Chameleon Behavior

What is your chameleon telling you?

This class consists of a list of behaviors that you might run into with your chameleon. This isn’t necessarily a class to go through from start to finish, but just peruse the behaviors that are listed just to be ready when they happen! And then you know where you can come for an explanation. This class goes hand in hand with the Medical conditions class which is next. In deciding which class to put a certain behavior/situation in a judgement call was made as to whether it was a choice made by the chameleon (behavior) or something that happened to it (Medical). If something is happening and it isn’t listed here then check the medical side!

But before we get to individual behaviors we will meet the three major phases of chameleon life – The Contented Chameleon, The Scared Chameleon, and The Sick Chameleon. By knowing, even at a high level, when you should be concerned, you can get ahead of problems before they are too advanced to treat.

The Content Chameleon

A Content Jackson's Chameleon

This is a content chameleon. He is relaxed, but alert. He has a powerful grip on the  branches that he perches on and, if disturbed, slinks away into the foliage quickly and with great control.

Eyes are constantly scanning the area. Eyes are alert. A healthy chameleon does not have closed eyes during the day.

The tail can be tightly coiled under him or being used as balance in the branches.

You will get use to his resting colors and you will learn what he does when he is stressed. Some chameleons get dark and some chameleons show dramatic spots. What your chameleon shows is a combination of species and individual genetics.

The Scared Chameleon

A scared Chameleon

It is critical to learn the signs of a stressed chameleon. The pictured chameleon is showing all the typical signs. He is showing the following behaviors:

  1. Brightest Colors to warn away the intruder
  2. Flattened Body to look as big and imposing as he can
  3. Puffed Out Gular (Throat) to look as big as possible
  4. Gaping Jaws to make it clear he means business.
  5. Front leg up in a protective position.

If you seen any of these signs you know you have a scared chameleon that feels threatened. Ignoring these signs and continuing with whatever you are doing will result in either a bite or a chameleon that gives up and takes on the sick chameleon traits which we will look at next.

The Sick Chameleon

A chameleon will try and hide sickness as long as possible. This is our challenge as chameleon keepers, we must act before we are sure. This sometimes results in wasted vet visits, but those are my favorite types of vet visits.

The most obvious sign of trouble is eyes closed during the day. Add to that sunken eyes or else dark or stressed colors and you know something is wrong. Physical signs such as nose pointed up in the air or, worse, gaping to breathe and it is past time for a veterinary visit.

day sleeping chameleon

The chameleon eye structure is a great way to gauge the health of the chameleon. Although the cause is often challenging to determine, you can at least know something is off. Chameleons closing their eyes or “sleeping” during the day is one of the most common warning signs of a health or stress issue chameleon keepers encounter.

Parson's Chameleon with sunken eyess

Sunken eyes are another warning sign. Though this one can be caused by a number of issues from benign to critical so, like any of these situation, the eye condition is not the smoking gun, but the signal that more clues need to be found.

Jacksons possible RI

A compromised immune system increases the chance that bacteria will take hold and start an infection. As the most vulnerable location for the chameleon is their lungs, where they breathe in bacteria every breath, respiratory infections are often the result. The first signs of respiratory infections are either the closed eyes or the sticking of the nose into the air. Infections must be dealt with in themselves, but care cannot be considered complete until the source of the lower immunity system is discovered and corrected.

The Chameleon Behavior Reference Encyclopedia

If you have a behavior that is not found here then please check the Medical reference in case it has been listed under that heading.

Running Away

chameleon running away

Chameleon Salute

chameleon in defensive position


chameleon gaping

Eyes Shut

panther with eye issue

Screen Walking

screen walking

Ground Crawling

chameleon on the ground

Eating Dirt/Sticks

chameleon eating dirt

Puffing Out Throat

panther gular

Flattening Body

chameleon basking

Sunken Eyes

Sunken eye chameleon

Dark Colors

Chameleon with dark colors

Light Colors

chameleon with washed out colors

Eating Plants

leaves eaten by chameleon

On Hind Legs

meller's Chameleon on hind feet

Skinny Body

Hiding Behind Branch 121

Nose in the Air

chameleon with its nose in the air

Won't Eat

jacksons chameleon female


female panther chameleon biting


Chameleon Behavior is a class that is part of the Term 1: Getting Started With Chameleons  coursework which gives you a basic exposure to the important issues in chameleon husbandry. Learning about chameleon mannerisms is a stage that every chameleon keeper needs to go through!  At times it is hard to tell whether you are looking at a behavior or a medical condition. Generally speaking, if the chameleon has a choice as to what they are doing I place it in the Chameleon Behavior section. If it is something that is happening to the chameleon I place it in the Basic Chameleon Medical Section section. If you did not find a match in in this course then please check the Medical section!

Term 1: Chameleon Husbandry Course List

Chameleon Academy Logo with yellow motto

Basic Chameleon Medical Conditions

female jacksons chameleon showing respiratory infection symptoms