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Do Chameleons Have an Odor as a Pet?

close up of a chameleon

Chameleons spend most of their time in an enclosed environment, so any smells that they create are not usually noticed much by humans living in the household. Most people have no idea whether pet chameleons have an odor unless they spend a great deal of time handling their own. One thing is for sure, chameleons do not make smells like cats and dogs do. However, a chameleon can have an odor as a pet. In fact, there are several ways that it can develop odors.

new chameleon divider

The Environment Can Create Odors

Many things in a chameleon’s environment can cause it to smell at one point or another. First and foremost, the type of soil and substrate that you choose can make your chameleon smelly. Many organic soils have manure or chicken excrement mixed into it. As your chameleon lies around in the soil, it can pick up the manure odor and hold onto it for a while. To prevent this, you can let your chameleon’s soil sit out in the sun for a few days to diminish any lingering smells within it before putting it into the animal’s habitat.

Standing water in your chameleon’s habitat can also cause odor. It can create a musty smell that can easily permeate into your chameleon’s skin as time passes. It is common for standing water to develop in a chameleon’s habitat because it must be misted with water regularly to maintain a tropical-like environment. To prevent water from standing in the corners and other areas of your chameleon’s habitat, let the habitat dry out between misting sessions.

meller's chameleon
Image Credit: Alex Tihonovs, Shutterstock

Their Excrement Can Create Odors

If a chameleon’s habitat is not cleaned out for a while, it can result in built-up excrement that gets all over your pet as they traverse their space. Poop that is left to linger can affect not only the happiness of your chameleon but also their cleanliness. The odor problem can be exacerbated by standing water. When the water mixes with the excrement, it creates a muddy mess that can be a nightmare to clean up.

The only way to get rid of the poopy smell is to clean the habitat completely out as soon as possible and wipe your pet down with a clean, damp cloth. To prevent a poopy-smelling pet, clean your chameleon’s habitat at least once a week, and make sure that you never mist water in areas where excrement is obviously present.

Their Natural Behavior Can Create Odors

If your chameleon starts to smell like rotting meat, you can blame it on their natural behaviors. These animals have small pockets inside their mouths where they store small pieces of meat, fish, and other animal products that they have access to. They do this so they can wipe the leftover food on branches and leaves in an attempt to attract prey.

However, in captivity, there is typically no prey to speak of. Therefore, chameleons tend to hold onto the food in their pockets even while it rots, which makes them smell like rotting meat. The food that they wipe on plants inside their habitat can make the entire habitat smell like rotting meat. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to avoid this smell other than providing your chameleon with live prey that it can use its food reserves on.

chameleon opening its mouth
Image Credit: André Pretorius, Pixabay

Poor Health Can Create Odors

Sadly, some chameleons develop bad health. Signs and symptoms of certain health problems can present as bad odors. For example, nutrient deficiencies can make your chameleon lethargic, and if not corrected, the smell of decomposition can start to develop even if your pet is still alive. Dehydration can result in a developing odor and dry, flaky skin as time goes on.

Parasites can also cause an unpleasant smell on your chameleon or inside the habitat. If this is the case, your chameleon may look like it is losing weight and its excrement will be especially runny. Making sure that your pet’s habitat stays clean and that they eat only clean, healthy foods will help ensure that they do not become infected with parasites.

Related Read: 10 Fascinating & Fun Chameleon Facts You Never Knewnew chameleon divider

In Conclusion

Chameleons may be easy to take care of compared to other types of pets, but that does not mean that they never get smelly. Luckily, there are many ways to prevent your chameleon and their habitat from getting smelly. Hopefully, our guide will help you keep your chameleon clean, happy, and healthy for a lifetime.


Featured Image Credit: Schwoaze, Pixabay

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