avid Member
The majority of baby alligators and crocs are eaten by predators which include others of their own kind. A snack is a snack.
 

jannb

Chameleon Enthusiast
Shouldn't Jann post a picture of herself kissing her chameleons now?

I think some chameleons and their owners seem to develop a relationship that is sort of like affection on the chameleon's part.

On the general issue of reptiles and "mother love" some reptiles have a general "save the babies" approach to raising young. The American Alligator mother lays her eggs and walks away, not bothering about them at all, but if a baby alligator screams in terror, every adult alligator who hears it comes to protect the baby.
I try not to post on these type threads for fear of starting a heated argument. I try not to even read them. Chameleons have way more intelligence than most people give them credit for. When they are tucked away in a cage somewhere you just can't see it. My guys are free in my home and are a big part of the family. Not only do I kiss them they put their little noses up to my mouth when they are ready for a kiss. They crawl onto me wanting to be held and they also lay their head over on my chest and smuggle up to me. I know other keepers whose chams show affection too but they probably want post hear.
 

JackP308

Established Member
Actually she doesn't even a little bit! Most species lay eggs in the ground and walk away and never look back. They certainly do not stick around to wait for them to hatch or by any means 'raise them'. Some species give live birth but don't even look to see if they survive more than a few seconds, if even that. There's no recognition of them as her offspring later. As soon as she crawls away that's the end of her mothering. Turtles are the same way. Some snakes may stay with the eggs to keep them warm, but once they hatch they're pretty much on their own. Alligators will guard the nest and get the babies to the water safely. But after a few days they're on their own. Komodo dragons will protect the nest, but not the babies. Reptiles are not known for their mothering for sure!
I don't think you studied every species of reptiles to make those claims but for one example, BBC Life in cold blood , a chameleon gives live birth and cleans up the baby chams of the afterbirth membrane.Yea she didnt cook them dinner or give them some cash but she didnt ignore them at all, actually was quite motherly. Gently wiping them down with her cool feet.To say they dont look after birthing or care I really like to know how people claim that when its not true.


Chameleon kisses thats funny : ) , hope they dont slip ya the tongue on accident.
 
affection or not

How do we really know what they feel, they are living breathing things and I believe mine does show affection, mine as well is a darker shade of green that lightens up when I interact with him, he even comes up by my neck and rest his head on my shoulders also when I go to work and my husband is home to care for him he won't eat drink and does not want to be touched but when I get home he perks up comes to his door so I believe they do have some kind of emotion
 

fluxlizard

New Member
This thread reminds me of the time I was asked to take in a big 5 and a half foot, 17 lb iguana by the family of an elderly woman.

They told me she had the lizard and a bird, and that both had plates at the dinner table.

The woman had been bitten by the iguana and nearly lost her finger- she had to have extensive and expensive surgery and they were worried for a while that she would not be able to use the finger very well even after all that.

I went to pick the lizard up and it was obvious the woman was in love with him, and being a softy for iguanas myself, I felt badly for her.

Then she approached the lizard.

The lizard immediately puffed up and put on a defensive threat display. It included lateral compression, puffing up, widening of the eyes, turning sideways to her, opening the mouth, standing on toes, wiggling tail in anticipation of using the tail whip, etc. Being a large iguana, it was very impressive to behold.

"LOOK AT HIM!" she gushed.

"He KNOWS me!"

"Mommy loves you too! I'm going to miss you so much!"
 

ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
hmm...why is that women must correct other women in something so trivial :p
I think i'm offended by that...and trust me, it's not just women!

And I certainly wasn't suggesting they can't feel comfortable around us or that we don't love them! I too kiss my chams and turtles. :) Oscar doesn't care anything about my husband but he'll run to the door for me. Of course they can recognize people. All my animals are like children and are part of my family - even George (my mean veiled who hates everything and bites me). Some of them look like they love me because they run to me, seem to enjoy being with me or 'snuggle' with me. But scientifically I know better, that's all. I didn't mean for this to turn into a heated debate, just wanted to give some evidence to the OP to answer his question. Does not mean there aren't exceptions to the rule people!
 
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Miss Lily

Chameleon Enthusiast
I try not to post on these type threads for fear of starting a heated argument. I try not to even read them. Chameleons have way more intelligence than most people give them credit for. When they are tucked away in a cage somewhere you just can't see it. My guys are free in my home and are a big part of the family. Not only do I kiss them they put their little noses up to my mouth when they are ready for a kiss. They crawl onto me wanting to be held and they also lay their head over on my chest and smuggle up to me. I know other keepers whose chams show affection too but they probably want post hear.
I also do not want to get involved with anything heated, but I totally understand the way Jann feels about her chameleons. Here's my story:

I feel that I have some type of 'connection' with my chameleons. I think a lot of the time the way they behave relates to how you are with them. Chameleons are far more than just pets to me - I love them like members of the family, they are a huge part of my daily routine and I wouldn't be without them. My first chameleon, Lily, was a big softy - she lived at the rep shop for the first 6 months of her life and was silly tame when I got her. In fact, when she was very sick she still wanted to be out with me and was far happier sleeping on my head than being in her viv on her own. She died in my lap - she just wanted to be with me. My connection with her was far greater than with Amy or Tommy, although Tommy comes a pretty close second as he is almost a male version of Lily. When she died I grieved more for her than I have over any of the other pets we have ever lost. She wasn't 'just a chameleon' - she was my friend and she relied on me for everything and I loved her with all my heart. A little bit of me died with her that day.

