It’s true that chameleons aren’t that good at expressing emotions. After all, unlike cats and dogs, their body movement doesn’t say much about what they’re thinking in the first place. Well, there are signs they display while being in stressful situations, and hissing is one of them. Guess what? Sometimes they hiss at their owners too.
Chameleons hiss to show aggression. They can also hiss if they get stressed, fearful or angry. Sometimes, overhandling can also trigger aggression and consequently, the chameleon may hiss.
But are there any more reasons why they act as if you’ve just turned into their new enemy? And is there nothing you can do to fix up the ‘hissing’ attitude? Well, let’s find out!
Every act of a chameleon is backed by one or more than one reason, and that includes hissing as well. After all, like any other animals, they use certain body language to express their emotions. They use hissing for the same purpose, but there are also some other reasons that can make a chameleon hiss, including –
1. Showing Off Aggression
If you’re asking for aggressive lizards out there, we’re sure that you’re going to see the name of male chameleons on that list. Once they’re put into an enclosure with any other chameleon, they instantly come up with their aggressive side and show that off with hissing. After all, these lizards are extremely territorial and literally hate it when someone intrudes in their space.
Along with that, when they’re being approached by rivals, apart from curling up their tail and puffing up to look bigger or intimidating, they express their aggressive attitude through hissing. On top of that, they dress up in colors like orange, red, and yellow that showcase their aggression.
And yes, as part of their aggressive behavior in such scenarios, they don’t forget to turn the body to the side while flattening it. All these are just a part of a message – a message says that the cham is ready to fight.
You already know that chams are among the solitary creatures. Like most of them, chams are also not a fan of being handled. So, clearly, when you’re doing that often and pushing them beyond their comfort zone, they’d show their dissatisfaction through hissing, which is also a sign of stressing out. After all, among all the lizards, chameleons are the most prone reptiles to stress. To express the stress, these lizards hiss at times. Even when they’re frightened, they do the same thing.
Well, we probably know what you’re thinking right now. Not all the chams got the same personality, right? Indeed it’s true, and you possibly can make a cham socialize that can help them to get a bit used to the handling thing.
But if you’re seeing that, even after giving it your best shot, the cham is still hissing, then you can be sure that it’s not liking that ‘handling’ part at all. In such cases, you better leave the cham on its own rather than handling it every now and then.
3. Feeling Threatened
You want to see a chameleon hissing? Try stressing out the lizard by cornering it. Usually, in the wild, there is always a chance of a cham getting approached by a predator. In such cases, they try to scare off the animal by hissing.
Also, when you’re corning the reptile, they’ll let you know by hissing it’s not liking the situation and feeling stressed. There’s a high chance that they’ll go for something extreme like biting in such scenarios.
4. Illness and Pain
As kind of a ‘fragile’ reptile, chameleons can get hurt at times. Besides, it’s quite easy for them to fall into sickness. In both situations, they can hiss to let you know about their current condition. Some of the most common forms of injuries they deal with are eye infections, injured toes &feet, and of course, general illness.
Injured and sick chams usually display more aggression compared to the healthy ones, and one of the easiest ways to express their aggression is hissing. If you’re seeing something like this in your cham, you better let your vet know about this and go for a check-up. Otherwise, ignoring the situation might make things worse than they already are.
5. Mating and Preganancy
Yup, you’ve heard it right. Mating and pregnancy can also trigger the hissing behavior in a chameleon. But that’s true mostly when the chameleon is a female. They do the hissing toward male chameleons who come in with unwanted advances.
Now the question is, do male chameleons also hiss during their mating season? Well, they do, but that’s kind of a rare case. Some of the chameleons do the hissing like a mating ritual. During pregnancy, female chameleons hiss a lot. They usually do this to ward off the male chams that are interested in mating.
One of the most common signs of a healthy and happy chameleon is you won’t see it hissing, not at you or anything. On the contrary, the opposite kind of act says a lot about the cham not being content with its current surrounding and probably your actions toward it, especially handing.
Now the question is, what would you do to make it stop hissing if it has already got started? Well, we say you can try things like –
You’ll find a bunch of things similar in almost all kinds of chameleons, and one of them is the dislike for frequent handling. It’s mostly seen among the adult chameleons. So, lately, if you weren’t keeping your hands off the lizard, we say just stop doing that from now on.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t try handling a younger chameleon. The thing is, when handling is being practiced with a chameleon from its younger age, the reptile becomes more tolerant with the act rather than getting stressed out instantly.
Also, keep the chameleon above you while handling. As they’re made to live in the trees, they’re used to seeing things from an upper level. So, putting them below that and making them see things above might freak them out. The higher you’ll take them, the safer they’ll feel about it. If the cage is too low, try approaching your cham less and less.
