Are Chameleons Dangerous? Detailed Guide

  • By: Reptilia Planet
  • Date: September 26, 2021
  • Time to read: 11 min.

Chameleons are well known for changing colors and patterns. “but” did you know they are one of the most popular reptile pets to own? However, one question that many people ask before owning this type of reptile is Are chameleons dangerous?

The truth is that chameleons are not dangerous, but they can be a little intimidating and will show some aggression if provoked or they feel threatened. When this happens it is essential to leave them alone and avoid handling them.

You see, when a chameleon feels stressed, their skin changes colors, and although, chameleons do not pose any harm it’s important to know and follow the guidelines and also learn what to do when your chameleon shows any aggression.

Are Chameleons Dangerous When Aggressive?

Yes and No. Chameleons are both friendly and aggressive “but” not necessarily dangerous. It really depends on how you treat your chameleon. It is better to leave them alone when they seem moody, otherwise, they can get aggressive.

For instance, if you have an adult Yemen chameleon, you must not handle it. Yemen chameleons can appear dangerous and will start hissing and inflating their body, which are the warning signs indicating that you must back away.

If you want to handle a chameleon, make sure you get a younger one. A young chameleon won’t cause any harm to you because it usually accepts being handled.

Compared to adult chameleons, the younger ones are quite friendly and docile, which means you can handle them without any issues.

Now, this is not to say adult chameleons are dangerous, not at all, “what we are saying is” they can just be more aggressive and difficult to handle compared to their young.

In general, chameleons do not behave aggressively, and usually, when you try to pick your chameleon, it will run away from you. Aggressive or hostile behavior varies from species to species.

Also, it depends on how you treat your chameleon. If you feed your pet by hand and handle it with care, it may grow up more docile and tame. It is a good practice to start handling your chameleon when it is young.

Doing it frequently will let your chameleon feel comfortable in your hands.

Most often, your chameleon will avoid attacking you and prefer to escape from the situation. If your chameleon fails to escape, it will trigger its defensive mechanism.

Signs of Aggression

Generally, chameleons do not use biting as their defensive or offensive mechanism. This is the reason why chameleons are not considered dangerous.

However, They change their color when they feel threatened. Chameleons are usually not aggressive to humans and other animals in the wild.

At the same time, they don’t show any signs of aggression in captivity if you leave them alone. Besides, these reptiles will run away or hide to avoid fighting.

Chameleons are territorial reptiles, which can show signs of aggression if you try to threaten them. For example, touching their head and feet will make them feel anxious and uncomfortable.

Like other pets, these reptiles have different behaviors and traits. Jackson’s chameleons, for example, are docile and friendly enough to allow people to handle them.

On the other hand, veiled chameleons, also known as Yemen chameleons, are not friendly, which means they can get aggressive to strangers and bite them hard.

It is essential to avoid frequent handling because it can lead to reptile stress and force it to bite that can cause pain. Panther chameleons likewise can show signs of aggression and appear dangerous when they feeling uncomfortable.

Instead of touching your panther chameleon, it is best to leave it alone and watch it roam around the cage.

Make sure you fill the terrarium with non-toxic plants and leaves because a panther chameleon feels safe when it hides under the leaves. Here are a few signs of aggression in chameleons.

Signs Of Aggression

  • Hissing
  • Color Change
  • Staring with Both Eyes

Hissing

The hissing of chameleons is characterized by a wide range of emotions, such as fear, anger, and stress. When your chameleon hisses, it means you should back away.

It is the most prominent sign of aggression towards the owner and other people. The reason your chameleon hisses is that it does want you to stay around.

Hissing is used as a defensive mechanism to scare predators. All species of chameleons follow this strategy to protect themselves from their predators. Veiled is the most common type of chameleon that hisses in captivity. So, if you have a veiled chameleon, you should be more careful while handling it.

Male chameleons are more aggressive than female chameleons. For instance, when a rival approach your male chameleon, it will puff up, flatten its body, and start hissing.

A male chameleon may also change its color while hissing to scare its rival.