Now, Amy has been more hard work to earn her trust and she is still not completely trusting of me but she is happy enough to be handled and will ask to come out of her viv when she sees fit. Tommy, is just completely soppy for a big male. He will sit at the bottom of his viv by the door and wait until you let him out. He loves the weekend when we are all at home all day, he really is in his element then. Just yesterday he was out at least 3 times. I can't put my finger on any one thing with chameleons - it's just like I was meant to have them. I am also pretty sure that the Vet is glad that they aren't like your typically bad tempered chameleons. Tommy has never once hissed or gaped at me. In fact, I have been bitten at least four times by my crested gecko in the 3 months since I got him, but have never been bitten by any of the chameleons.
 
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Cainschams

New Member
I don't think you studied every species of reptiles to make those claims but for one example, BBC Life in cold blood , a chameleon gives live birth and cleans up the baby chams of the afterbirth membrane.
Please, show me this video:confused: If you are talking about this one then the 300 times I have watched I have never seen the mother cleaning the membrane from the babies. Live bearers do not take care of the babies. Of course they are going to be in the same tree or bush as the mother but she is not going to defend them from a predator or any other type of caring for.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCmqM3YP1-4
 

Chris Anderson

Dr. House of Chameleons
Staff member
Clearly its in our own nature as social animals to bond with family, friends and pets. A lot of this is tied to fundamental characteristics of our species and behavior such as our cooperative social structure, maternal investment and care, etc. Because of these traits we naturally tend to see human characteristics in other animals and their behavior when the reality is that such behavior is often more instinctual or survival oriented than social.

The reality is that most reptiles have a fundamentally different reproductive strategy than mammals and their level of maternal investment, at least as far as care of their offspring is concerned, is in stark contrast. Much of our own bonding and social behaviors are tied to our reproductive strategy and the fact that our offspring are reliant on a considerable amount of care after birth in order to survive. In order to provide the required care, this often requires social cooperation with other members of our family. Most reptiles have a more primitive reproductive strategy whereby little to no post birth care is required for the offspring to survive. As a result, most reptiles lack or have limited physiological responses that cause bonding behavior and its associated emotion (yes, there are chemical changes at the physiological level that cause bonding and brooding behavior in mammals). While some exceptions are known (i.e. crocodilians, some skinks, etc.), chameleons are not believed to be an exception to this rule. Baby chameleons are able to survive on their own from the moment they are born and are not known to purposefully associate with their parents, particularly for any parent-offspring related protection or care.

In looking for similar behaviors, emotions and care in other animals as we would expect in mammals, we often misinterpret what we see. The example of the chameleon from Life in Cold Blood that gave live birth (Bradypodion pumilum) is a good example. The female in this case did not clean the offspring or wipe the offspring down with her feet as was suggested earlier in this thread. The offspring break free of their birthing membrane on their own and clean themselves up on their own. The footage of the female touching one of the babies with her feet is simply an example of the female walking over the offspring that have just been born and could have very easily been partially staged. There are various reports of live bearing chameleon species predating on their offspring shortly after birth.

Now, obviously different chameleons will respond to different people in varying ways and their response to people can change. Chameleons do learn what should and should not be considered a threat and they can learn to associate things with food, etc. In that sense their response to people, even individuals, can evolve based on their experience. Learning that their keepers are not a threat and learning to associate their keepers with food or other things, however, is not the same as affection. Often we completely miscategorize the behaviors to fit the response we want or hope to see when the reality is these are signals with completely different meanings.

Chris
 

jessica

Avid Member
hmm...why is that women must correct other women in something so trivial :p
In the middle of reading this thread I just had to stop and say that I am offended by this remark. I find it to be a rude sexist comment.

Guess what Ace women are allowed to vote too.
 

dreamforthedead

New Member
I try not to post on these type threads for fear of starting a heated argument. I try not to even read them. Chameleons have way more intelligence than most people give them credit for. When they are tucked away in a cage somewhere you just can't see it. My guys are free in my home and are a big part of the family. Not only do I kiss them they put their little noses up to my mouth when they are ready for a kiss. They crawl onto me wanting to be held and they also lay their head over on my chest and smuggle up to me. I know other keepers whose chams show affection too but they probably want post hear.
I agree with what jann has said. My cham will let me kiss her on the nose, she comes and climbs on me with her happy colors and sometimes snuggles into me and goes to sleep. It's very sweet, i like to think she loves me but who knows what really goes on in a chameleons head.
 
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