Protecting Chameleons from Other Pets/Animals

Monday, February 3, 2014
Unfortunately, a great number of medical emergency emails I get are about chameleons that have been injured by other pets, mainly pet cats. It’s hard to imagine your other pets ever wanting to harm your chameleons but it happens a lot more often than we want to think. Cats, especially, are very determined predators and are certainly capable of ripping into a cage and harming a chameleon. Dogs are also just as likely to jump up, perhaps knock a cage over, and cause havoc. And even though they aren’t directly harming them, keeping chameleon cages within sight of a large python or parrot cage, for example, is enough to cause chronic stress which may lead to issues down the line.

So it’s important to make sure that chameleons are kept safe from other pets in the home, to avoid any tragedies.

One of my dogs, Mina, checking out a little veiled. I trust her and she's
 trained not to hurt the chameleons but not all dogs are this good. 
  1. Put up visual barriers so that chameleons cannot see other pet cages, whether they contain other chameleons, snakes, birds, or ferrets. Looking at a potential predator all day is going to stress them out. 
  2. Make sure all cages are placed up high and on sturdy furniture. Not only will chameleons feel much safer in general when placed up high instead of on the floor or a low counter, but they will be out of reach of most pets (and small children!)
  3. Keep the chameleon cage in a closed room if possible. If you have an office space or bedroom where other pets are not allowed (particularly cats) then the cage should go in there. They will appreciate the peace of being in a room with low traffic, too.
  4. If there is no way to isolate the chameleon, consider switching to a safer cage design than screen, such as glass or wood. It’s evident that screen is always going to be easier to tear through than glass or plywood, so if there are cats in the house it might be worth investing in a much more solid cage, something they can neither knock over nor tear into. 
  5. When using a solid cage that has a screen top, make sure cats cannot sit on the screen or tear through it. Sometimes using a large dome or light fixture is enough to deter most cats, but a persistent one may need to be deterred by putting something else on the top to “block” it. You don’t want to use airflow in a glass or wooden cage via the top, but there are creative solutions.
  6. Don’t be afraid to discipline pets! I had to train both my sheepdogs to leave the chameleons alone, and I did this by giving them a sharp “ah-ah!” when they got too close. Don’t be afraid to use typical training methods to condition cats and dogs not to approach the cages. You can never trust an animal 100%, but if a cat or dog knows it will get in trouble if it pesters the chameleon it will be much less likely to try if you are always very consistent.
Some animals are great around chameleons, like my own dogs now, but you can’t expect animals which are naturally predatory to understand that the little green lizard in your living room is off-limits while the little green anoles outside are fair game. It is your responsibility to make sure that all pets in a given household are safe and to take precautions.

Additionally, for those of us who keep chameleons outdoors for days or months at a time, we also have to be very aware of wild animals. A screen cage is also not going to protect chameleons from something like hawks, rats, or raccoons, as these animals can very easily rip or cut through aluminum screen. The weather can also wreak havoc by knocking over screen cages and giving the chameleon a chance to escape. So I recommend the following:

  1. When using screen cages, secure them tightly to the ground using tethers so that the weather cannot blow them over.
  2. When building a cage, use strong materials and fencing. Chicken wire is not going to keep out animals like rats, so a much thicker type of screen will have to be used.
  3. When building a permanent outdoor cage, it might be a good idea to make the final foot or two of height from the bottom solid-sided and then screen up from there, to help keep out rats and snakes.

Mina being very curious with one of my African fat tailed geckos now.

How are your other pets with your chameleons? Do they even notice them at all? What other methods have worked for you that maybe I haven’t thought of? 


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