Moreover, when your chameleon feels scared or stressed, it will hiss. Remember, these are solitary reptiles and don’t prefer to be handled by owners. Therefore, you must avoid pushing them outside their comfort zones.

Owners should behave sensibly and compassionately toward their chameleons. Your chameleon may also hiss if it is not feeling well or if it is sick.

Injured toes/feet, eye infections, and other illnesses can lead to discomfort that can increase aggression.

Color Change

Chameleons are popular reptile species known for their color-changing traits. Many people think that chameleons change their color to camouflage their background, but this is a misconception.

The primary reason chameleons change color is to regulate their body temperature and communicate with other chameleons.

Generally, they use bold color changes for communication purposes. A male chameleon will change its bright color to dark color in threatening scenarios.

It becomes easier for owners to determine the mood of their pet chameleons based on their skin colors. When your chameleon is stressed, it would change its color to black or dark brown.

Some species change their skin colors to dark red when they feel angry or anxious.

A panther chameleon in normal situations has green or blue skin color with a white horizontal stripe. When it gets angry, the chromatophores organized in layers expand red color that blocks out the blue and green colors.

Staring with Both Eyes

Both eyes of a chameleon have independent sight mechanisms. However, when one eye sees the prey, it will send a message to the other eye to focus on the prey.

Chameleons do not use both eyes (stereopsis) for depth perception. Most often, a chameleon usually relies on its monocular vision to perceive things.  

In simple words, chameleons’ eyes have a unique structure and anatomy that allows them to have a 360-degree vision. However, the monocular vision is changed into binocular vision when they feel any danger or threats in the surrounding environment.

It is an incredible ability of the chameleon to make a transition between monocular and binocular vision. It is due to the location of the eyes on the head – i.e. each eye is located on the opposite side of the head.

Anyway, if you try to pick up or handle your chameleon, you will notice that it stares at you with both eyes. When you notice this, you must carefully place the pet back into its cage and leave it alone.

Related Article

Do Chameleons Bite?

Chameleons are beautiful and colorful reptiles. They have solitary nature or behavior, which means they don’t want to be handled by their owners. If you think chameleons are friendly, then you are wrong.

Chameleons will run away from you when you try to pick them up. Escaping from the situation is their first strategy to keep themselves safe.

However, if they don’t find a place to hide, which usually happens in terrariums, chances are that they will bite to protect themselves. Here are a few reasons why your chameleon can bite you.

Reason Why Chameleons Will Bite

  • Stress
  • Handling
  • Hand Feeding
  • When Cornered

Stress

Chameleons are not very much docile and friendly. It means they can be stressed easily, but most of the time, they will remain calm. If you try to pick your chameleon, it will give you some warning signs like hissing and changing its skin color.

Unlike other reptiles that usually drop their tails to run away, a chameleon does not drop its tail. However, many inexperienced owners do not understand their behavior and assume that their chameleons accept being handled. Keep in mind that chameleons can easily get stressed and as a last resort, they will bite you.

Handling

Inappropriate handling is directly proportional to stressful and aggressive behavior in chameleons. It is essential to avoid handling your pet too much. Even if your chameleon lets you handle it, It’s best that you should still leave it alone.

Some inappropriate ways of handling are picking it up from the head and tail. If you do this, your chameleon will feel threatened that can trigger aggressive behavior, which would eventually lead to a hard bite.

Hand Feeding

Although you can hand feed your chameleon, you mustn’t get too close to its mouth. Otherwise, it can bite your fingers. Always wear gloves when you want to hand feed your reptile pet.

When you feed your chameleon, you are actually caring for it, but maybe its instincts tell it to respond differently. Anyway, hand feeding in general is not recommended by experts.

Cornered

It is vital to keep your chameleon in a high-quality terrarium or cage, but at the same time, you must keep the cage clean. A clean environment is necessary for your chameleon to stay comfortable and prevent a wide range of diseases.

When you are cleaning the cage, keep an eye on your chameleon. Most often, it will move to the corner and stay there. While cleaning the corners, make sure your hand is away from your pet. Otherwise, it may try to bite you.

