How To Tell if a Chameleon is Stressed

If you have a pet chameleon, you know the importance of ensuring they have the proper environment to live in as well as the healthiest diet to eat. However, did you also know that it’s essential to ensure that your chameleon doesn’t experience high levels of stress? 

Much like humans, stress can cause a lot of health problems in chameleons. The best way to avoid having a stressed out chameleon on your hands is by being able to identify the signs and symptoms when they first occur.


Symptoms of Stress in Chameleons


Chameleons can exhibit feelings of stress and anxiety in a number of ways. For example, fleeing from you or hiding from sight might be a common sign that your chameleon is stressed out. Furthermore, hissing or trying to bite you is also a clear indication that your chameleon is experiencing stress. They might also puff up slightly, appearing defensive.

Another way to be able to tell if a chameleon is stressed out is by certain color changes, especially if the chameleon’s colors darken. Of course, many people know that chameleons change the hue of their skin for a number of reasons, some of which are probably not negative, but it is a good idea to pay careful attention to your chameleon’s colors so that you can get to know better what they indicate.


Causes of Stress for Chameleons


There are a lot of natural stressors that can cause a chameleon to feel stressed out and behave in the manner described above. One of the most common ones is by handling your chameleon too often. 

Chameleons in general are creatures that thrive better when they are handled very little or not at all. Forcing your chameleon to be picked up and held too much by you can cause high levels of stress for them. In general, it is best to be sure that you allow your chameleon to not be touched more than necessary in order to avoid stressing them out.

It is possible to try and get your chameleon used to being handled. For example, handling them more often when they are still young might make them more used to it as they mature. However, it is not recommended to train your chameleon-like this, since it is best to let them exist as they naturally should.

In general, chameleons prefer to be in environments that have low levels of traffic and an overall aura of quiet around them. Doing your best to provide this to your chameleon can decrease the likelihood that they will get stressed out and be at risk for severe health issues. 


Consequences of a Stressed Chameleon


As mentioned previously, when a chameleon deals with high levels of stress, it can put them at risk of getting sick or even contracting a serious illness. Just like with people, stress can decrease the immune system’s ability to fight off infection or other types of sickness. 

Some of the types of sicknesses that are common for chameleons, which they might be at an elevated risk for if experiencing stress often and at high levels, are wide-ranging in their severity and symptoms. 

Female chameleons can fall sick with something called Non-Obstructive Dystocia, or what is more casually known as egg-binding. Sometimes caused by stress, this means that the female chameleon will produce eggs but not lay them, leaving them in her reproductive canal for a period of time. This could eventually lead to the binding of the egg to the walls of the reproductive tract, leading to the necessity of surgical intervention to heal your chameleon.

Other diseases that can be caused or worsened by elevated levels of stress also include hyperparathyroidism (insufficient levels of calcium and/or vitamin D) and gout (inflammation and arthritis-like symptoms). These illnesses can cause your chameleon a lot of pain and distress, so it is obviously best to ensure that you are doing what you can to avoid them.


How to Calm a Stressed Chameleon


When you spot the signs of stress in your chameleon, you should also know how to lessen their negative emotions. Firstly, you must be sure to provide them with a safe and calm environment. Giving them a large and comfortable space to roam around in peace will help lessen any stress they’re experiencing.

You should also be sure to keep their cage at a comfortable temperature and provide plenty of light for them to bask in since chameleons flourish when they are able to produce high levels of vitamin D. Make sure you do your research to determine the right kind of light bulb that will be best suited for your chameleon’s cage.

Also, as discussed above, one of the best ways to calm down your stressed out chameleon is to remove them from a situation in which they are being handled too much. These creatures prefer not to be touched by their human owners, so if it’s clear that such a thing is what’s causing them stress, it makes sense to stop doing that.


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At the end of the day, making sure that your chameleon is not being forced to deal with high levels of stress is one of the most effective ways to make sure that they are not being placed at an increased risk of harmful illnesses that could seriously affect their health.

Recognizing the signs of stress, such as hissing, hiding, biting, or color changes is the first step to avoiding putting your chameleon through a negative experience for any longer than necessary. Make sure that, when you do catch the symptoms of stress, you know how to react and deescalate the situation in the most effective manner possible.

Providing your chameleon with a comfortable and quiet environment, alongside limiting how much you are handling them, will be the best way to decrease the amount of stress they are under, as well as the most effective method for avoiding it in the first place. 

Mike Grover

Mike Grover is the owner of this website (Reptiles and Amphibians), a website dedicated to providing expert care and information for these animals. Mike has been keeping reptiles and amphibians as pets for over 20 years and has extensive knowledge of their care. He currently resides in the United Kindom with his wife and two children. Reptiles and amphibians can make excellent pets, but they require special care to stay healthy and happy. Mike's website provides detailed information on how to care for these animals, including what to feed them, what type of housing they need, and how to maintain their health. Mike's website is a valuable resource for keeping your pet healthy and happy, whether you’re considering adding a reptile or amphibian to your family or you’re already a pet parent.

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