Do Chameleons Make Good Pets? What You Need to Know

Yes, chameleons make good pets, BUT a word of caution: 

Chameleons are difficult to maintain, and new reptile owners should NOT start with this animal.

Basic Facts about Chameleons

  • The word, “Chameleon,” comes from the Greek words, “chamai” and “leon,” meaning “earth lion,” and they originate from the lizard family.
  • Chameleons come in all shapes and sizes, with considerable variation.  Their lengths can range from a mere one inch (2.5 cm) to 30 inches (76 cm) long.
  • Chameleons have become popular as exotic pets because of their unique color-changing capability. The purpose of this color change is for communication, and to regulate body temperature.
  • Some baby chameleons are gray or brown. Others, like the most commonly Veiled Chameleon, can be purple at hatching and then quickly turn green.
  • Chameleons can change colors the same day they hatch. (They may even be capable of doing so while still in the egg.)  The color spectrum ranges with variations of green, black, turquoise, and blue-green.
  • Some colors reveal their emotional levels, such as stress, sense of temperature change, excitement and to communicate with other chameleons. Brighter colors exhibit good mood, while darker colors such as black, gray, and brown depict stress.
  • Chameleons have a very long tongue and can stretch their tongue up to one and a half the length of their body.
  • Chameleons have five toes on each foot, with three of them facing forward, and 2 facing away from mid-line, helping them get a firm grip while climbing trees and branches.  In the wild, chameleons spend most of their lives in treetops. Some chameleons have prehensile tails which also help them get a good grip and help with balance.
  • Chameleons have the ability to rotate their eyes in two different directions, and both eyes are independent of each other. They can rotate their eyes to get a panoramic view.
  • Chameleons are insectivores. In captivity, they eat crickets, dubias, silkworms, hornworms, flies, and more. A few species also supplement their diet with fruits and leaves, but it is a very small percentage of the diet. In the wild, a large chameleon would even eat small birds and other lizards.
Do Chameleons Make Good Pets? What You Need to Know
IMAGE: Tianna Spicer, Flickr / Chameleon

Do Chameleons Make Good Pets?

It’s easy to see why people find chameleons fascinating and want to keep them as pets.

A word of caution, though – Chameleons are very difficult to maintain and inexperienced reptile owners should not start with this reptile.  Having said that, they are also not the most difficult exotic pet to take care of.

Another important thing to note – Chameleons don’t cuddle.  If you’re looking for a cuddly pet or one that likes to be held, then look elsewhere!

Caring for a Chameleon Tips

Wild reptiles are more than likely to be infected with parasites. Buy a chameleon from a respected breeder if you do insist on getting one. Avoid the big chain stores.

While selecting a pet chameleon, it is important to determine the health of the animal.  The chameleon should be active and look healthy, with bright coloration.

Panther Chameleons, Veiled Chameleons, and Jackson’s Chameleons’ are the most widespread species that kept as pets. Chameleons are solitary animals and they shouldn’t be kept with other pets.  It is a very bad idea to keep two male chameleons together as they will fight and injure each other. They should be put in a cage with a lot of foliage to climb and to provide privacy.

Do Chameleons Make Good Pets? What You Need to Know

IMAGE: Naddel, Flickr / Newborn Chameleon, possibly a few minutes old.

In a nutshell, chameleons make good pets, but please don’t be in a rush to get one before you thoroughly research their care requirements.  They come with a price, meaning their initial equipment is pricey, and their ongoing care can be as well. They need housing, lighting, heating, specific water needs, food, vet visits.  Talk to experienced reptile owners before you decide.

Already have a chameleon?  Want to tell us about it, or any other pet you might have?  Let me know, and I’ll publish it here.  Go to my Contact Me page and get in touch.


Do Chameleons Make Good Pets? What You Need to Know #reptiles #chameleons #exoticPets Click To Tweet

Animal Bliss - A really cool blog about Animals - domestic pets and wildlife too.


Do you have a Chameleon or other lizard as a pet?

