After you read this post, you will be well informed on the biting habit of chameleons, what causes them to bite, and how you can deal with it.
Do chameleon bite? I think all the new chameleon owners have the same question in their mind. In short, Yes, chameleons can bite if provoked. They will bite if they feel frightened or sense that they are in danger. Even if you are the chameleon’s owner, forced or unwanted contact might stress your animals and force it to bite you.
Do Chameleons Bite?
As I mentioned above, chameleons can bite if provoked.
Chameleons are extremely territorial and solitary creatures (i.e. individual animals live alone), and they usually take exception to share their habitats with other chameleons and other creatures. In the wild, chameleons often hiss and bite strange chameleons and other predators. In captivity, they can bite their owners or strangers if they feel frightened or sense that they are in danger.
When a chameleon senses danger approaching, it glares with its eyes capable of tracking an angle of 180 degrees, at the source of the danger, then hisses as a snake would do to ward off contact. If the strange entity doesn’t break off contact, then the animal may bite.
Check out the video, you can see the cute chameleon hisses to his owner.
So if your chameleon starts hissing for no reason, try and find out what it is concerned about before you can attempt to touch it. Even if you are the chameleon’s owner, forced or unwanted contact might stress your animals and force it to bite you. It is worthy of note that a chameleon will only bite you as a last resort. It will attempt to make itself scary by puffing itself up, or raising its leg, or hiding behind the leafy branches in its enclosure, or run away.
Do Chameleons have teeth?
Chameleons may look small and fragile, but they have strong jaws (relative to size) and very sharp teeth and thus their bites can be annoying to humans.
Like other reptiles, chameleons have Acrodont dentition. Acrodont dentition it is a type of dentition where the teeth are fused to the jawbone unlike in mammals where the teeth sockets are separate from the jawbone.
Their teeth are mostly used for chopping insects and eating leaves and thus are seldom used for biting. In fact, chameleons rarely bite humans, prompting some owners to believe they don’t have teeth. But owners who have been bitten by their chameleons know that chameleons have plenty of serrated teeth.
Cool Video! you can see a chameleon’s mouth clearly.
Do chameleon bites hurt?
Because most chameleon species are small animals, their bite does not generate enough force to break the skin and the bitten human may feel a minor sting at best.
However, some larger species of chameleon, like the Panther Chameleon, the Malagasy giant chameleon, and the Parson’s chameleon, may be able to deliver enough pinch to break the skin. Indeed, some owners of the panther chameleon have reported that they can be vicious biters if they are threatened or provoked.
Generally speaking, unless you are an insect or a leaf, you have nothing to fear from your chameleon’s bite. Furthermore, chameleons do not carry toxins or poisons, so having it bite you will not have a long on short-term effects on you. It is worthy of note however that reptiles in general (including chameleons) may carry salmonella and so it is advised that you still handle your chameleon with care all the same.
Why Do Chameleons Bite?
As I have noted, chameleons do not have much jaw strength and they do not carry poisons or toxins they use to neutralize their prey, therefore they do not rely on biting as a form of defense or attack.
Chameleons will rather change colour when threatened instead of biting. Also, apart from the low jaw strength, most species of chameleons are not aggressive to humans both in the wild and in captivity, and thus will run away from the threat or hide rather than fight. So before your animal bites you, it would have been displaying some aggressive behaviors that you haven’t been paying attention to.
Here are a few reasons your chameleon may bite you:
Frequent and unwanted handling
Chameleons are territorial creatures and can be aggressive if they feel threatened, anxious or uncomfortable. Like any other pets, chameleons have different personalities. Some species(Like Jackson’s chameleons) may be tame enough to allow strangers to handle them, while some(Veiled chameleon, but not all of them) can be more aggressive to strangers. Frequent and unwanted handling, may cause the creature stress and cause it to bite. Owners of Panther chameleons in particular have reported cases of this.
