Pet sitting a chameleon

Moxie79

New Member
Hello,
I've read an older post about pet sitting, I want to be sure I'm clear on a few things, after doing some research here and other sites.

The chameleon was delivered to us with a mesh enclosure built on top of a glass terrarium. It previously had live plants, but I guess they died and the owners wanted it to be easy for us, so they just replaced with plastic plants. I added a thick dowel at a good spot from the basking lamp, as well. Cammy was delivered with a dripper and with a small water fountain, a red bulb and white bulb (I was told to run white during the day and red at night), and a bunch of crickets and mealworms. Cammy has eaten crickets but not many mealworms.

My questions are:
1) how did this family start hosting Cammy without knowing he needs UVB? I want to go buy him a proper UVB lamp and charge them for it. (Just today I purchased thermo- and hygro-meters for the top and bottom of the enclosure, I'll be asking them to reimburse for that too).
2) is it ok to just feed Cammy crickets, since that's all he seems to eat? Should I try a different worm?
3) I read here that the water fountain is a bad idea- I should take that out and set up the dripper to run better? (I've used the dripper off and on, since I knew Cammy has the fountain too.)
4) There is no substrate at the bottom, which I read is good (hooray!) But they did put paper towels down, which I've been changing a couple times since. Is that ok? Should I just remove the paper towel? Before reading about substrate concerns I picked up some moss to put down there, but I haven't yet, should I just not?
5) I was given no instructions on how to properly handle Cammy (nor told that chameleons don't really like to be held!) I picked him up once or twice as I would a mammal, very gently but around the middle, to clean his cage and whatnot, and just yesterday I noticed that maybe his ribs are a little.... Not right. I honestly don't know if he came to me that way, or if I'm responsible. Is there anything I can do about this? I'm so sad.

I want to do the best I can to take care of this little guy/girl. I don't even know what species he is! I think veiled?
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I can't wait to share this wonderful resource with my friends, I'm sure they'll learn a lot from it.
 
Hello and welcome to the forums! Try to feed Cammy different types of bugs and gutload the crickets. They don't have a lot of nutrition on their own. Try check the resources page on here and go to the food section. Good luck! Your friends will learn a lot here! Everyone is really helpful and nice!
 
