Preventing dirt ingestion


New Member
Hi again,

This is probably an easy question...only to be asked be a newbie. But what can I do to prevent my cham from accidentally ingesting the dirt from a plant's pot?
One way to get around this problem would be to cover the soil with stones. Just be sure that they aren't too small, otherwise the cham may ingest them too.
I just would make sure the soil is safe. No perlite, trying to get out any sticks, and no chemical fertilizers. I personally do not care if they eat soil.

I have seen people put screening over top of the pots. Cut two peices and tuck in the sides. You can put a square cut out so that both peices of screen overlap around the trunk of the plant. This will keep them out and allow for good drainage and watering.
I don't think it is something you need to worry about. While we don't understand the "why" of it, many chameleons will voluntarily eat dirt, dead leaves, etc. Being as they might have occasion to come in contact with "dirt" in the wild ..... all types ..... all the time ..... I think you are trying to fix something that ain't broke. I think that the "solutions" may create problems for you though.;)
Well that's good to know! Thanks! When I saw him eat dirt this week I got worried that he might get a stomach irritation or something. But I'm glad I asked.
Some people say that they eat the dirt to seek out nutrients. Could be possible that they eat it for hydrations.

It has been noted in some wild boars that they eat mud after ingesting posionous plants. This nuetrilizes the effects of the toxins in alot of cases. Probably not what is going on here.

Mine seem to have a phase where they ate it and then never again. Not really sure why.
I personally wouldn’t worry about it – I have heard tons of stories of chams eating dirt – the majority were veileds. Mine did it and still does it. I tried to cover the dirt with large river stones only to come home and find them on the cage floor. He would zap them with his tongue to move them. That actually got me worried since the stones were somewhat heavy and I didn’t want him to strain his tongue. Just make sure the top layer of soil is clean. I believe that the chams are looking for some trace elements – something missing from their diet

On a similar note, I saw a show where some wild parrots were eating clay from the side of a cliff. I guess it was for removing toxins/impurities from their bodies. Apparently the clay soaks that crap up for them. Even some people willingly do this as well. I will stick with Taco Bell – that stuff seems to clean me out just fine.

Animals eat dirt for a variety of reasons. Sometimes as a natural antacid like Roo described, sometimes as a source of nutrients and minerals and other times for the natural bacteria present in the soil. I personally let my chameleons eat soil. Care however needs to be taken when purchasing and watering/fertilizing plants. Only use light doses of organic fertilizers and avoid substrates such as perlite, wood chips and sand.
I think the Taco Bell is just replacing it with new toxins. Then you got to go back later to clear those out. It is a vicisous cycle.

Take it from someone how deals with food all the time, do not eat Taco Bell. That is disgusting and possibly dangerous.
Although many animals and humans eat soils (clays, etc), we have to be aware that the ones we use to pot flowers may/do contain things that wouldn't be wise to allow our animals to ingest.

Clay ingestion...
"The African clays released calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, or zinc in amounts of nutritional significance from some clays but not from others."
"Clay's ability to absorb plant toxins is well documented."

Elephants...use of licks to get sodium...

The benefits of clay...

"Symptoms from hookworm are Iron deficiency, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, craving to eat soil".

Parrots... dirt on clay licks.htm
"There have been two main theories floating around about why parrots eat soil. The first says that the birds eat the soil to get minerals. Something like an avian daily vitamin pill. The other major theory is that they eat the soil to protect them from toxins in their diet".
"So this textural cue may lead the parrots to the soil that simultaneously neutralizes the nasty toxic chemicals they eat and provides them with an important source of sodium."

There is no reason why geophagy (dirt/soil/clay eating) should have a single may serve different functions at different times. It may occur to satisfy a need for a missing nutrient or to help with detoxification or digestion...or maybe serve another purpose that hasn't been figured out yet.

Primates and other animals also eat plants to rid themselves of parasites, internal upsets, etc. which may be part of the reason it has been reported that some chameleons chew on branches and eat leaves, etc.
Top Bottom