Traveling with a Chameleon

Sunday, January 19, 2014
 More than once you’re going to have to travel with your chameleon, whether it’s to the vet’s office or because you’re moving to a new home. I know the idea can be really stressful for new owners, who worry that they will emotionally traumatize their chameleon during the move, but it’s really not that scary. I've moved my chameleons around dozens of times, not just to the vet and back but they have accompanied me on 5 across-the-state moves, many of which were 3-4 hour drives.

First, you’ll need a box.

Any old box will do but you want to create a relatively small, dark space for the chameleon to sit in. I usually do not even poke air holes in the box if the temperature isn’t excessively hot because they’re only going to let in light. When you put a chameleon in a dark space they will automatically close their eyes and try to go to sleep – it’s just the way they are wired. It doesn’t matter if they just woke up after an 8 hour night, if there are no lights then it is obviously night. Sleeping through a move is going to be as close to stress-free as you can possibly get.

Add a sturdy perch and a towel or cloth.

I usually use a dowel or a length of natural branch and stab it through two sides of the box, so it is suspended across the box a couple inches above the ground. This will give them something sturdy to grab onto during the trip so that they don’t roll around. I will also take an old, small towel and put it on the bottom of the box to cushion them if they fall and to give them a little traction if they end up on the floor (cardboard boxes are slippery for chameleon nails.)

Then just close up the box and put it in a quiet place for 30+ minutes.

Once they’re inside the box I will close it up and leave the box in a quiet place for a while, usually while I finish packing up other things into the car or while I get ready. At first the chameleon will scratch at the sides a bit but very quickly (if the box is dark) they will find their way onto the perch, hold on, and shut down for the “night.” At that point, I will take the box, pack it into the car, and go wherever I need to go with them.

Usually when I arrive at my destination I will open up the box to find a chameleon in his sleeping colors, with just half an eye open, and totally unaware that we’ve traveled across the state or to see the vet!

This works for much longer trips than just 3-4 hours, of course. If you are doing a 2-3 day journey you can pack your chameleon away in a box like this and set them up in a temporary cage at night when you arrive at a hotel, so they can bask and get water. Some people travel in the car with the chameleons in a screen cage but I feel that chameleons never relax like this, and will pace the cage the entire duration of the trip trying to figure out what is happening. And even if you drape the cage in a sheet they still have more potential of falling, hitting branches and pots on the way down, and hurting themselves in transit. I feel that a small, safe container is always going to be safer and more stress-free than travelling in their screen cage, personally.

Moving to a new home: How best to set them up

As another tip, if you are moving homes and are wondering what to do with them during the duration of the move itself, this is what I do – I will usually put all the chameleons in their little boxes and let them relax while I take their cages apart and pack them. When I arrive at our new home I will usually leave the boxes somewhere quiet in the new house, unpack the truck, and then put their cages together. It’s only once their cages are done that I will take them out of their boxes. I always want it to feel like they come out of their travel boxes into their cages again, as if (almost) nothing had changed. It makes the transition infinitely easier for them, even if it means that they spent 10 hours in a box. But they certainly don’t realize it, because they sleep right through it!

So that’s it, that’s how easy it is to travel with a chameleon in my opinion! 


  1. Thank you a lot for this article! We are about to move and I'm really concerned for my chameleon Micky. Now I know what to do thanks to you!

  2. Great advice thank you so much I'm leaving my chameleon at the reptile store while I go on holiday and am very worried about him being scared. When I get back from holiday he will be coming home to a new house too! Poor Nigel lol

  3. Thanks for this. I am picking up a new chameleon after years of not having had one and am more nervous this time round. My old boy used to sit on my head while I cycled around town, so I guess I'm just getting more cautious with age!

  4. Can you provide a picture of how you carry your chameleon? I was recommended to put in branches or vines but not sure how to set it up in a carrier bag or box.

  5. The life of chameleons directly consists of 50% of your care and 50% of the animal. In captivity, these reptiles need good care. I have two snakes of Lampropeltis pyromelana, beautifull couple. It's my first reptiles in my life, but I have less problems with them, than with my cat, lol. Once I moved to another district, and should take care on all my stuff includes my pets closes. So I rent an service. Needed a few vehicles to take all my belongings together and remove to new house. At the end of the move and all this fuss, the animals got accustomed to our new house, and a couple of my snakes did not even notice the changes.

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  10. how often should I check on the chameleon when travelling long distances?


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