You already know that the hissing issue pops up more often when the cham is cranked or stressed. But there’s one you can try out to boost up their spirit. Yes, we’re talking about adding up tons of natural light. If you’re living in a place where ensuring that much sunlight is next to impossible, feel free to go for artificial UV light.
A sufficient amount of UV light is highly essential for a chameleon to stay healthy. After all, they need the light to process the calcium they’re taking in. Otherwise, there’s a high chance of them developing metabolic bone disease. This kind of disease doesn’t only weaken the lizard but gradually kills them.
But when you’re using the artificial UV lights, make sure that you’re using them more in winter and seasons that are less sunny. In the remaining seasons, try to get them more sunlight. As the cages are comparatively lightweight, you can simply take them outside and leave them in the sunlight for a few hours. That should be enough for them to meet all their needs. So, if you really don’t want to see your cham hissing, make sure that you’re letting it have enough light.
Like any other animals, chameleons also ask for safer surroundings. Otherwise, you’ll see it hissing around all the time, which is a sign of stress, and ‘stress’ is one of the biggest chameleon killers. So, look into their prime needs, including safer, cleaner, and more spacious space.
Now the question is how you’re going to do it. Well, keeping the enclosure decorated with vines and branches will do the trick. But along with that, you also need to ensure that the cage is large enough for the reptile where it can get the natural vibe more, just like they get in their natural habitat. It will also give them enough room to roam freely.
Also, give them enough water and mist the enclosure 3 to 4 times every day. If the vet suggests doing that more after looking at the condition of the lizard, do as he says. Besides, don’t forget to keep track of the temperature as well.
The temperature might vary under different circumstances. But make sure that you’re keeping it in favor of the lizard. Try to hold the temperature at 75° F during the daytime and 65° at night. And if you’re asking about the basking spot, we’d say keeping it between 80° to 90° Fahrenheit should be enough.
Has anyone told you lately that bright colors can make your lizard hiss? It might sound a bit weird, but these reptiles do count bright colors as a threat. Some of the cham owners even reported that their lizard had shown negative reactions, especially puffing up and hissing, while wearing brighter colors.
And guess what? They can react to a color like black, as that makes them afraid. After all, that’s the color they dress up in when they’re afraid. So, your best chance is to wear colors like natural green or navy blue.
Trying to take pictures of pet chameleons is nothing new among pet owners. But what they don’t know is this too can get their cham stressed. The lens of the camera usually comes in black, and chameleons find this color terrifying. So, if you’re really into taking pictures, rather than getting closer to the cham, try to zoom in before taking the click.
If you’re asking for a species that doesn’t hiss, then sorry, we’ve got no names for that slot. That’s because, more or less, all the chameleon species do hissing as it’s one of their way of communication that they use to express their anger, fear, and stress. The only difference you might notice is in the frequency of hissing.
When it comes to hissing, compared to the other species, veiled chameleons are more into hissing. You’d see panther chameleons with a higher frequency of hissing too, but veiled chams do it more as they’re more territorial than any other chameleon species out there. So, if you’re thinking about getting a new veiled chameleon as your next pet, be tolerant enough to deal with hissing.
Along with the behavior of the owner, there are tons of other factors that can trigger aggression in a chameleon, and the ones that play the most effective role there are the environmental factors. So, when you’re seeing that your cham is acting like it hates you, check out first what kind of environment it’s dealing with. For that, you can look into the following things.
The wrong type of cage is the easiest way to trigger aggression in a chameleon. After all, a chameleon stays happy when it’s getting a cage that is decently tall and large which also comes with sufficient ventilation. Looking at such requirements, it’s clear that getting a screened cage is the best option to keep your cham calm.
If you’re not fixing the surrounding of the cage, it’ll still make the cham aggressive and eventually end up hissing. When the room is too crowded, they might feel disturbed and stressed which will make them hiss. So, you better pick a quiet room for setting up the cage.
You probably have seen most of the cham owners fill up the enclosure with veins and branches. All of it is for replicating the natural habitat of the lizard. So, if you’re missing something like this, be ready to see your reptile hissing in stress.
Like we said before, temperature helps a lot with maintaining a healthy state. So, if you’re leaving them in a cold atmosphere, the stress will pop in, which ultimately leads to negative behavior like hissing.
If you’ve been holding to your cham for a while, then you already know how important UVB light is for processing the calcium. Without that, they’ll struggle with stress and diseases every now and then. Once they step into those things, you’ll start seeing them hissing at you as if it’s a normal thing.
For reptiles, hissing is quite a normal thing, and as a reptile, chameleons also use hissing to showcase different types of emotions. But issues like hissing pop up when there’s a negative reason working behind it. So, if you’re seeing your cham hissing all of a sudden, try to find out the reason before it gets too much stressed and end up getting sick.