Hi and welcome! :) I’m so very glad that you’ve found your way here and are wanting to learn more and do things properly for this sweet little chameleon. From what you’ve said, the person you’re pet sitting for is in need of lots of education about caring for a chameleon. They aren’t the easiest to care for and can be quite expensive to keep correctly. With the current care that you describe, this little beauty is in for a very sad and short future.
You are correct -uvb is needed and needed asap. The correct type is a linear T5HO with either a ReptiSun 5.0 or Arcadia 6% bulb. The screw in uvb bulbs are not usable at any distance farther than 2-3”. Finding the T5 lights can be difficult in local stores and is even often sold out on line. Petco does not carry them. PetSmart has recently started carrying Arcadia ProT5 which is a very good light. Here’s for a correct ReptiSun. https://www.lllreptile.com/products/22467-zoo-med-24-t5-high-output-terrarium-hood Once you get the correct T5 5.0 or 6% uvb, you’ll want the basking area to be about 8-9” below the light.
Now the other lights. No to any lights being on at night. Chameleons need total darkness and unless the temps get below 50F, need no night time heat. No to ever using a red or other colored bulb for reptiles, especially chameleons. Their eyes are very sensitive.
No to using a water fountain with a chameleon. Unless obsessively cleaned, they are nothing more than a bacterial breeding ground. The cham may poo in it, crickets drown in it, etc. For drinking water, it is preferable to spray a fine misting of water for at least 2 minutes (on the plants and not the cham), 2-3 times a day. Right before lights go on and off and mid day is optional. Some chose to use a dripper for about 15-20 minutes mid day instead. If you have a night temp of 68-70 or below, you can run a cool mist humidifier night time only for naturalistic hydration, such as is provided in the wild with fog.
When you go out looking for a T5 uvb light, I want you to stop off at Lowes or Home Depot and look for some pothos plants. Usually they are quite full and can be split into a couple of plants. You’ll want to gently wash the leaves with something like Dawn dish soap and rinse very very well. If you can repot them in an organic soil, perfect. This link will tell you all about plants for chams. https://chameleonacademy.com/plants/ The problem with artificial plants and veiled chameleons (which is the species you have) is they eat plants and will eat a fake one and then get a bowel obstruction. I attach my fake plants to the outside for more cham privacy.
Having the enclosure be bare is perfect. It will accumulate water from your misting and you’ll have to figure out a good way to address that. Usually many will use some sort of drainage pan beneath the enclosure and then wet vac or somehow drain it out. No moss, bark or other substrate should be used as the chameleon can accidentally eat it and get a bowel obstruction. There is bioactive which is creating an entire little ecosystem, but let’s keep things basic and easy for now.
Crickets are a good staple feeder to use. Mealworms are greatly debated in the cham community. I personally don’t feed them and don’t think they should be used except in an emergency or once in a rare while. There are much better feeder bugs out there to use. Dubia or discoid roaches are great staples to add, along with silkworms, bsfl and a few others. Attaching some graphics for you. Some on line vendors sell variety packs which are great. Check out the site sponsors https://www.chameleonforums.com/sponsors/?tag=food What is important is to care for the feeder bugs well and keep them healthy, so that they are more nutritious. I don’t gutload, but I do keep my bugs well fed a variety of fresh foods. Avoid things like the Fluker’s cubes and diets. They aren’t very good. Make sure the feeder bug is smaller than the space between the cham’s eyes or it won’t be able to eat it.
More to come in a few minutes. I talk a lot! ;)
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There is a great way for you to learn all you ever wanted/needed and then some. https://chameleonacademy.com/chameleon-husbandry-program-getting-started-with-chameleons/
I am trying to give you the basics here and now though.
You didn’t mention any supplements at all, so I’m assuming that you weren’t told to give any. Cham needs a phosphorus free calcium without D3 lightly dusted on every feeding. Then for one feeding every other week, you’ll use either ReptiVite with D3 or Repashy calcium plus LoD. Both of those are a multivitamin and D3 combo and make giving supplements the easiest. I don’t know if you’ve heard of metabolic bone disease (mbd), but it is from a lack of calcium and is a serious problem for reptiles and especially chameleons. Calcium is needed not just for bones, but for muscle/organ function and nerve conduction. So, we give calcium every feeding. However, without a source of vitamin D3 (gotten from sunlight or supplement), the body can’t use any of the calcium. This is why the correct uvb is essential to have as it provides artificial sunlight. Vitamin D3 is fat soluble and can build up to toxic levels in the body, so we give it cautiously, twice a month. Same with some other vitamins, so the multivitamin is only twice a month too. *if you get ReptiVite, do make sure it is the one with D3 as it also comes without.
Now we need to talk about the gender of the chameleon. While it’s hard for me to see from the pic, I don’t believe I am seeing any tarsal spurs on the back feet. Only males have these and you’ll have to look. Pic below of my guy when he was about 4 months old - you can also see his male color patterns. Females will not have the vertical bars. It is very important to know gender as females will lay eggs, even if they’ve never even seen a male. Of course they’ll be infertile if not mated. The egg laying process can greatly shorten the life of our girls, but there is a way to help reduce their egg production and laying thru temps and diet. Regardless of male or female, your cham is young so you want the basking temp to be around 80. Adult males can have a basking temp of up to 85, but we keep the females at 80. Right now the cham is growing so needs proper nutrition. I’ve no idea of age so don’t really want to give you an exact number of feeders. I’ll guess that at least 10-12 daily in the AM. If you provide more pics of the cham, maybe it’ll give a better idea of age. As young as 5-6 months old, the females can become sexually mature. If you do have a girl, you’ll need further info on the egg laying bit.
I’m going to suggest starting a care journal/guide that you’ll be able to give to the owner of the cham so that it’ll be that much easier to teach them.
Do ask as many questions as you have. I’ve skimmed over a lot and I know that another member will be along and add more. :)
But, before I end let me quickly go over handling. Never grab from above…always go up from below. Veileds are notoriously grumpy and hissy and may bite. The good news is the bite doesn’t hurt as much as surprise. If careful, you’ll have no worries for getting bit. Move slowly, avoid making eye contact and extend your hand out slowly towards cham feet. I hate to subject you to one of my crappy videos, but it’s a good way to show. My girl Stella is my most fierce and the best to give you an idea of their posturing and hissing if mad. If I wanted to handle her, I’d be using my other hand to go around from her other side and gently coax her onto whichever hand is in the best position. Building trust is important and takes time, it here’s a great blog on it. https://www.chameleonforums.com/blogs/building-trust-with-your-chameleon.2396/
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Hello and welcome to the forums! Try to feed Cammy different types of bugs and gutload the crickets. They don't have a lot of nutrition on their own. Try check the resources page on here and go to the food section. Good luck! Your friends will learn a lot here! Everyone is really helpful and nice!
Thanks so much! I took a quick look at the first page, I guess I have some deep diving to do!
 