** Leave your comment below. **


Jeanne Melanson
Follow Me:
Latest posts by Jeanne Melanson (see all)

39 thoughts on “Do Chameleons Make Good Pets? What You Need to Know”

  1. Please do not get iguanas as pets. Here is South Florida we now have an infestation to these (can be nasty) animals. It’s not their fault, but they cause a lot of damage, concern and do not really play well with humans. People get them as pets and when too large they release them in the neighborhood where the rest of us need to constantly fend-off our living environment against them.

    • No pet is good to have if you are not going to take the time to learn how to take care of it, provide the right habitat, etc. Getting a pet should mean committing yourself to it’s need for the duration of it’s life or yours. There are two sides to this story, one it’s true to many animals are harvested for the pet trade and depleting the species. The other side of the coin is too many animals are losing their habitats and the species may become endangered or extinct. In the second case often it is the pet trade and enthusiast who may end up saving the species. Because of dedicated enthusiast who commit themselves to follow through and are determined to save them. These are the folks who can contribute to both the pet trade and the species salvation. They can also contribute to relocation and restocking areas that devastated the species due to natural disaster, war, or habitat loss. The more we learn the more we can prevent destruction, apply prevention and protect. People who think we can just meddle with nature in so many way and think it can take every punch are just as wrong as the ones who keep punching.

  2. We have a gecko (felecia) and a bearded dragon (Norbert after the dragon in Harry Potter). Both have been a ton of fun for everybody in our home. Last week we decided to take the step and purchased a chameleon (Carma). First lesson was Norbert did not appreciate having side by saying de habitats. We added a visual block but he still knows something is over there. Carma settled in nicely but it is so hard not taking her out to hold her all the time. Even the occasional holding is complicated by having a 9 year old in the house that wants to “play” with her. I appreciate art I also like this that try to explain to people that pets like this are a hobby that requires a lot of attention every day.

    • Thank you for your comment, Rene. It sounds like you have a fun household. I hope Felecia learns to accept that you have Carma now. I understand about restricting your 9-year-old from playing with her. I have a 5-year-old grandson who’s just learning how to hold my bearded dragon, Shirley. All the best to you!

  3. Hi
    I read this article and still decided to buy a Yemen/veiled chameleon as my first ever reptile I’ve had. This has proved to be a great decision. My Cham called Randall[from monsters ink) is incredibly happy and healthy, loves handling and is a fantastic pet so although parts of this are true I disagree that they are difficult to maintain as you just need to buy the right equipment and I disagree that they hate being held as mine is very friendly

    • Excellent! I’m glad you got yourself a great chameleon and everything is going well. They’re all different, I suppose, just like we are. I like his name too. Good choice. Have fun!

  4. I have had reptiles but always thought a chameleon would be too difficult. So after doing research, my husband and I bought a baby Panther about six months ago. I am totally in love with our little “Perseus”. He is so much fun to feed and to watch. His growth rate has been phenomenal. We only handle him for a short time each day, but he is pretty tolerant and will often climb up my face and sit on my head. His color changes are amazing. Enchanting is all I can say. Do your homework before you buy one, and decide if you can stand the sound of escaped crickets in your house. Ha Ha.

    • Congratulations on deciding to get your chameleon, Lorna. I love those things. I thought they would be difficult too, so I went for a Bearded Dragon instead. She’s 5 years old now and is named Shirley. She’s loads of fun too. I can imagine how fascinating your Perseus must be though, going through color changes and all. Isn’t nature wonderous? Thanks for taking the time to visit us here at Animal Bliss. (Tell your friends.)

  5. Hello, and thanks for being here to give your insights into keeping, and keeping animals thriving. I will be checking your site for additional information. You have been very helpful so far.

    I have been an animal keeper, mostly dogs, but I’ll try most anything.

    By the way, I am 84 y/o, so I am in my twilight years. I have been around animals all my life, goats, chickens, horses, mules, snakes (boa) dogs, most anything I could get in my car to bring home for my 3 kids to be exposed to, and learn about. I even brought home “Matilda,” a sheep in my car so they could learn about sheep.

    So I have taken a giant step and adopted a Veined Chameleon . He, she, it, has a nice warm, (read hot,) top of the cage to bask in, and plants, and water, sand, and best of all, crickets and meal worms in the cage with it. My cage has both kinds of lights to keep it warm and happy. (Hope, hope, hope,)

    I have been reading, and talking, with most anyone who will spend a little time talking about my new “pet,” I say pet, but are they really? I think I enjoy watching this little creature more than I thought I would. I have spent endless hours reading and learning about this little creature.

