Screen Walking, Pawing at Glass, Hanging from Top Screen Panel
Chameleon behaves restless and climbs on the walls of their screen cage. If in a glass cage they will paw at the side as if they want to get out. They may hang from the top screen panel.
Meaning: Chameleons should be content within their cage. The cage walls should not be a climbing surface. If they are scaling the walls or pawing at the sides of their cage it is because they are not happy inside their cage. Most often it is because the inside of the cage does not provide a certain necessity. And usually that is the security of a place to hide and feel safe. Screen climbing is common in cages that have no leaf cover that is significant enough to allow the chameleon to feel like they are hidden.
- Chameleon feels insecure because they do not have enough plant cover to feel like they can hide
- Chameleon cannot get enough warmth – the heat lamp is not enough and the chameleon thinks he can get heat elsewhere
- Chameleon is getting too much warmth – perhaps the sun shines on the cage through a window and bakes the cage area
- Chameleon sees other animals or pets in the area and feels unsafe
- Chameleon sees another chameleon and wants to get more space between them. This can be from adjacent cages. Please do not keep chameleons in the same cage!
- Chameleon sees a better tree and wants to get to it
- Female chameleon is getting ready to lay eggs or give birth
- Male chameleon decides it is time to find a female
- A chameleon hanging from the top screen panel could be desiring more heat than it can get on its basking branch
There are so many things that could be not right and inspire a chameleon to want to find a new bush to live in. It is time for a re-evaluation of the interior of your cage and to look at what is going on around the chameleon’s cage. Something is making them uncomfortable.
This is the most common reason for chameleons crawling on the screen sides. A chameleon should have areas in its cage which allow it to feel secure. This is usually a dense leafy area in which the chameleon can get out of view of the world outside. Some chameleons seem not to use their leafy retreat often, but just having it is a source of security. Many chameleons will take to their leafy area to sleep and feel protected.
The solution to this issue is to create a heavily planted area in the cage that is easily accessible by the chameleon via a perching branch that leads him out of sight of you and anyone walking around.
This young Jackson’s Chameleon female is screen walking because there was no are in her cage that she could feel safe. Once all the plants were put in her cage she was able to settle in.
Chameleons will try to get away from a perfectly good cage set up if there is another chameleon bullying them or any animal is around that they feel is a predator.
Case 1) Chameleons are in the same cage. This is the most avoidable case. We have entire articles dedicated to why not to do this so we won’t go into details here. If you notice one of the chameleons in your cage constantly on the screen then the message is clear that they want to escape.
Case 2) Chameleons are in visual range. Most of the time, chameleons are content to have other chameleons in visual range if it is established that each has their own territory and the other will not come over. Even aggressive panther chameleon males will peacefully coexist when the territories (ie. cage boundaries) are understood. But there are times where there will be posturing even between cages and this may be bothering the submissive one. The solution is a visual barrier or moving them so they do not see each other
Case 3) Predators. A chameleon will have a hard time feeling safe when a cat, dog, or bird is in close range. These are predators in the chameleon’s eyes and it is in their best interests to find a different perching spot. Hanging out in the bush right next to where a cat sleeps every day is not a winning survival strategy! The solution is to move your chameleon cage to a different location. Preferably, a higher location where they can look down on the world.
This baby Bradypodion thamnobates is reacting to a more dominant sibling in the cage next to him. The tell tale signs are him climbing the sides of the cage and especially the opposite side from where the bully was housed. A simple visual barrier between them solved the situation.
This female veiled chameleon was placed in with a male to see if she was wanting to breed. The dramatic black coloration and immediate attempt to escape was a clear enough signal that this was not an option. Her screen walking (and color) were obvious in this case. In the case where chameleons are forced to live with each other the signs will be more subtle, but the stress is just as real.
Just like all animals, chameleons spend much of their time getting comfortable. And if they cannot find the right temperatures where they are then they will move to find a place that better suits their needs.