There is a great way for you to learn all you ever wanted/needed and then some. https://chameleonacademy.com/chameleon-husbandry-program-getting-started-with-chameleons/
I am trying to give you the basics here and now though.
You didn’t mention any supplements at all, so I’m assuming that you weren’t told to give any. Cham needs a phosphorus free calcium without D3 lightly dusted on every feeding. Then for one feeding every other week, you’ll use either ReptiVite with D3 or Repashy calcium plus LoD. Both of those are a multivitamin and D3 combo and make giving supplements the easiest. I don’t know if you’ve heard of metabolic bone disease (mbd), but it is from a lack of calcium and is a serious problem for reptiles and especially chameleons. Calcium is needed not just for bones, but for muscle/organ function and nerve conduction. So, we give calcium every feeding. However, without a source of vitamin D3 (gotten from sunlight or supplement), the body can’t use any of the calcium. This is why the correct uvb is essential to have as it provides artificial sunlight. Vitamin D3 is fat soluble and can build up to toxic levels in the body, so we give it cautiously, twice a month. Same with some other vitamins, so the multivitamin is only twice a month too. *if you get ReptiVite, do make sure it is the one with D3 as it also comes without.
Now we need to talk about the gender of the chameleon. While it’s hard for me to see from the pic, I don’t believe I am seeing any tarsal spurs on the back feet. Only males have these and you’ll have to look. Pic below of my guy when he was about 4 months old - you can also see his male color patterns. Females will not have the vertical bars. It is very important to know gender as females will lay eggs, even if they’ve never even seen a male. Of course they’ll be infertile if not mated. The egg laying process can greatly shorten the life of our girls, but there is a way to help reduce their egg production and laying thru temps and diet. Regardless of male or female, your cham is young so you want the basking temp to be around 80. Adult males can have a basking temp of up to 85, but we keep the females at 80. Right now the cham is growing so needs proper nutrition. I’ve no idea of age so don’t really want to give you an exact number of feeders. I’ll guess that at least 10-12 daily in the AM. If you provide more pics of the cham, maybe it’ll give a better idea of age. As young as 5-6 months old, the females can become sexually mature. If you do have a girl, you’ll need further info on the egg laying bit.
I’m going to suggest starting a care journal/guide that you’ll be able to give to the owner of the cham so that it’ll be that much easier to teach them.
Do ask as many questions as you have. I’ve skimmed over a lot and I know that another member will be along and add more. :)
But, before I end let me quickly go over handling. Never grab from above…always go up from below. Veileds are notoriously grumpy and hissy and may bite. The good news is the bite doesn’t hurt as much as surprise. If careful, you’ll have no worries for getting bit. Move slowly, avoid making eye contact and extend your hand out slowly towards cham feet. I hate to subject you to one of my crappy videos, but it’s a good way to show. My girl Stella is my most fierce and the best to give you an idea of their posturing and hissing if mad. If I wanted to handle her, I’d be using my other hand to go around from her other side and gently coax her onto whichever hand is in the best position. Building trust is important and takes time, it here’s a great blog on it. https://www.chameleonforums.com/blogs/building-trust-with-your-chameleon.2396/
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Thanks so much for all the info! I will read over this all very carefully.