    Wish me luck in my new hobby.

    Again, thanks for being here.

    • Dewitt, thank you for such a nice comment. I love it that you enjoy animals so much. So do I, of course. Congratulation of getting a Veiled Chameleon. I think that’s quite a step to take. I love watching chameleons to no end. Too bad they’re not more active during the day, but we’ll let them be themselves, won’t we? I have a Bearded Dragon. Her name is Shirley and she is 5 years old. I love her to no end and have her with me whenever I can, even taking her along with me on certain errands. People love to stop me and ask about her, and I love to educate them at the same time. I’m glad you stopped by Animal Bliss for a visit. I hope you’ll come back again sometime. Peace.

  6. Thanks so much for the article. Do you have any suggested links to further my research? Or have you considered writing an article about their specific needs? Thanks again!

  7. I sort of “fell in love” with a little green chameleon at the local PetSmart. He/she came up to the glass and seemed to be interested in me, too. Yes, I know, this is no reason to “adopt” one for myself.

    I’m concerned, however, that these poor creatures at the “chain pet stores” will end up being bought by someone who has not taken the time to investigate what owning a reptile entails and even worse, as a gift for a child, who might neglect the little creature. That’s one reason why I question the advice not to buy one from a chain. Those little guys need a good home, too.

    Thank you for providing all this information for perspective chameleon owners.

    • Oh, I do understand your concerns. I believe all those pets in the stores should be taken to a good home and loved for the rest of their lives. And I, too, fall in love with every one I see. They all deserve to be bought. The reason why I advice “adopt, don’t buy” is this:

      Some of the animals you see in pet stores are bought from reputable breeders. However, a great many of them come from questionable animal “farms” and are kept in deplorable conditions – thus selling you animals that are possibly diseased from the beginning. The more people buy from animals from chain stores, the more business we give to the disreputable breeders. The trend around the country now is to outlaw chain stores from selling animals at all. Several states already have this in place.

      But the most important reason is that of the number of abused, neglected, and abandoned animals that are brought to animal shelters so desperately need loving homes. A lot of these animals are ones that were bought at stores. Do you see the dilemma?

      Anyway, thank you so much for taking the time to visit Animal Bliss and to respond to my post. Take care.

  8. Good article. Some other thoughts…
    While the Chameleons would make a very interesting pet, I do no think that they would be a good choice for someone to get as their first pet. They need to have a perfect habitat with the exact temp and humidity otherwise they can get ill very quickly. If you are looking to become a first time reptile owner, I would go with either the Leopard Gecko or the Bearded Dragon. Whichever you decide on though, I would recommend that you do your research on them like you have done with the chameleon so that you are fully prepared to care for it.

  9. What exactly makes it difficult for new reptile owners to have a chameleon as pet, compared to other reptiles?

    Can they be held safely hold on the hand?

    Do they enjoy to be petted?

    Can they tell apart the owner from strangers?

    Do they bite?