To ensure that you are bitten by your chameleon make sure the cage is big enough for it to be able to roam around without fear, also ensure that you fill the cage with non-toxic plants and leaves so that the chameleon can hide among the plants and feel safe.
Ensure that you feed your chameleon frequently because a lack of food can cause the animal to be aggressive. Apart from the environment, your chameleon might also become more aggressive if they don’t get proper feeding.
Juvenile chameleons require feeding every day, and therefore they will be less aggressive towards the source of the food. However once the chameleon reaches 8 or 9 months, and they no longer require as much feeding as they used to, only need feeding every other day, they may become more aggressive as they are no longer required to be as loyal to the source of the food.
Chameleons of all ages are insectivores, so they can eat all kinds of crickets, cockroaches, silkworms, locusts, grasshoppers, and silkworms provide a much-needed source of vitamins to the animals. However, chameleon owners have mentioned that ants and fireflies tend to create health problems for their chameleons. It is also careful to beware of wild caught insects because they are at a high risk of exposing the animal to pesticides.
Illness or injury
Another reason why your chameleon can bite you is if it is suffering distress due to an illness or in pain.
Veterinarians have reported that unwanted handling of the chameleon may cause it chronic low-level stress which can lead to poor health and which can, in turn, make it aggressive. If the chameleon has an injury on its feet or its legs or in any other part of its body or an infection that is affecting it, it may become irritable. A common disease that chameleons develop is the metabolic bone disease. (Check out this article: Metabolic bone disease – bone malformations)
The disease is a degenerative disease that affects the animal’s bones and may be fatal. It also causes the animal pain and causes it to be uncharacteristically aggressive. To make sure that your chameleon does not become distressed in any way, ensure that its enclosure gets exposed to at least twelve hours of natural light so that it can get sufficient amount of vitamin D. You must also make sure that the chameleon’s enclosure is clean and free of bacteria.
A chameleon may also bite during its mating season. A territorial animal even at the best of times, when it becomes sexually active, it can become aggressive to other chameleons and by extension its owner.
Therefore, when your chameleons grow to eight or nine months old ensure that you separate them into different enclosures in order to prevent them from causing themselves physical injuries or emotional stress. It is not just about sex either. Some owners have reported that their pets which didn’t mind handling when they were hatchlings, suddenly became aggressive when they became older. This has been mentioned by specialists to be due to the fight or flight response which had not been properly honed when the chameleon was a hatchling. If this happens to you cease all handling activities and observe the animal’s moods.
If you notice that your chameleon is displaying signs of ill-health, ensure that you consult your veterinarian for possible illnesses and injuries.
How to handle an aggressive chameleon?
While as noted, chameleons rarely show aggression to humans, especially if they are in captivity. However, some species of chameleons, especially the larger species like veiled chameleons and Panther chameleons may not tolerate many interactions with their owners. Such chameleons may puff up and try to bite their owners on occasions that their owners try to handle them.
If you are trying to handle a chameleon that is aggressive and trying to bite you, the best way to hold it is to hold the back of its head around its neck area so that it cannot turn around and bite you.
Definitely check out this video!
What to do after bitten by a chameleon?
As noted, chameleons don’t carry any toxins or poisons, and depending on species they don’t have a strong bite force. A chameleon bite, in fact, is far likelier to harm the chameleon itself rather than the human it bites.
Therefore if you are bitten by your chameleon, you should confirm whether the chameleon has not dislocated its jaw. If the chameleon has a wound in its jaw, the bacteria which lives in its mouth may infect the wound and make your chameleon ill. If you really scare of they bitting you, just wear thick gloves when dealing with an aggressive chameleon, especially if they are fully grown.
Chameleons are generally good pets. They are fascinating pets that you will enjoy having if you are willing to put in the work to care for them, and to give them the space they needed.
Hope you enjoy this post and find it helpful. If you find anything in the post wrong or outdated, please leave your comment below. I’ll update it as soon as possible.
Thanks for reading.