You’re watching your chameleon climb around its vivarium when you notice it changing colors for no obvious reason, its chin puffing out like you’ve never seen before. Why is your chameleon doing this?
Chameleons puff their chin out when they feel threatened and want to make themselves look bigger to scare off whatever intruder is approaching. Besides that, chameleons also show this behavior during shedding, as stretching their chins and making themselves bigger can help loosen old skin.
However, there are other reasons why chameleons puff out their chins. Read on to learn whether a chameleon puffing out its chin is normal behavior, what to do when you see it puffing its chin, and how to make your chameleon feel less stressed.
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What does a chameleon puffing out its throat look like?
When a chameleon puffs out its chin (also known as a gular), it looks just as the term suggests: its chin is bigger, puffed out, and is normally accompanied by a color change to communicate its mood.
Depending on the species and its mood, a chameleon puffing out its chin may change to bright colors, such as red, yellow, or orange, or it may change to very dark colors, a combination of the two.
Why does a chameleon puff out its chin?
A chameleon can puff out its chin for several different reasons, but primarily because it is stressed or scared. So you should take a moment to check what might be around that could be bothering your cham.
Chameleons may puff out their chins as part of mating behavior. Males will puff themselves out to attract a female, or to intimidate other males. Females may puff out their chins in order to ward off males if they don’t want to mate.
Chameleons also puff out when they’re shedding. It not only helps them to shed the dead skin off but also expresses their anger, as chameleons can get more aggressive when they’re shedding.
Is puffing out its chin normal behavior?
Puffing out is a normal chameleon behavior, even a sign that your chameleon is healthy and acting as it should be.
The behavior might be a problem if it’s happening frequently and factors like other chameleons or animals, mating, and shedding have been eliminated.
What to do when a chameleon puffs out its chin
Because it’s a normal behavior, the best thing you can do is leave your chameleon alone until it stops puffing out at your approach.
- If you believe that your chameleon is puffing out due to stress, here’s what you can do:
- Back away from the chameleon’s vivarium.
- Avoid handling it until it shows signs it’s calmed down.
- Check their environment for other animals – even a bird or squirrel visible through the window can upset a chameleon.
- Ignore your chameleon. In addition to staying away from your chameleon, avoid looking at your chameleon for a while until you think they may have calmed down.
How to prevent chin puffing due to stress
Move slowly when you approach. Chameleons can freak out if you make sudden movements, especially if you’re up close, feeding them and cleaning their enclosure.
Minimize handling. Chameleons prefer not being picked up and held, and they can get stressed when you handle them. Once or twice a week should be the maximum handling time, unless you’re sure that your chameleon is comfortable with it.
Stay below them. Chameleons normally live high up in the trees, where they can watch the action from a distance and thus feel safer. Especially when cleaning their vivarium, try to stay below them and not go above them.
Feed your chameleon from your hand. Make sure to hand-feed your chameleon from time to time as early as possible so that the chameleon starts considering you as a provider of
Minimize photography, especially close-ups. Chameleons don’t appreciate having a strange one-eyed contraption being waved around in their face, so if you want to take photos, try to do it at a further distance via the Zoom function.
Don’t approach from above. Chameleons might feel threatened if you try to pick them up or feed them while hovering your hands above them.
Adjust the vivarium setup. It’s possible that the vivarium setup is stressing out your chameleon, so review what is the correct setup for a chameleon vivarium and set it up accordingly.
Keep other chameleons away. The presence of other chameleons can create further stress, as they can be seen as a threat, especially among males.
Use a screen cage. If you keep your chameleon in a glass
Use a lot of plants. Chameleons like to blend in with their environment. Giving your chameleons lots of hides in form of plants can drastically reduce stress as your chameleon will feel more secure.
My chameleon looks puffy – is it sick?
While chameleons puffing out their chins are not usually sick, a puffed-out look for an extended period of time may be a sign of illness, like edema, gout or a respiratory infection.
If you’ve eliminated other explanations for why your chameleon is puffing out, check for other symptoms of illness, such as swelling in the joints, loss of appetite, or difficulty breathing.
Then bring your chameleon to a vet ASAP for proper diagnosis and treatment.
What is a gular and what does it do?
The gular is the throat area of an animal species. In reptiles, including chameleons, the gular consists of extra folds of skin around the throat that can easily expand and contract.
For chameleons and other lizards, the gular is considered a secondary sex characteristic and can be used to attract mates and ward off rivals. It also allows reptiles to make themselves appear bigger and thus ward off threats.
So if your chameleon puffs out its throat, don’t panic. In fact, it’s a part of normal chameleon behavior.
Just keep making sure your chameleon lives in a stress-free environment and it won’t feel as much of a need to puff itself out and drive perceived threats away.
Also read: These Are The 3 Most Expensive Chameleons!