Questions from a new Panther Chameleon owner regarding shyness/timidness and hiding

RyanC36

New Member
Hello, I’m a first time Chameleon owner and have some questions and need your expertise. He is a male panther Ambilobe. About 5-6 months and I’ve had him for close to 3 weeks now. I have him in a 2x2x4 screen enclosure. I live in a colder/dryer climate so I’ve made his enclosure pretty dense with leaves, vines, plants both real and fake to help inclose the humidity and maintain temperature. When I first got him I noticed right away he was extremely shy/timid. He spent the first 2 days hiding in the back deep in some foliage and refused to come out. It wasn’t until day 3 where I actually saw him come out on a central vine. If I approached the cage he would immediately be freighted and position himself on the back side of the vine opposite side to me only exposing his eyes to view me using the vine as a “shield”. I’ve done a lot of research on aggressive chameleons but haven’t seen much on this extreme shyness and constant hiding. I was successful on day 3 with hand feeding him once. I haven’t had any success hand feeding after that first time and it’s been 2.5 weeks of trying every day. When I try to hand feed he takes his normal defensive position on the vine and is too scared of me to even think of feeding from my hand. I gave him 3 weeks to settle into his enclosure before I started to try to handle him. I’ve been unsuccessful. Because he moves to the back side of the vine to hide it makes it difficult to get him on my hand gently without stressing him too much. The most recent time with a little finesse I got him on my hand but he was able to grab a vine as I was bringing him out and he sprinted into a hiding spot very agitated. I’m not sure if trying to hand feed or handle him is resulting in him becoming even more frightened of me or if it’s working in a positive way of him getting used to me over time. Usually when he gets scared he hides for about an hour before he will come back out. It’s to the point where the only way I can observe him is from across the room. When he hides it takes sometimes up to 10 mins to locate him. Does giving him so much foliage and hiding places act negatively for him getting used to being in the presence of people? Does interacting with him while he is in an accessible location and him getting timid prevent him from wanting to return to that open location again? Will getting larger give him more confidence to at least be comfortable with someone standing closer to his enclosure? Aside from the extreme timidness and hiding he seems to be fine. He now eats well out of a feeder after the usual failed attempt at hand feeding. I find him basking when I return home after not being around for a while. Misting, temperatures and UV doesn’t seem to be an issue. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
 

RyanC36

New Member
Here are a few. Let me know if you want to see anything specifically
 

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Chameleomom

Chameleon Enthusiast
Let the little guy alone and give him space. NEVER grab and take him out when you don't have to for a good reason. All you are doing is making him NOT trust you
 

The Wild One

Chameleon Enthusiast
Ok I just wanted to see the enclosure before we started(great job on that btw!), usually you need to build a “bond” or as close to a bond as you can get with chameleons. What I’ve heard (and in the process of doing) works is hand feeding their favorite food, for Coda (my Cham) she runs and hides whenever I walk in the room, but she will be out in a heartbeat for a Super. It’s more trial and error because every Cham is different.
 

AnamCara

Chameleon Enthusiast
Hey! Nice setup! There are many ways to keep chameleons and that includes interacting with them. I first want to say that I dont think this behavior is very abnormal. He will take time to become home in his place and see you as a tree that feeds him.

It's not uncommon for it to take a long time to gain trust. I never removed my female unless we were going to the vet or chanting cages the whole first year I had her. I didnt even really hand feed for a few months. All I did was feed her and stand or sit in front of her cage and sway slightly back and forth. Around 10 months into having her I started occasionally hand feeding. In the past 4 months she now eats most of her food while on my hand. She also will willingly walk onto my hand. Now--that may never happen for other keepers--but Panthers are mostly chill and I do believe that if you give him time he will at the very least hide less often.

I'd not handle him any more than absolutley needed for a while. He is still a wee babe. When he us older if you do take him out "against his will" then take him somewhere cool like outside in the sun or free range. That way hell be like "oh cool human person brings food and sun "

To answer your questions:

giving him so much foliage and hiding places act negatively for him getting used to being in the presence of people? maybe buts its still the best thing for him so he can feel safe.

Does interacting with him while he is in an accessible location and him getting timid prevent him from wanting to return to that open location again? Possible.

Will getting larger give him more confidence to at least be comfortable with someone standing closer to his enclosure?A larger viv is always better! Also maybe!
 

RyanBRZ

Avid Member
Regarding your cage, I don't think this is a factor with him being the way he is.. You've had him for only a few weeks and he needs to get settled in. If you were attempting to hold him since day 1 I'd give him some time to his self and maybe only interact to attempt hand feeding.