The special case of hanging from the top of the cage is often due to the chameleon trying to get closer to the warmth of the light. We see this when the T5 fixture is generating heat and the basking bulb isn’t doing the job for what ever reason. The solution is to give them more heat, but be careful how you do it. Chameleons are not very good a figuring out when they are being burned. So it is very easy to give them too intense of heat and go from too cold to too hot. Your best solution is to have heat spread out over a wide area with a large reflector and the light being mounted high up. This ensures that the chameleon can find the right temperature without too cold and too hot being within inches of each other.
This juvenile Panther Chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) is wanting more warmth and is looking for it under the T5 fixture. A bigger heat lamp mounted 6 inches away from the cage to give a gentle heat solved this issue.
This female Jackson’s Chameleon is trying to get the last bits of sunlight before the night comes. In this case, the screen walking is just trying to follow the sun and would be the same as walking as far towards the end of the bush as is possible to get the last rays of warmth. The solution is to wait until morning!
Preparing to Lay Eggs/Give Birth
When a female chameleon is ready to lay eggs or give birth they will become restless and start exploring their environment. They are looking for a suitable place to lay egg or give birth. Even if you have the perfect laying spot you will still get this exploration before the female selects an appropriate laying location. Of course, chances are 50% she will ignore your perfect egg laying bin and lay her eggs in the old plant pot in the corner instead. But she will be exploring to verify she has the best spot. During this exploration you may see her on the sides of the cage. This is nothing to worry about unless it continues for a couple days and she has not laid. This is now a sign that she is not happy with any of her options and this can become a medical emergency if she refuses to lay her eggs. The solution is to give her more options.
I had one female that ignored my laying bin and laid in the same pot for two clutches. For the third she was restless for days until I placed her in a different cage with a soil floor. She dug three holes, but was not happy with any of them. I then returned her to her original cage where she went to her usual laying pot, dug and laid her eggs. Lesson to be learned: They will always keep us guessing and we must always play the game by their rules.
This female Veiled Chameleon is looking for a suitable egg laying site
Looking For A Mate
There are some chameleons that will not be happy in a cage no matter how big it is. This chameleon is often a male and often wild caught. The cage could be perfect and could house another like sized individual happily for their life, but there are some chameleons that just want to travel. I have had this with alpha males that presumably are interested in finding some females. There are numerous scientific papers that record chameleons crossing the roads searching for mates (it is assumed). This is a real urge and your chameleon who was happy with the cage before could suddenly not be happy with being in his perfect two perching spots.
This is a very difficult case to work with. It is also a dangerous case as well. A chameleon whose DNA is telling him to move will continue to try to move. This can result in rubbing themselves raw against the screen creating a life threatening infection potential.
The only solution is to try and give them a cage which makes them happy. Mating them is also an option. When you are in this position you try anything that you can think of and see what works in your particular case.
This fellow to the right is Prometheus. Prometheus is an adult male Jackson’s Chameleon and definitely an alpha male. Whereas all the other imported adult Jackson’s Chameleons, including another adult male, settled into a 2′ x 2′ x 4′ heavily planted cages without an issue, Prometheus would not settle in.
The solution was to move him to a 4′ x 4′ x 7′ tall outdoor cage where he finally settled in. That is, until Spring came and it was time to look for females! Unfortunately, the females are either gravid or not ready so Prometheus will have to walk the side of the cage. This is okay because the cage he is in now does not have fine screen so destructive rubbing is not an issue.
Prometheus is an adult Jackson’s Chameleon who is communicating his displeasure for this cage.
This is a large, heavily planted 4′ x 4′ x 7′ Cage housing one male Jackson’s Chameleon named Prometheus. There is plenty of sun and plenty of shade and automatic misters provide moisture.
But even in this large cage, Prometheus feels the need to roam!
Prometheus will be left in this cage as when he feels the need to roam no cage will be big enough. The sides are of a larger mesh so he will not injure himself with his attempts to escape. Once his urge to travel subsides he will go back to his normal time hiding in the honeysuckle and basking in the sun.