    • Hi Marco, There are two major challenges to keeping chameleons, one is they only eat live food (the veiled chameleon is an exception and will eat some vegetation but cannot survive entirely on it). The other is the water source has to be moving for them to know it’s water (dripping is best). There are many mistakes made on these and I can’t go into them all in such a small space but most frequent are using glass. Aquariums tend to not have sufficient air flow, also in many species mostly males see themselves and think it another male> That cause stress because they want to fight. Stress is a major factor in their demise. So a fly screened cage would be better choice. Another is misting, primarily for two reasons, first mister contamination and second using it in enclosures that don’t have enough air circulation. Which could lead to fungus infection and eye contamination. Eye dropper watering is better if the animal will take to it. It requires patience and even them some animals won’t use it. A drip system is another good choice. Another mistake is using heat rocks, simply not needed for these guys. Heat lamps are not necessary unless you live in a cold climate and keep the room temperature below 72%. If so keep heat sources far enough away so as NOT to burn them or make any metal surface they may touch burn them. Heat sources to close can burn them before they become aware of it. They are not necessary in warm climates. Some species like the Jackson prefer cooler.
      Most species can safely be held in the hand. However if it stresses the animal out this should be held to a minimum (Remember stress can lead to illness and demise.) In most animals this should not be a regular multi daily practice.
      Most chameleons do NOT enjoy petting they are anti social animals. Females are more tolerant of each other but often more timid around people but this varies among species and individuals. It still gets a in general, no.
      Yes, most can recognize people who they see the most. Especially those bringing food.
      Some may bite some may not. Handling should be learned from different animals. Passive animals it’s better to approach slowly and coax them to climb on your hand, less stress. Aggressive animals usually a direct faster approach maybe used, using one hand to get their attention, while using the other to come from atop or behind.
      These animals should be for those who enjoy a challenge and are committed to their care as well as the work needed to keep them healthy. They are not for the novice kid. Read up on them well before committing yourself. Try to get captive bred animals sub adult or younger. Most species have a life spam around 7 years or less so adults may be passed on that are getting up in age. I have raised various chameleons over the years getting in and out of them. Currently do rescue, was a pet store owner for over 6 years. I specialized in them, chinchillas and prairie dogs. I was also quite successful with short tail opossums and four eyed opossums. I know this comes years late for answering but, others with the questions may benifit.

  10. Hi everyone,first thing first great info and great site…
    Ive owned every animal imaginable from pet stores or my fathers friends whom had animals not aloud. I am 36 and love animals,I raise Salomon pink tarantulas and along side Ghost mantis and Chinese mantis,i have a 75 gallon saltwater tank and 55 gallon fresh, and my new veiled chameleon….i will be getting back into raising chameleons,but good site. I also make all my own tanks,cages for all my animals…if anyone has any questions with animals or insects feel free to email me. I would love to share my knowledge and wisdom along aide write here to help all…
    Thank u for tha love u all give teaching and time to help tha next person to help thier animal of insect.
    Blessed be…
    Sincerely Tj

  11. I have a veiled I noticed the last time I was in his cage he was squirting clear liquid out of his eyes. I can’t find any about this. Have you seen this behavior before?

    • Dan, I don’t know why your veiled chameleon would be squirting clear liquid out of his eyes. Have you spoken to a vet? You might also want to search for a chameleon group on Facebook. They’re very helpful and have lots of people willing to offer help and advice. Good luck. Let us know what you find out! Take care.

  12. Hey there 🙂
    I’m an inexperienced person, actually I’ve never kept a reptile in my house! I’d like to get one, where do I learn to maintain it?

    • There are many books about how to take care of a reptile, Kareem. Start with your local bookstore or library. Make sure you do all the research first, before committing to getting a reptile though. Good luck.

  13. Thanks for the info about chameleons. I thought they principally change their coloration to become invisible to prey insects or predator snakes and birds? In spite of their amazing coloration, I find chameleons repulsive. How do I get to like them?

  14. I’m really obsessed with making my own custom enclosures and cages for my pet chameleons. I love the idea of making their habitat and designing where they are going to live haha. Great article by the way.

  15. Wow!! How interesting– I had no idea about this little creature– My son has been asking for one for a while– but my answer has always been NO.. After reading this it will be a firm NO I dont believe we are the right type of people for this little animal. They are an awesome animal,but I am afraid we would have one stressed out more than not. Thanks for this review and now I am going to let Dustin read this

    • Dianna, thank you so much for taking my advice seriously. Reptiles and amphibians can be difficult to care for properly. I always tell people to do their own research before getting ‘any’ pet, because there are far to many that are not being given the environment they need and they don’t thrive as a result. I appreciate that you took the time to read my article. Thanks again! “)

  16. Chameleons are fantastic creatures, but quite prone to stress in my experience. That said, some species seem to settle down much faster than others. Here in the UK, the veiled chameleon is one of the most popular – and hardy – species seen for sale in the pet trade.

    • Hey, thanks for stopping by, Kelly. I’m glad you came by. I’m going to have to swing over to your site now and read what you have to say about how to care for Giant African Land Snails. Wow, how intriguing. I’ve never heard of those, and I’m always, always looking to learn more about our fellow animals. I’ll see you over there! 🙂 Thanks!


Leave a Comment