Wondering why your chameleon is not eating? This guide is for you!
Chameleons can stay for up to one week without eating. So if your chameleon drinks water every day, don’t panic if he misses a few days of eating.
This is considered normal, and you can be sure he will eat when hungry. However, you should be concerned if this animal starts getting weak from not eating.
Your chameleon is not eating for a number of reasons. Some of these reasons are innocent and should not alarm you. For example, it could be that he is full. Others are health-related and require your immediate intervention. For instance, he may be suffering from mouth or tongue problems.
You need a discerning eye to distinguish between the two sets of reasons. This insight puts you in an excellent position to take prompt action when required.
Why is Your Chameleon Not Eating?
#1 – Your Chameleon is Full
Contrary to what some keepers think, chameleons are not heavy eaters. Actually, these reptiles need about 6 insects every 2 or 3 days to stay full.
It could be that your feeding expectations of this animal are too high; you probably expect him to eat every day.
If your chameleon leaves leftovers every time you feed him, you should probably reduce the quantity you feed him.
You’re likely giving him too much too often.
Unless you start feeding him according to his needs, your little pet will soon be obese, and you’ll have to struggle with the challenges associated with overfeeding.
Don’t be driven by the fear that your chameleon will become underweight when he misses a couple of meals.
As such, let him eat according to his weight and age. However, enticing him to eat more will lead to obesity and health complications.
Unless your chameleon drastically changes his eating habits, let him be!
#2 – Mouth or Tongue Problems
Issues related to your chameleon’s mouth and tongue can make him refuse food. For example, if this animal hoovers his mouth around the food but doesn’t eat, he may be in pain.
The same is true if he takes one bite and keeps off the food. He could have infections or pus blockages in the mouth, tongue, or throat.
Some chameleons refuse to eat because they have been walking around with food stuck in their throats.
Examine your little friend’s mouth and tongue for signs of infections or disease. It would also be prudent to rope in your vet on this problem.
#3 – The Reptile Has Eye problems
Chameleons are one of the few creatures on the planet with two eyes independent of each other. This evolutionary marvel gives him an advantage regarding hunting.
He depends on his eyes to spot prey. If your pet has not been eating for some time, it could be that he can’t see his quarry.
This comes about when the eyes are injured or infected by parasites.
Since the chameleon’s eyes are protuberant, moving objects can easily injure them. Infection soon follows if this is not noticed in good time and action taken.
This dramatically hampers your chameleon’s ability to spot food sources.
Additionally, your chameleon may be inflicted by a severe deficiency of Vitamin A. This happens when you fail to supplement his diet with this vision-boosting vitamin.
Your chameleon could also suffer significantly if he’s moving around with a foreign body lodged in his eye. This may hamper his ability to spot and seize prey.
Examine your chameleon’s eyes for infections and the presence of foreign matters. Also, bump up his intake of Vitamin A to the recommended level.
Be careful not to give too much Vitamin A, which has unique problems. Also, eye problems can be quite serious and usually require specialized care.
Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your vet.
#4 – Effect of the Mating Cycle
Female eggs have diminished appetite during specific periods of their reproductive cycles.
For example, your female chameleon may go for quite some time without food before and during laying eggs.
This happens once every four months after your female chameleon has attained sexual maturity.
Like many reptiles, the female chameleon lays eggs whether she has been mated.
At the same time, both male and female chameleons often forgo their meals during the mating season.
Their appetite decreases as the heat of the season increases.
This is not a significant concern, as it usually resolves itself. However, relax if you are sure your pet is not eating because of laying eggs or mating.
#5 – The Food Is Too Low
Where do you place the food in the enclosure? Being arboreal, chameleons enjoy living and hunting on the branches of trees.
Actually, you may have observed that your chameleon can stay on the topmost branches for days. However, they may not explore the lower parts of the terrarium for days or weeks.
Although you may think placing the food on the enclosure’s floor is safer, your pet may not notice it.
At times, they may see the food but may not be motivated enough to climb down to eat.
Try putting the food higher up near where your chameleon likes hanging out. You may have to build a special platform to accomplish this.
#6 – Your Chameleon Is Impacted
Impaction is one of the worst nightmares for any reptile keeper.
This is not a typical chameleon problem. Instead, it affects most reptiles when they inadvertently swallow substrate or some other solid object.
What is impaction? It is a digestive tract blockage by a solid object, such as a substrate. This prevents food from being processed, nutrients absorbed, and waste products excreted.
The food materials remain stagnant, laying the ground for an infection outbreak.
You can tell your chameleon is impacted because it may have a noticeable bulge in the stomach area. The belly looks bloated and is hard to the touch.
Also, this animal may go for a long time without passing feces.
Impaction is an emergency-level medical situation and should be treated as such. Your chameleon will die if he does not see the vet as soon as possible.
#7 – Effect of Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
Again, this medical condition affects reptiles, and is not typical to chameleons. Metabolic Bone Disease is characterized by weakening bones and body structures.
This happens when the chameleon lacks mineral and vitamin supplementation in its diet. In particular, it is caused by a lack of calcium and Vitamin D.