When I first got mine I thought he was never going to be friendly. When I would put my hand in the cage he would gape in defense or roll sideways on the vine to hide from me. He would take food from my hand since pretty much day 1, which made me somewhat happy.

Through months 1 to 6 I continued to put my hand in his cage every day, literally just put it somewhat near him so he can see it and leave it there for a few minutes -- I wouldn't attempt to grab him or anything. This gets him used to your hand and it makes it known that you are not a predator and he doesn't need to fear it. I would also continue to hand feed at every opportunity.

After having him for around 6 months, I had my hand in there and after 5 or so minutes he finally walked onto me and I was able to take him out. Since then I can pretty much take him out whenever I want, he never gapes and the most he does to avoid coming out is wrap his tail around a branch.

My recommendation is once he's settled in, try hand feeding and get him used to seeing your hand. Do not force taking him out because this will give him a bad experience with your hand -- let the handling be on his terms. With the hand feeding he will associate you with good/survival and not a predator. If he gapes at you, do not pull away because this will condition him to always do this to get you to go away.

Good luck
 

RyanC36

New Member
Thanks a lot for the advise everyone! I’ve only handled him 2 times. Once when he was delivered to move him to his enclosure and the second to rearrange his enclosure. I guess I’m just getting a lot of different conflicting information. I also posed the same question today to the reputable breeder whom we got him from and was given the advice “I would recommend taking him out for 5 mins a day, the short hangouts will help build trust and eventually elevate his stress. It’s good to work with them while they are a little bit younger sense a fearful or aggressive baby is easier to manage than a fearful or aggressive adult and that I it’s normal for them to show a healthy level of fear” was what I was told. I guess there is not single right answer because they all have their own personalities but with completely contradicting answers I’ve become a little confused. I’ll keep weighing in on different ideas and options :)
 

RyanBRZ

Avid Member
You are correct, they each have individual personalities. There are people who get chameleons and can begin holding them on day 1, then are there chams like mine that took a while. Nobody is wrong, you just need to figure out what works with your chameleon.

I also agree with it being normal for them to show a level of fear, they are always on guard and never 100% comfortable when out of their cage.
 

Gordita0405

Established Member
Thanks a lot for the advise everyone! I’ve only handled him 2 times. Once when he was delivered to move him to his enclosure and the second to rearrange his enclosure. I guess I’m just getting a lot of different conflicting information. I also posed the same question today to the reputable breeder whom we got him from and was given the advice “I would recommend taking him out for 5 mins a day, the short hangouts will help build trust and eventually elevate his stress. It’s good to work with them while they are a little bit younger sense a fearful or aggressive baby is easier to manage than a fearful or aggressive adult and that I it’s normal for them to show a healthy level of fear” was what I was told. I guess there is not single right answer because they all have their own personalities but with completely contradicting answers I’ve become a little confused. I’ll keep weighing in on different ideas and options :)
Hi . Your little guy is very cute ! Give him some time to adjust :) Every cham is different and as their keeper we can only love and care for them according to their personalities !! Your enclosure looks great! Hiding spot is important as they can have the option to hide or not to hide. I am also a newbie panther mum ( almost three month with my little guy Piccaso) . The first few weeks I also didn’t handle him or hand feed. I just set in-front of him, put crickets to feeding cup or the leaf in front of his basking branch and clean his poop. Then he starts to come to the front more and more and I will leave the door half open and still be around minding my own business...He is a curious and adventurous little boy so he starts to come and he needs my hand to go out. Then I start to take him out from a few times a week to twice a day( morning and afternoon depends on the weather condition) now he sees me and he comes down from his basking branch wait by the door to go out and climb on to my hand when I put my hand in front of him to go back inside... just have patience and lots of ❤️ :) PS. Chameleon breeder podcast has a lot of good topics regarding to handling Chams !!! I listen to it all the time so I can keep the information fresh in my head ;p
Good luck :)
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Decadancin

Moderatoris Americanus
Staff member
Welcome to the forums and congrats on your new family member!!!

Some good advice so far, but just a quick question. Do you know what the temps are in the enclosure? He could be a little warm that could cause him to be less active and stay hidden more. If he is seeking a shade spot and can't actually cool down he may not be enjoying that amazing looking enclosure! Also, are you misting? What is your method for hydration?

No matter what I would also recommend giving him a bit of time and continue (with a ton of patience) to try hand feeding, or even just sitting a few feet from the enclosure with the door open and don't stare at him. Get him accustomed to your presence and not as a threat. He will get used to you in time.
 
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