Jackson’s Chameleons as Pets

Jackson’s Chameleons as Pets

Your First Jackson’s Chameleon

This page is for anyone who has a Jackson’s Chameleon or is interested in getting one. Welcome to an incredible experience! Though, if you are just starting on this road there is a great deal to absorb to make sure this is an enjoyable experience. If you just made an impulse buy or found your self the new caretaker of a chameleon your friend gifted to you then we need to get you up to speed quickly!

If you have just brought home a Jackson’s Chameleon. You have put yourself on the road of quite an adventure!

First of all, let’s say right up front that you have not picked a simple animal to take into your home! Jackson’s Chameleons live on the forest edge 10 feet up. Recreating that condition in a cage in your living room is possible, but certainly not basic. All the information is here, but please be patient. Chameleons are so different from humans that learning about them is like learning an alien language, culture, and a set of needs & desires that are not intuitive. There is much study ahead for you. It is an incredible world and there is an entire growing community that obsessively gathers this information so you are not alone. But the truth is that it does require some time and effort to do right.

Second, let’s talk about what kind of pet a chameleon is. Chameleons are not pack animals and have no capacity for connection that they can easily imprint with you. Dogs and cats have a social structure that they – and we – instinctively understand. And they can accept us humans into that social structure as we accept them into ours. Chameleons do not have that capacity. They can tame down some extent and even to the point where they are not fearful of you. But you are getting involved in an animal where holding and interacting is tolerated at best. Be ready to spend a great deal of money to set-up a cage where they can hide from you!

The bottom line is that having success with a chameleon requires a dedication to the art and science of chameleon keeping. You are in good company if you do decide to jump in, but you have to consciously make that decision. It is not exaggeration that we chameleon keepers end up wrapping our lives around our chameleons. This isn’t because we are crazy (that is just a side effect), but because that is what is necessary to be successful in this chosen discipline. And please understand, in learning to care for chameleons you will learn a great deal about health, nutrition, geography, herpetology (the study of reptiles), etymology (the study of insects), and parasitology (study of parasites – yes, we get good at this). You don’t need it all at once, but this is not like collecting comic books! It will challenge you and you will grow. Corners of the world you didn’t know existed will open up to you. Think I am exaggerating? Just you wait and see. But let’s start at the beginning and deal with the two most common issues facing new Jackson’s Chameleon owners.

The two main issues facing Jackson’s Chameleon keepers specifically are 1) Females come in gravid and 2) You are erroneously told a pair can be housed together.

The two main issues new owners of Jackson’s Chameleons must face is:

1) Females are often gravid. Most of the Jackson’s Chameleons available in the US are wild caught from Hawaii or, rarely, Kenya. In Europe they are generally imported from Kenya. This means that sexually mature females and males will have been mixed together. Which means that the females have probably mated if they are green in color. If you have a wild caught female Jackson’s Chameleon then be ready for babies from her. This is so important that we, of course, have the information for you on this. Jackson’s Chameleon New Born Baby Care. I need to impress upon you that it will be well worth your while to be familiar with this information. At the very least, bookmark it for the morning you walk downstairs and find 25 baby tree dragons crawling about the cage.

Jackson's Chameleon Baby

2) You cannot keep Jackson’s Chameleons together. This fact has been elevated to a main issue because so many people selling Jackson’s Chameleons will say you can. The reason keepers, and even breeders, can go so long with this misconception is that Jackson’s Chameleons are typically mild-mannered. While Veiled Chameleons and Panther Chameleons will flare up and be quite dramatic when they meet, Jackson’s Chameleons are not always so obvious. That, coupled with the human desires to pair things up and to simply have more chameleons, condemns many Jackson’s Chameleons to a slow downward spiral in health until some complication becomes noticeable (such as one growing much slower than the other). But since the keeper just noticed it they do not connect it with co-habitation because “they have been doing so well together”.  I have been involved with countless keepers who just do not want to believe that Jackson’s Chameleons need to be kept separate. One sign of an inexperienced breeder is that they do not understand this. Tragically, they spread this deadly husbandry error as a sign of pride that they know something the old timers don’t. Here’s the secret. The old timers all tried it and learned the hard way. We earned that wisdom so you don’t have to. Please don’t waste our experience! You don’t have to go through the long and ultimately heartbreaking experience yourself! One chameleon per cage. Do you want two chameleons? Get two cages. If you would like more information, please read a more detailed analysis of co-habitation here Keeping Jackson’s Chameleons Together.

If you are thinking about getting a Jackson’s Chameleon and are preparing then you are in the right place. We have all the information you need here! If you have just brought your chameleons home from an impulse buy then you are still in the right place, but we need to accelerate your learning. Go ahead an put a pot of coffee on because we have some work to do! Your action item list is as follows:

  • You will need a crash course on husbandry. Start here: Jackson’s Chameleon Husbandry
  • Find a vet in your area with chameleon experience. This is very important to do before you need it. Exotics vet are difficult to find. Exotics vets with chameleon experience are even harder! Start now! This link will take you to the Association for Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians page so you can start your search.
  • Do a fecal test. This is a test done, through that vet you found, where they look for parasites that your chameleon may have. This may be a health concern depending on what parasites they have and how heavy the load.
  • Get plugged into the community. We have a Facebook group dedicated to Jackson’s Chameleons. Join up to ask your questions and learn about the latest in techniques.
  • Subscribe to the Chameleon Breeder Podcast. This weekly podcast will help you know your chameleon. Just start at episode 1 and listen to one a day on your commute into work or a run around the park. You will slowly absorb a great deal of experience as you listen to the community experts sharing what they know! Check out the podcast on the special portal we set up on this site here Chameleon Breeder Podcast

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If you are taking the guided tour then the next stop is learning about breeding Jackson’s Chameleons!