Chameleon Behavior: Eyes Shut

Chameleon has its eyes shut during the day


Chameleon has its eyes shut during the daylight hours


Meaning: Chameleons should not have their eyes closed during the day. If they do then there is almost always a distressed or sick chameleon


  • Chameleon is preparing for sleep
  • Chameleon is emotionally stressed and is shutting down
  • Chameleon is in the advanced stages of sickness and is dying

Podcast Discussion

If you would like to listen to a discussion about closed chameleon eyes from the perspective of troubleshooting what it may be I invite you to listen to this podcast episode

Preparing For Sleep

There is one time where it is acceptable for your chameleon to have their eyes closed during the day. And that is when they are settling in to go to sleep. In the wild, the transition between day and night is gradual and the chameleon has the warning and time to find a good place to sleep. In captivity they must adjust to a sudden switch from day to night as the lights go out. Many chameleons adjust to the by finding their sleeping spot before the lights go out. And, yes, as long as your schedule is consistent, your chameleon will have a feel for when it is time to find their sleeping spot even though the light is still on.

If your chameleon is showing this behavior where the only time their eyes are closed during the day is the hour before the lights go out then this is nothing to worry about.

Emotional Stress

People that handle their chameleons often are the ones that usually encounter this reason for eye closing. Chameleons are slow animals and know they cannot escape by running. Of course, they are designed to hide in trees so being in the open they know they cannot escape,

When aggressive chameleons have had enough of handling they will threaten to bite. This is communication we understand loud and clear. If there is any doubt to what is attempting to be communicated there will be a universal translation provided.

When nervous chameleons are handled they spend the time trying to run away or even jump into free space to get away.

The biggest problem comes with shy species such as Jackson’s Chameleons where their behavior is very subtle. Humans tend to interpret this lack of aggression as love and will keep their chameleon out beyond the breaking point. Once it is too much the chameleon will shut its eyes as it is emotionally shutting down. The huge warning sign is when the owner is so proud that their chameleon trusts them enough to fall asleep in their hand or on their lap.

Please understand – chameleons do not fall asleep around you to show trust. It is a sign of high stress. Continuing to handle them beyond this point is driving them further into their state of stress. This is NOT a sign of love. This is a sign that you are killing them. This is the point where keepers now take it personally because they believed that their chameleon “loves” them and are offended that someone would suggest otherwise. Because they know their chameleon and their chameleon’s love!  If you believe this then please take this research you are doing here seriously. Chameleons and people are totally different. Yes, a dog sleeping in your lap is definitely a sign of trust. Humans and dogs are very similar in how we perceive the family/pack unit. This is why dogs make excellent pets. We look at the world in a similar way. Chameleons, though, have no family or pack structure and have no concept of affection. Since they have no pack/family structure, they have no survival use for affection. To force a human concept of affection on them will stress and could kill them when done in excess. And their concept of excess is much lower than ours!

Internal Medical Condition

A chameleon will close their eyes when they are dealing with a painful internal medical condition. Whether it be the advanced stages of a respiratory infection or an overwhelming intestinal parasite load, there is enough pain and distress. that the chameleon is shutting down. This is a sign that you need to get to the vet as soon as possible.

They will also shut their eyes when dealing with a vitamin A deficiency. Although it is risky to assume that all eye issues are caused by vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin and so can be toxic in overdose. Giving vitamin A in a deficiency situation would be the perfect cure. If the situation is due to something else then the extra vitamin A could cause additional troubles. A blood test is the safest way to determine for sure what the issue is.

day sleeping chameleon

This juvenile Jackson’s Chameleon is showing signs of internal distress. It is now time for the keeper to run through all the possibilities to determine which of the multitude of options it could be.

eyes closed during day

This Jackson’s Chameleon is exhibiting classic signs of vitamin A deficiency with the eyes closed during the day, but did not respond to vitamin A supplementation. Blood tests are the next step in determining what the issue may be.

Meller's Chameleon with respiratory infection

This is a sign of a chameleon who has only hours to live. The internal distress is so great that this poor chameleon will keep his eyes closed even when handled.