Chameleons are popular exotic pets, thanks in part to their color changing abilities. But there’s more to these remarkable reptiles than meets the eye.

There are more than 180 different types of chameleons on the planet, and they vary in size, color and appearance (of course, not all are available as pets).

Most popular pet breeds

  • Veiled
  • Meller's
  • Panther
  • Four-horned
  • Oustalet's
  • Carpet
  • Jackson's
  • Fischer's
  • Flap-necked
  • Pygmy
Chamelon with mutli-color skin
Red, gold and green

Chameleons are famous for their color-changing camouflage. But how does their magic skin work?

Many chameleons have a layer of pigments and guanine crystals in the cells beneath their protective outer skin layers. By contracting or expanding these crystals, they can augment how light reflects off the skin to create wild changes in darkness and hue. When a chameleon experiences changes in body temperature, environment or mood, he or she can communicate feelings using this color-changing technique.


Chamelon using tongue to snag a meal

Other funky features

As if that wasn’t enough, chameleons have a number of other highly specialized and unique anatomical features. Here are some of the coolest:

(Almost) 360 vision – Chameleons have independently mobile eyes that are set on each side of their head. Add in the ability to transition between monocular and binocular vision, and they can see almost 360 degrees.

Zygodactyl-like feet – Chameleons have five toes: three on one side working together and two on the other side working together. This unique branch-grasping adaptation functions similarly to salad tongs.

Prehensile tail – Chameleons can also grasp objects with their tail, which affords them added grabbing power to move from branch to branch.

Super long tongue A chameleon’s tongue is roughly double its body length. These extra-long appendages are also super speedy—the fastest tongues can go from zero to 60 mph (nearly 100 km/h) in a hundredth of a second.

Biogenic fluorescence – Some chameleon species from Madagascar and Africa have bones that glow under ultraviolet light.


Pet chamelon in its habitat

Observe carefully

Loving chameleons is easy, but they do need their space. After all, it’s no surprise that an animal that has so thoroughly mastered hiding may not want to be seen and engaged with that much.

Chameleons aren’t meant to be handled too regularly, and their tolerance for human interaction is generally pretty low. They’re kind of like a fish—meant to be watched and enjoyed, but not played with.


Chameleon hiding among leaves in its habitat

We can't stress this enough

Chameleons are very, very easily stressed animals—and long-term stress can impact their health and longevity. Once stressed, it can take up to seven days for a chameleon to relax and return to normal.

Common stressors include:

  • Wrong heating
  • Habitat changes
  • Too much handling
  • Lack of water
  • Pairing with another chameleon
  • Seeing its own reflection

Over time, stress hormones will impact a chameleon’s growth and reproduction, and can make them prone to illness. Too much stress can even lead to early death.

Signs of stress:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Darker or brighter coloration than usual
  • Unusual aggression
  • Closed eyes
  • Changes in body temperature
  • Watery/smelly feces
  • Rocking back and forth
Know more about chameleons

Did you know? Nationwide is the only insurer in the U.S. for exotic pets like chameleons.

Most common chameleon names
Wackiest chameleon names

1. Camo
2. Charlie
3. Gus
4. Ivy
5. Pascal

1. Apocalypse
2. Eyeball
3. Reptar
4. Sir Charms
5. Wasabi

5 most common health conditions for chameleons*

  • Skin tumors (surgical) | average cost: $198
  • Bacterial infection | average cost: $211
  • Conjunctivitis | average cost: $79
  • Intestinal blockage | average cost: $147
  • Liver disease | average cost: $181

Most expensive claims for chameleons*

  • Fractured leg: $686
  • Degenerative arthritis: $655
  • Skin abscess or inflammation: $589
  • Osteoporosis: $520
  • Hepatitis: $519

*Averages based on 2020 Nationwide claims data.

Know someone with exotic pets?

Nationwide® is the only pet insurer in the U.S. that offers coverage for birds, rabbits, reptiles and other exotic pets. Share the savings with bird and exotic pet owners in your life.

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Sweater weather safety

Sweater weather is arriving, and that means cool mornings, falling leaves and all things pumpkin flavored! It also means seasonal changes that can present new dangers to pets.

Protect the little pumpkins in your life by sharing our seasonal e-card with helpful tips.
Sweater weather safety

Sweater weather is arriving, and that means cool mornings, falling leaves and all things pumpkin flavored! It also means seasonal changes that can present new dangers to pets.

Protect the little pumpkins in your life by sharing our seasonal e-card with helpful tips.
Sweater weather safety

Sweater weather is arriving, and that means cool mornings, falling leaves and all things pumpkin flavored! It also means seasonal changes that can present new dangers to pets.

Protect the little pumpkins in your life by sharing our seasonal e-card with helpful tips.
Sweater weather safety

Sweater weather is arriving, and that means cool mornings, falling leaves and all things pumpkin flavored! It also means seasonal changes that can present new dangers to pets.

Protect the little pumpkins in your life by sharing our seasonal e-card with helpful tips.
Sweater weather safety

Sweater weather is arriving, and that means cool mornings, falling leaves and all things pumpkin flavored! It also means seasonal changes that can present new dangers to pets.

Protect the little pumpkins in your life by sharing our seasonal e-card with helpful tips.
Sweater weather safety

Sweater weather is arriving, and that means cool mornings, falling leaves and all things pumpkin flavored! It also means seasonal changes that can present new dangers to pets.

Protect the little pumpkins in your life by sharing our seasonal e-card with helpful tips.
Sweater weather safety

Sweater weather is arriving, and that means cool mornings, falling leaves and all things pumpkin flavored! It also means seasonal changes that can present new dangers to pets.

Protect the little pumpkins in your life by sharing our seasonal e-card with helpful tips.

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