The body is forced to turn on itself for a supply of these minerals. As a result, the bones become weak and spongy.
You can tell that your pet has Metabolic Bone Disease because its movement is compromised. Also, the animal becomes weak and lethargic.
The reptile cannot hunt and may eventually die from a plethora of medical conditions, such as starvation, infections, and lethargy.
Seek the support of your vet to support and correct the bone structures. You’ll also have to start vitamin and calcium supplementations as a matter of urgency.
Unfortunately, 95% of reptiles with MBD pass on, especially when intervention comes too late.
#8 – Normal Stress
Chameleons face stressful situations as much as we do. A change in your pet’s environment or noise in the neighborhood can disturb this little animal.
Sometimes, even positive changes in the terrarium can disturb this animal before he finally understands what they mean.
Although this kind of stress is normal and harmless, it could make your chameleon go without food for a number of days.
Don’t worry too much about this. Your pet will come around when he figures out what’s happening in his life.
In the meantime, make his life and living conditions as comfortable as possible.
#9 – Chronic Stress
Chameleons are highly sensitive reptiles. They have evolved to think that all creatures bigger than them are predators.
This means they are always on the lookout, expecting an enemy to leap out of nowhere at any time. If chameleons find themselves in a situation that fills them with fear, their stress levels spike.
One such situation is being handled against their will. For example, your chameleon will lose appetite and may fall sick when you keep picking him against his will.
This also happens if he is constantly picked on by other pets in the family.
He feels like he doesn’t belong, and his greatest desire is to return to the solitary life that evolution has conditioned him to embrace.
Reassure your pet chameleon that all’s well by placing his enclosure in a quieter part of the house. Your pet enjoys a solitary life.
Give him this by isolating him from other pets. You don’t have to keep him in the same room or environment as your geckos and snakes.
Alternatively, elevate the enclosure, giving your chameleon a sense of security. At the same time, don’t make too many changes to the terrarium simultaneously.
One change at a time is enough. You can move on to the next one when he adjusts to that particular change.
#10 – Age Is Catching Up
Because of their higher metabolic levels, younger chameleons keep eating. However, they are also growing fast and are pretty active, meaning their bodies require a lot of energy.
However, as the chameleon grows older, the demand for food lessens. As a result, this pet becomes less active. Therefore, forcing this animal to eat a lot of food at this point would lead to obesity.
Your chameleon could be eating less because he’s no longer a baby or a juvenile. As an adult, he can comfortably skip a number of meals.
There’s nothing to worry about if your chameleon’s eating has slowed down because of age. As long as he’s healthy, this reptile is good to go.
Don’t force your chameleon to eat more than is necessary, as this could lead to weight issues. In the same way, he shouldn’t stay for too long without a bite, as he may start losing weight.
#11 – Your Chameleon is About to Shed
Reptiles about to shed stop eating a few days before the actual shedding commences. Your chameleon may lose his appetite in preparation for this process.
You’ll know he’s about to change because a number of things about him become different. For example, he loses his appetite, and his skin changes.
For some chameleons, the skin becomes whiter and more translucent. For others, the bright colors disappear and are replaced by a dull look.
As babies, chameleons shed about once every three weeks. This reduces to about once every 7 weeks when these reptiles are adults.
If you’re sure your chameleon is off food because he’s about to shed, help him by creating the proper humidity in his enclosure.
Reptiles find it easier to shed when the humidity levels are friendly. For example, chameleon babies take about 15 minutes to shed completely.
Adults take between 5 to 10 hours to accomplish the same.
#12 – Your Chameleon Is in Pain
A chameleon will not eat when he is in pain caused by trauma or illness. Because he is such a delicate creature, a chameleon takes a nasty hit when he falls.
Most injuries occur when he drops from a branch because of poor gripping. However, this animal can also deliberately jump from your hand when he doesn’t want to be held.
The resulting bruise or fracture can be painful. Pain can also come from burning due to being too close to a heat source.
A chameleon in pain does not eat, sleep, or engage in routine activities.
Check for bruises and strange marks on your chameleon’s skin. Also, carefully observe how this reptile carries himself.
If you see any irregular marks on the skin, it could be that this animal has been burned or is injured. Take him to the vet for specialized care.
The vet will further examine him for fractures and other abnormalities that could be the source of the pain.
#13 – Parasitic Attacks
All reptiles have a certain degree of parasites living in their guts. When your chameleon is stressed, the parasites in its gut multiply, possibly making him lose appetite.
Also, parasites cause diseases that lead to loss of appetite, among other health complications, such as diarrhea.
Apart from the parasites in his internal system, your pet can get parasites from the environment. For example, parasites can be transmitted from one animal to another.
If your leopard gecko’s enclosure is unkempt, it encourages the growth of parasites.
Visit your vet to have your chameleon treated for parasites. Also, identify the source of these parasites and deal with them.
Regularly clean your chameleon’s cage to discourage parasites from making it their home.
#14 – Lack of Variety
Your pet chameleon won’t eat because he has been eating the same thing daily. So his refusal to eat is a form of protest.
