The view from the cage


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Can chameleons get bored or depressed due to lack of stimulation?

I don't mean stimulation from food - I know they can get bored of certain feeders from time to time (is it 'boredom', or is it their bodies telling them they need some other form of nutrient that the feeder insect can't provide?)

And I know some keepers try to stimulate them by changing around the plants/perches in their environment from time to time (but does this really stimulate them, or does it just cause stress/discomfort due to their habitat being disturbed?)

I'm specifically concerned about the stimulation (or lack thereof) that a cham can derive from the environment around its cage. I often find my cham basking on his favourite perch, facing the blank (and very dull) wall behind the cage. I know it's wrong to humanise them, but I just can't help thinking how bored I'd be with a blank wall to look out at every day - like a prison cell.

I just wondered whether it might be better to give him some sort of "view" (the rest of the room is pretty dull too - I emptied it out to make space for him)?

Maybe a more jungle/tropical environment around the cage? Although I've heard that it can stress a cham if you leave another plant/tree in view of their cage (outside their cage that they can't get to).
Or maybe some non-threatening movement outside the cage to watch? (I've heard that they sometimes react to the movement/light on a TV).

Or am I being silly, and should stop trying to make a cold-blooded reptile 'happy'...?

I'd love to hear what other keepers have to say about this...
Interesting line of thought...

IMHO chameleons have a certain set of "needs". Mental/physical security, plant cover, food/nutrition, water, humidity/air quality, reproduction, etc. As long as these needs are adequately met, the cham appears content behaviorally and mentally. I do not believe they have the ability to be bored. Even with food I think calling the refusal of certain prey insects after over presentation "boredom" is not accurate. I think two things are happening here.

First, I think that we as captive keepers grossly overfeed chameleons compared to what they would take in, in the wild. I think in many cases the cham is just not really hungry. But, when the cham is presented with a new type of prey instinct reacts to the difference in movement, color, body shape etc and the cham strikes. I equate this to perch in a small stream. Even when not hungry, or actively feeding, the perch will strike prey, natural or man made if its movement, color, or shape is unusual. In some situations the perch will strike and kill, only to spit it back out because they are not hungry. The cham is likely eating only because of the difference in stimuli not because of hunger, then we see obese chams. I have yet to have a "hungry" cham refuse any type of prey insect offered. but if I feed daily my chams will go on hunger strikes and refuse insects.

Second, I think the cham as you mentioned is seeking to balance something in their nutritional intake. The desire for varied prey insects would have developed as instinct in order that the cham in the wild would have the best chance to get all the necessary nutrition for growth, reproduction etc. While we consider most chams obligate insectivores, for the most part they are truly omnivorous in the same capacity as a wolf is omnivorous. The canine is a carnivore but devotes a large amount of his feeding to consuming the gut content of his prey animal, in most cases this animal is a herbivore. So the canine indirectly takes in the same plant matter that the prey consumed. The canines stomach is incapable of digesting certain plant matter but in a pre-chewed and digested state it can derive nutrition from the gut content of its prey. The chameleon by varying its prey insect also indirectly consumes the varied diet of the different insects, so is able to take in many more varieties of food items then it has evolved to consume on its own. This is why your more advanced and successful keepers devote as much effort to variety in gutload as they do.

In short, yeah right, I do not feel you chameleon has the ability to become bored with his environment. As long as the criteria of the environment meets its needs, it has no desire to seek out a new environment. Now when the needs are not met you will see the animal pace the cage, climb the walls, make every attempt at escape. In this situation he is in need of a more suitable environment and still IMHO not bored.
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I moved my female in front of a good window. The way it is sloped outside and including her cage she is about ten foot off the ground. I see her looking out side alot. I think she likes it. There is a tree and a couple small bushes outside. I tried for awhile to add some extra plants around her cage but then she wanted out of the cage. I think this way she reconizes the barrier better. She seems very happy.
With great deference to more experienced keepers, I'd offer that the answer may be "it depends" on the individual chameleon. I have one guy who loves his peace and quiet and privacy, and one who is Mr. Sociability -- a real student of what goes on around him and when given the chance, right in the middle of it. He'll even come to the bottom of his cage to more closely investigate my 80 lb. dog (who seems only vaguely aware of movement in the cage--chams must not smell very interesting). I was suprised (but smiled) to see that the Kammerflage site notes that some of their panthers -- albeit rarely -- are more inquisitive than others and seem to do better in a more animated environment. So...FWIW -- this and $2 will getchya an unembellished cup at Starbucks...
From my experience with different species

I agree with Gizmo.....I have 5 panthers, 2 veiled and 2 bearded dragons.
They are ALL different!
I have one young panther male that HATES to be looked at, let alone handled and is happy just hiding on his branch.
I have one older male panther that really seems to like being handled...he never hisses, bites or even opens his mouth...climbs right on your hand as soon as you open his cage..he likes to sit on my shoulder and when I take walks he goes along. He will eat out of my hand too. When I put him back in his cage he hangs on the front part just glaring out or paces the floor! Really bizarre for a cham!! Acts more like a bird!!
My veiled male also likes to be held and believe it or not, I massage him! (I was a massage therapist before) and he will fall asleep in my hand to the point of releasing his grip with his little hands and they kinda fold up..his colors are sooooooooooooooo beautiful at this time...the most lovely color of light teal and yellow and white...if fact this is the only time he is this he must like it because let me tell you, he can get nasty when he wants too(like at strangers)!!
Then my beardies LOVE to go out and run free on our huge screened in porch.
They bob their heads, breed like crazy, and even climb into a large glass pie plate with water. I mean they get in it and lay!!! It is unreal!!
Now the rest on the bunch pretty much act like the norm...just happy setting in the cage and staring at the wall!
So I think it depends on the individual..
Good luck!
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