Don’t forget to wear rubber or latex gloves to protect yourself from bacteria.

Diagnostics

There is a chance that your chameleon may bite you when you get close to check its health. For instance, when you notice that your chameleon has a soft jaw, it means something is wrong.

Mouth rot is a common condition in chameleons that can cause damage to the mouth, gums, and oral cavity. So, if you try to touch its mouth, chances are that it will bite you to defend itself. Just something to look out for!

How To Handle Chameleons Safely?

Chameleons have sensitive behavior and can undergo a lot of stress when you try to handle them inappropriately. Your chameleon usually will not want you to handle it.

Most often, it will show signs of aggression, such as hissing, staring with both eyes, and changing its skin color.

The moment you pick it up, it will feel uncomfortable. That’s why it is a wise idea to drop your chameleon immediately so that he stays calm.

Learn some handling techniques to ensure your chameleon does not feel uncomfortable. You must handle it properly to allow your pet to stay sociable and healthy.

First, it is important to alert your pet to let it know that you are about to handle it. Avoid sticking your hand into the terrarium because it will scare your chameleon and confuse him.

Consequently, your pet will try to escape or run away. So, it is better to alert him first and then lower your hand slowly into the cage to pick him up.

Your chameleon must see your hand. Experts recommend laying your hand on the ground beneath your pet. Once done, you should slide your hand underneath your pet and lift it slowly.

If your chameleon steps onto your hand, it means you followed the steps properly. On the other hand, if it tries to hesitate, then you should avoid picking him up.

You must support your chameleon while holding it in your hand. Otherwise, it will fall and get injured.

The best practice is to not let your chameleon go because it will try to run away or escape. If you are an experienced owner and do not know how to handle your chameleon, then avoid picking him up.

The reason is that if he escapes from your hand, you may not catch it easily. In fact, you would be lucky to catch your chameleon again.

How to Keep Chameleons Calm?

The most common sign of an anxious chameleon is hissing. Besides hissing, a chameleon may also flatten its body and change its color.

Chameleons are solitary lizards that prefer dwelling on trees and when they notice any threat, they will start hissing and change their skin color from bright to dark.

Because chameleons are used to their natural habitat where they stay alone, it is important that you keep them calm and relax. There are several ways to provide a comfortable environment for your chameleon.

Hissing is due to discomfort, fear, and anxiety. When your chameleon hisses too often, it means the cage is not cozy enough for him. First, you should buy a large cage to allow your chameleon to move around easily and comfortably.

Second, you must place some non-toxic plants, vines, or branches in the cage. Make sure you position them diagonally in the terrarium.

Third, you must mist the plants in the cage at least three times a day. The temperature of the cage must be maintained between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chameleons are introverted reptiles that prefer to live alone. Don’t handle your chameleon forcefully so that you avoid getting bitten. Although the bite can cause some pain, in general, it is not toxic to humans.

Some chameleons accept being handled while others do not like to be touched. I think beginners should avoid handling them.

Chameleons can produce vitamin D3 when they get ultraviolet (UVB) rays of the sun. You must expose them to sunlight for some time so that they can develop vitamin D3.

Otherwise, your chameleon may suffer from metabolic bone disease. You can also install fluorescent and mercury bulbs in the cage to provide heat and a UVB light source respectively.

These things are necessary for the production of vitamin D3.

Furthermore, injured feet, legs, and other parts of the body can also cause pain and discomfort. This may cause your chameleon to act out against you.

When you notice an injury or illness, take your pet to a licensed veterinarian for treatment. Keeping the terrarium clean will keep your chameleon healthy.

Conclusion

So are Chameleons Dangerous? No not at all, To some, Chameleons may appear dangerous when aggressive “but” they can do very little harm to us, humans. As before, Naturally, Chameleons are well behaved and it takes a lot to really get them in a bad mood.

However, with that said, if your chameleon does appear to be Aggressive it’s best just tom leave them for a while just to calm down. If there’s no change in your reptiles mood then this could be down to them feeling ill.

In which case, you will need to seek out advice from your local vet, as it could be something serious like mouth root, or maybe it’s something they have eaten?