It’s normal for animals to want variety in their diets, especially if they are omnivorous. However, eating the same things every day is dull and could also be unhealthy.
Your chameleon simply wants a change of diet. He’s had enough of what you have been feeding him and would appreciate something different.
You can tell this if your chameleon tastes the food you give him and then abandons it. He wants you to know he’s not interested in that flavor.
Study your chameleon’s body language and follow his cues. For example, if he wants something different for his meals, why not give him?
If you’ve been feeding him foliage only, try some meat. For example, you could offer him some crickets, silkworms, and hornworms.
It could be that you chameleon live insects. This will motivate him to be more active as he hunts and corners the live insects in the enclosure.
If this is the problem, a diet change will get him to eat again.
#15 – Bullying by Feeder Insects
Although chameleons enjoy live foods as a delicacy, there are some dangers associated with insects. Some insects are fighters determined to outmaneuver the chameleon.
They will fight for their dear life with everything they’ve got.
Insects like hornworms and mealworms are good at biting. So they will bite at the soft parts of this reptile’s body.
This experience may traumatize the chameleons, who will refuse to eat that particular insects if it’s ever presented to him again as a meal.
Additionally, a chameleon injured by an insect on the mouth or tongue will not eat until he has healed.
Give your chameleon time to heal from his injury to see whether he resumes his normal feeding behavior.
Consider feeding your pet a smaller version of the insect he fears. Then, probably, he’ll be convinced that the younger insect will not harm him.
Also, you should consider giving your pet chameleon non-aggressive insects, such as moths or crickets. This is particularly important when the chameleon is still reeling from an insect attack.
#16 – Poor Terrarium Condition
If you expect your chameleon to eat well and live a happy life, ensure his living conditions are up to standard.
Poor living conditions stress your chameleon, and he may refuse to eat. He may be too disturbed to carry on with his routine life.
Because they are sensitive creatures, don’t compromise your chameleon’s airflow, humidity, and temperature needs.
Proper husbandry plays a vital role in keeping your chameleon well-adjusted. Conversely, when care practices are below par, a number of things will go wrong.
As such, be keen to put the right environmental factors into place for your chameleon to enjoy his meals without a fuss.
Here are some things you should ensure are right at all times:
- The enclosure should be large enough for your pet.
- Provide adequate plants cover – preferably live plants.
- Never keep two male chameleons in the same cage.
- Provide him with vines for climbing.
- Ensure he gets nutritious nourishment of live insects with adequate supplementation.
- Regular misting to provide adequate water droplets for drinking.
- Airflow from a screened-in enclosure.
- Full spectrum UVA and UVB lighting.
- High humidity – between 50% and 75%.
- Proper temperature gradient, with the temperatures cooler at night.
- Appropriate substrate – one unlikely to cause impaction. This means gravel and sand are out.
- Visual barriers between different cages.
How Do I Get My Chameleon to Eat Again?
The most important thing is to find out why your chameleon is not eating. Is it about husbandry issues? Are the temperature and humidity correct?
When husbandry is the issue, you’ll soon be dealing with a myriad of issues, let alone eating problems.
Entice your pet to start eating again by giving them a juicy treat, such as a waxworm. Chameleons simply love waxworms, though they should not have too many of them at a go.
If your chameleon eats the waxworms, they don’t have much of a problem and are just being picky in their choice of meals.
This is your cue to add different insects to the menu; they are probably bored by eating the same thing repeatedly.
Also, allow your chameleon to hunt the fund. Free-range the insect and let the chameleon go after it.
This awakens the chameleon’s hunting instincts, and he gets fun and excitement from getting his own food.
Also, try spacing your pet’s feeding. Feeding an adult daily is too much, and you may want to cut down on this.
Allow the chameleon to fast for a couple of days before reintroducing the food. This is an excellent tactic to ensure that this reptile is not overfed and does not become obese.
If your chameleon has feeding problems because of normal issues, let these issues pass. You can be sure your pet will soon pick up his normal feeding routine and move on with life.
These issues include shedding, low-level stress, mating, and egg-laying.
When Should I Be Worried?
If you can’t tell exactly why your chameleon won’t eat, don’t wait for the situation to resolve itself. It’s high time you sought help from an expert vet.
As earlier noted, a chameleon can go for several days without eating. However, if it gets to 8 or 10 days and he still shows no interest in food, something is not right.
Take him to a vet for further examination. Chameleons can go for long without food – but not that long.
Also, if you know why he won’t eat but the problem doesn’t seem to resolve, a visit to the vet is mandatory.
If you think you’re dealing with any of the major issues we’ve touched on, don’t even think twice before seeing the vet.
Your chameleon needs to be treated to root out the source of the problem.
Some of the reasons your chameleon shuns food are normal and healthy.
However, other reasons indicate your chameleon is going through a rough patch in their lives. He needs your help and support before things move from bad to worse.
As a responsible pet parent, finding out why your chameleon is not eating falls within your purview. Doing so allows you to respond to his needs more effectively.