We often get pets because of the unique bond between human and animal that pets can create. But some animals, like chameleons, can be harder to bond with than others. Or perhaps a chameleon-human bond just looks a different way than it does with more conventional pets.
Chameleons don’t bond with their owners – at least, not in the same way that dogs and cats or even other reptiles bond with their owners. But they can learn to tolerate or even like being around you.
This article will explore whether and how chameleons can bond with their owners, and which species may be more likely to bond with their owners.
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Can Chameleons Bond With Humans?
Whether your chameleon will bond with you in its way or enjoy being handled strongly depends on the individual chameleon.
Young chameleons who are bred and handled from birth are especially friendly to humans. Chameleons from the wild, however, are unlikely to bond with their owners.
Some studies have shown that many reptile species are capable of forming social bonds, though little has been studied in terms of chameleons’ capability.
Wild chameleon behavior would suggest that chameleons are not very capable of bonding. In the wild, chameleons are left to their own devices as soon as they’re born.
Even chameleon species that are born live go solo almost immediately.
So unlike many mammals or bird species, which spend some time from birth being raised by parents among families, flocks, or packs, chameleons, like other reptiles, spend most of their lives by themselves, and they seem to prefer it that way.
This is why it’s ill-advised to keep multiple chameleons together unless it’s strictly for mating purposes. Chameleons by nature tend to be solitary creatures.
Also unlike cats and dogs, chameleons have not been a domesticated species for thousands of years, nor have they developed any reason to bond with humans.
So it can be incredibly challenging to develop a relationship with your chameleon that satisfies your more mammalian social-bonding desires.
As much as you might like to hold your chameleon, it may not be so keen on being held by you, and certainly not at first.
That said, you can certainly get your chameleon to get comfortable with you, to the extent that you can handle it or it may even climb on you with little stress or hesitation.
Tip: Read our article “Do Chameleons like to be held?” to learn more about this topic!
Chameleons are naturally cautious creatures, though, so you need to be careful not to stress them out too much.
How You Can Still Form A Bond With Your Chameleon
While it may not be “bonding” in the strict sense of the word, chameleons can get to trust you and see you as a positive part of their environment. You just need to respect its boundaries and exercise patience.
Here’s what you should do to build that positive relationship with your chameleon:
- Approach its vivarium slowly. Fast movements will scare your chameleon.
- Don’t look them in the eyes. Staring at or making eye contact with your chameleon might make it think you’re going to eat it and make it scared. Especially when it’s early in your care, avoid looking it in the eyes as much as possible.
- Wear chameleon-friendly colors that resemble the colors of plants, such as pale green, khaki, and brown hues. Avoid wearing bright colors such as reds and pinks.
- Spend time with them regularly. Hanging around your chameleon’s vivarium, even when you’re doing other things, will also help your chameleon get used to you and see you as less of a threat and maybe even as a friend.
- Feed them from your hand. Feeding is one of the most straightforward ways to get your chameleon to like you and trust you, for it will start to see you as a source of food and thus safe to be around.
- Respect their space. Always draw back if your chameleon starts making sudden or aggressive movements or else moves to hide. Once a chameleon feels like it has some sense of control over its environment, it will feel less stressed when you’re near.
Signs Your Chameleon Likes You
You can best tell whether a chameleon likes you if it’s acting calm and not stressed if you’re around. Signs of a calm chameleon include:
- a curled tail
- strong appetite
- eating out of your hand
- actively approaching you when you’re near
- exploring its surroundings
A strong appetite, curled tail, and actively approaching you when you’re near are pretty clear signs that your chameleon likes you and may even be happy to see you.
How do I know if my chameleon is uncomfortable?
It’ll be easy to know if your chameleon doesn’t want to be handled. They’ll puff out or lunge at you as your approach, or if they’re more skittish they’ll hide or turn a dark color, as dark colors commonly signify a “dark” mood.
Do some chameleon species bond with humans better than others?
Some species can be easier to handle and friendlier to humans than others, but these are general patterns.
Each chameleon is unique. So don’t necessarily expect certain behavior from your chameleon just because of its species.
However, some species do tend to be more amenable to spending time with humans, or even climbing or being handled by them. Below are some of the most popular chameleon species and how well they can get along with people.
Jackson’s chameleon is very docile and tends to act fearful rather than aggressive when stressed, so they’re the best species for handling and bonding with humans.
However, Jackson’s chameleons are still chameleons, and probably won’t feel too comfortable in your presence at first, so always watch for signs of stress when approaching your chameleon early on.
Panther chameleons are also commonly captive-bred, making them more friendly to humans, and as a result they can be quite easy to bond with.
However, they can be quite territorial and won’t be afraid to let you know they need their space.
Fun-Fact: Pierre had a panther chameleon (Karl-Heinz) that was handled regularly by its breeder as a baby. Karl-Heinz was so tame that he almost jumped immediately on your arm as soon as someone opened the terrarium door.
Veiled chameleons are the most commonly-kept pet chameleon, in part because they adapt well to captive environments.
They are also more likely to have been bred in captivity from birth, so they are more used to humans and can be more docile.
Despite their captive-bred status, veiled chameleons don’t often like to be handled, so just because your veiled chameleon is captive-bred, don’t expect it to be friendly to humans.
Can chameleons recognize their owners?
Chameleons can certainly recognize their owners, sometimes as soon as in one week, accepting you as a part of its environment.
Chameleons are intelligent reptiles and can recognize regular features of their environment – and their food providers.
While chameleons are normally solitary creatures in the wild, just like any animal the conditions of their birth and juvenile years greatly influence their behavior as adults.
Chameleons raised from birth in captivity are more likely to get comfortable being held by you or perching on your shoulder, as humans handling them has always been a part of their lives.
So if you’re looking for a chameleon that can easily be handled, be sure to look for chameleons raised in captivity.
Whether your chameleon is captive-bred or from the wild, you certainly shouldn’t expect your chameleon to come running when you call or to cuddle any time you like. But chameleons can show that they like you in their own way.
Also read: These Are The 3 Most Expensive Chameleons!
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