We're "only" pet sitting Dec 15-Jan 25, I would definitely make huge changes to this enclosure if we were adopting him/her, and I certainly hope my friends are doing more at home than what they sent Cammy with, to us. If not, again, I'll direct them to this site and invite them to learn more.

I think I'll purchase the UVB light you suggest, and some pothos, and go from there. I removed the water fountain and will mist a few times a day, then run a night-time humidifier. I hope this will be enough to make things better for Cammy.
 
Thanks so much for all the info! I will read over this all very carefully.

We're "only" pet sitting Dec 15-Jan 25, I would definitely make huge changes to this enclosure if we were adopting him/her, and I certainly hope my friends are doing more at home than what they sent Cammy with, to us. If not, again, I'll direct them to this site and invite them to learn more.

I think I'll purchase the UVB light you suggest, and some pothos, and go from there. I removed the water fountain and will mist a few times a day, then run a night-time humidifier. I hope this will be enough to make things better for Cammy.
Agreed, the Chameleon Academy is a great source for information 👍
 
There is a great way for you to learn all you ever wanted/needed and then some. https://chameleonacademy.com/chameleon-husbandry-program-getting-started-with-chameleons/
I am trying to give you the basics here and now though.
You didn’t mention any supplements at all, so I’m assuming that you weren’t told to give any. Cham needs a phosphorus free calcium without D3 lightly dusted on every feeding. Then for one feeding every other week, you’ll use either ReptiVite with D3 or Repashy calcium plus LoD. Both of those are a multivitamin and D3 combo and make giving supplements the easiest. I don’t know if you’ve heard of metabolic bone disease (mbd), but it is from a lack of calcium and is a serious problem for reptiles and especially chameleons. Calcium is needed not just for bones, but for muscle/organ function and nerve conduction. So, we give calcium every feeding. However, without a source of vitamin D3 (gotten from sunlight or supplement), the body can’t use any of the calcium. This is why the correct uvb is essential to have as it provides artificial sunlight. Vitamin D3 is fat soluble and can build up to toxic levels in the body, so we give it cautiously, twice a month. Same with some other vitamins, so the multivitamin is only twice a month too. *if you get ReptiVite, do make sure it is the one with D3 as it also comes without.
Now we need to talk about the gender of the chameleon. While it’s hard for me to see from the pic, I don’t believe I am seeing any tarsal spurs on the back feet. Only males have these and you’ll have to look. Pic below of my guy when he was about 4 months old - you can also see his male color patterns. Females will not have the vertical bars. It is very important to know gender as females will lay eggs, even if they’ve never even seen a male. Of course they’ll be infertile if not mated. The egg laying process can greatly shorten the life of our girls, but there is a way to help reduce their egg production and laying thru temps and diet. Regardless of male or female, your cham is young so you want the basking temp to be around 80. Adult males can have a basking temp of up to 85, but we keep the females at 80. Right now the cham is growing so needs proper nutrition. I’ve no idea of age so don’t really want to give you an exact number of feeders. I’ll guess that at least 10-12 daily in the AM. If you provide more pics of the cham, maybe it’ll give a better idea of age. As young as 5-6 months old, the females can become sexually mature. If you do have a girl, you’ll need further info on the egg laying bit.
I’m going to suggest starting a care journal/guide that you’ll be able to give to the owner of the cham so that it’ll be that much easier to teach them.
Do ask as many questions as you have. I’ve skimmed over a lot and I know that another member will be along and add more. :)
But, before I end let me quickly go over handling. Never grab from above…always go up from below. Veileds are notoriously grumpy and hissy and may bite. The good news is the bite doesn’t hurt as much as surprise. If careful, you’ll have no worries for getting bit. Move slowly, avoid making eye contact and extend your hand out slowly towards cham feet. I hate to subject you to one of my crappy videos, but it’s a good way to show. My girl Stella is my most fierce and the best to give you an idea of their posturing and hissing if mad. If I wanted to handle her, I’d be using my other hand to go around from her other side and gently coax her onto whichever hand is in the best position. Building trust is important and takes time, it here’s a great blog on it. https://www.chameleonforums.com/blogs/building-trust-with-your-chameleon.2396/
View attachment 333372

