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Home > Reptiles > Do Chameleons Bite Humans? Are They Dangerous?

Do Chameleons Bite Humans? Are They Dangerous?

pygmy chameleon on finger

Chameleons are very popular pets in the United States, and there are several species suitable for captivity, so it’s easy to find one that suits your home. In fact, the only thing holding many people back from owning one of these pets is fear, and the biggest worry people have is getting bit. People ask us all the time if chameleons bite humans, and the unfortunate answer is yes, they do. However, biting is extremely rare. So, keep reading while we explain when and why they do it and how you can prevent it so you can feel more comfortable handling your pet.

divider- reptile pawThe 3 Reasons Chameleons Do Bite

1. Space Invasion

Like many animals including humans, chameleons will take steps to defend themselves if it feels threatened. They have powerful jobs for their size and sharp teeth, so it makes sense to use them to get out of trouble. When chameleons feel threatened, they usually attempt to move away from the danger and will also start to spit before they bite as a warning. This type of behavior usually occurs when the chameleon doesn’t like your hands in its habitat, usually because it’s not yet adjusted.

close up of chameleon with mouth open
Image by André Pretorius, Pixabay

What Can I Do About It?

If you notice your chameleon backing off, hissing, or spitting when you place your hand in the habitat to change water or food, we recommend avoiding the temptation to touch it or pick it up. Give your pet some space and allow it some time to get adjusted. If your chameleon is not new to its habitat, its behavior could signify that something is wrong with either the habitat or its health. We recommend looking closely at the environment to see if something is agitating it before taking it to the vet.

2. Handling

It can take your chameleon quite a while to get used to being handled. During this time, your pet is much more likely to become afraid and bite. While biting while handling a new chameleon is common for any pet owner, we see it more often in children because they’re usually not as gentle as adults, and they tend to move more, which could frighten their pets.

a pygmy chameleon
Image By: Nick Henn, Shutterstock

What Can I Do About It?

We recommend allowing your chameleon plenty of time to get adjusted to being handled. Only handle your pet for a minute or two at a time and keep your hand in the terrarium, lifting it only a few inches above the ground so your pet will still see its familiar surroundings. Watch for any signs that your pet might be frightened. It should stay relaxed and not curl up its body, hiss, or spit. Put it down immediately if it starts to get nervous and try again tomorrow, repeating until it’s more relaxed. Once your pet seems calm in your hand, you can try removing it from the terrarium so you can help it explore the rest of your home, just make sure you keep its environment safe. Once it’s comfortable in your hand, you can hold it for longer, and some owners allow their pets to stay out of the habitat for quite a while.

3. Poor Health

As we mentioned earlier, poor health can cause your pet to act more aggressively than it normally would. If your pet isn’t feeling well, it’s very likely to bite you if we try to pick it up, especially if it causes pain.

What Can I Do About It?

If you think your pet might be suffering from poor health and it lasts more than a few days, we highly recommend seeing a vet. A vet will tell you what’s wrong with your chameleon and they can also help you take the proper steps to get it back on track. Any change in behavior can be a sign of a health problem, especially biting or other aggressive actions.

a chameleon
Image By: Pixabay

What If I Get Bit?

Fortunately, a chameleon bite rarely draws blood and is more shocking than painful, though it can hurt a bit and will likely scare a child. If it does break the skin, we recommend applying some antibiotics to kill any germs and placing a bandage over it. Otherwise, there is no cause for concern.

divider- reptile pawSummary

While a chameleon will bite you, it’s not that painful and rarely breaks the skin, so there is no cause for concern, and it should not prevent you from getting one of these fantastic pets. In our experience, bites usually occur because inexperienced owners handle them too roughly. The chameleon can adjust and may even enjoy when you pick it up by being a little gentler and holding them for a shorter duration. If your chameleon is older and you handle it all the time before it suddenly starts biting, we recommend taking it to the vet to make sure a health problem isn’t the cause of its aggressive behavior.

Featured Image Credit: Nick Henn, Shutterstock

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