So I bought some calcium to dust the crickets with, and just saw that it's with D3. Should I not feed this?!? Arrrrr! I worry that I'm doing everything wrong, but I wasn't given much to work with....
 
This is Cammy today, I very gently nudged her (I think she's a she) onto my hand. She's been keeping her eyes closed a lot, and this is the rib cage "not right" that has me concerned. I've put fresh crickets in her enclosure, hoping she'll eat more today.
 

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Oh dear. She isn’t looking good today at all. How long has she been closing her eyes during the daytime? That is a big sign that she’s ailing. Poor sweet girl needs some uvb, D3 and multivitamins last week. You can use the calcium with D3, but it’s only given once every other week, alternating then with a multivitamin that doesn’t contain D3. So it would be day 1&15, calcium with D3 and days 8&29 a multivitamin. You’ll still need a calcium without D3 for use with every feeding. If you are somewhere where it’s warm, best thing you can do is take her outside for some natural unfiltered sunlight. Otherwise, give the calcium with D3 next feeding and get her started on supplements.
 
Oh dear. She isn’t looking good today at all. How long has she been closing her eyes during the daytime? That is a big sign that she’s ailing. Poor sweet girl needs some uvb, D3 and multivitamins last week. You can use the calcium with D3, but it’s only given once every other week, alternating then with a multivitamin that doesn’t contain D3. So it would be day 1&15, calcium with D3 and days 8&29 a multivitamin. You’ll still need a calcium without D3 for use with every feeding. If you are somewhere where it’s warm, best thing you can do is take her outside for some natural unfiltered sunlight. Otherwise, give the calcium with D3 next feeding and get her started on suppl
 
Miss Skittles, thank you so much for sharing your care and knowledge! I brought her to the vet, she's getting care now. I'm looking for those specific lights but not finding them. PetSmart has an Arcadia 7%, would that work for now?
 
Miss Skittles, thank you so much for sharing your care and knowledge! I brought her to the vet, she's getting care now. I'm looking for those specific lights but not finding them. PetSmart has an Arcadia 7%, would that work for now?
The desired Arcadia is 6%. In a pinch, the 7% is better than nothing, but is really for leopard geckos. Once you get the fixture though, it’s nothing to later get the correct bulb when it’s available. @Beman knows more about uvb than I can wrap my head around. I’m so glad that you’ve taken her to a vet and pray that she’ll be ok. I know you’ve only got her for a short time and I do hope you’ll encourage her owners to come here for additional help and guidance. Especially since she’s a female, they’ll need some education on egg laying and such. Btw, you are an awesome pet sitter and really going above and beyond for this sweet little animal. 🥰
 
So the 7% has a totally different output than the 6%. It is designed with different UVB and UVA output for animals like leopard geckos.
The 7% shadedweller bulb is 7% UVB and 17% UVA and the 6% bulb is 6% UVB and then 30% UVA. The UVA is what stimulates appetite along with many other functions. So the 7% is designed for animals that are down below the canopy and do not need the same light strength.

The 7% will work for now but you will want to get the 6% bulb to replace it.
 
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