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How Long Chameleons Can Be Left Alone

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As a veiled chameleon owner myself, I know the stress thinking about leaving a chameleon alone can cause when trying to figure out what to do with our scaly companions when we take a well deserved vacation.

Leaving them alone for a weekend is fine, but any longer, and you will need to have a few pieces of equipment in place, like a timer for your lighting setup and an automatic mister if possible. You will also need someone to check in with your chameleon from time to time.

Duration

During the years I had my chameleon I went away on vacation a few times, had to go away for short trips and to go back and see my folks at Christmas and New Year.

Chameleons can be left alone for the weekend without any problems. When I went I would just set the light timers going, give him a good feed and misting before I left and off I went. Upon my return, the first thing I’d do was mist and feed him, and I never had any problems.

If going for longer I would do the same thing, give him a damn good misting, a big bunch of morio worms in a feeder cup and off I’d go.

When I went away longer than a few days I would have a sitter come in every day or two and check on things as there’s too much that can go wrong with the equipment without having someone to keep an eye on things.

Having a sitter in requires you to train them how to deal with any problems that may arise with the equipment, how to feed and water the chameleon, and what to do if your chameleon becomes ill.

Leaving a baby chameleon alone

Leaving a baby chameleon alone when you go on short trips and vacations is not recommended.

Baby chameleons are far too small and fragile to leave alone for any longer than when you’re out for the day at school or work.

Babies require such large amounts of food when they’re young that it would be virtually impossible to feed them enough before you went away.

You could, of course, get a sitter in, but it’s difficult to find someone who is experienced with chameleon keeping, in general, let alone caring for a baby.

A neighbor can be taught to feed and water an adult chameleon, but a baby requires extra care. Also, I would be so nervous about leaving my baby chameleon in someone else’s care, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

The first time I left my chameleon alone was when he was around 18 months old, and that was only for a couple of days. It will likely be ok a couple of months younger, but I would strongly advise against leaving a chameleon alone for a few days if they’re less than a year old.

Things to have in place before leaving

Before going anywhere you need to have your lighting taken care of, automatic water mistings set up, feeder insects left where your chameleon can find them and some instructions for your sitter if you’re getting one.

Lighting – This shouldn’t require much setting up at all because you should already have automatic timers for your lighting.

You’ll need a spare bulb for each light if going away for longer than a few days. Make sure you instruct your sitter how to change each bulb before you leave.

Make clear that the basking bulb and UV light are separate and that they both need to be on for 12 hours a day.

Water – Probably the most important part of your setup, regardless of going on vacation or not. Chameleons need good amounts of water to drink and to help maintain humidity levels.

Having an automatic mister in place is really important for when you go away. It’s the only way you can ensure your chameleon will get the water it needs for when you’re away on short trips, and it will make things a lot easier if you need a sitter for longer trips.

Before leaving, figure out how much water your mister uses each day and fill the reservoir with enough to last the time you’re away. If going away for longer, leave a covered jug of water by the enclosure and instruct your sitter on how to refill the mister.

Food – Understandably, you’re going to worry that your chameleon isn’t going to get enough food while you’re away.

Chameleons don’t move much or burn many calories. Adults only really need to eat every two or three days. They can go longer, but I wouldn’t recommend this.

You need to have some feeders, either in a dish or an automatic feeder, so your chameleon can access them easily. If going away for a longer period of time, a sitter will need to come in and feed.

Set up two feeding bowls in your chameleon’s enclosure, that way you can provide more feeding options and have more feeders in with your chameleon.

Have a piece of sweet potato or carrot with your feeders so they can remain hydrated for longer. Do not worry about supplementation while you’re away, as this will shorten your feeder’s lives and will only overwhelm your sitter with too much information.

Set up two plastic take away containers with the same amount of feeders in each, with a piece of carrot in each, and have two clean empty feeder containers next to them.

This makes it much easier for your sitter to come in and change the feeder bowls over. It will also keep the feeder insects healthier for longer.

Medical Emergencies

This is a problem that can occur any time, but it’s an added worry for when you’re on vacation. All you can do is make sure your sitter has access to the vet’s numbers and any out of hours numbers in case something happens.

If they call you just keep calm yourself otherwise you’ll risk making your sitter feel panicked. If needed instruct them how to remove the chameleon from its enclosure, get the chameleon taken to the vet and ensure your sitter you’ll pay any vet bills.

Instructions for your chameleon sitter

If you’re lucky, you can find a sitter who knows what they’re doing with chameleons.

Chances are, you’ll have to depend on a friend or relative to help you out. This is fine, but in my experience, you have to provide very clear instructions whilst at the same time not overwhelming them with too much information.

First, you should have everything in place mentioned above before giving instructions to your sitter.

I strongly recommend you do a practice run with your sitter first so they know what to do.

If you’re only going away for a week, I recommend not telling them about supplementation because this could get too confusing for them. If going away for longer, you will have to teach them

You need to be very specific about certain instructions, assume they have no knowledge at all about chameleons.

I once forgot to tell a friend that my chameleon’s lights were on a timer and that going in at certain times meant his lights would be off and that he shouldn’t tend to my chameleon at this time.

Cue a panicked phone call about the lights not working, and what should he do!? Thankfully, no harm was done.

Also, don’t forget to tell them that chameleons shed their skin! This can really freak a sitter out if they’re not prepared for it and could see them rushing them to the nearest vet’s emergency room!

Caring for chameleons is difficult, trying to relay this information to others is tricky, but just print these instructions out and you should be ok.

  • Come in every two days. Only come in when the lights are timed to be on.
  • Check both lights are on. If one isn’t, change with new bulbs provided.
  • Check the water level in the mister reservoir and refill it to the top. If hand misting, fill the hand spray container provided and spray his enclosure until all plants are wet.
  • Check food has been eaten and check for any dead feeders. Change feeder bowls. Replace old carrot/sweet potato and collared greens with fresh ones from the fridge.
  • Do a spot clean and pick up any dried poop.

Preparation Checklist

Up to four days doesn’t require a sitter

On the night or morning before you leave for your short trip:

  • Spot clean the enclosure and change substrate.
  • Mist the enclosure thoroughly and fill mister reservoir up to the top or if hand misting give the enclosure a thorough misting.
  • Put two feeder bowls in, one in a different area from the other, and provide a day’s worth of food in each. Leave carrots or sweet potato in container for insect hydration and some collared greens for gut load.

Away for a week or more will require a sitter to come in every two or three days. Make sure you have done a practice run first with your sitter.

On the night before you leave:

  • Spot clean the enclosure and change substrate.
  • Leave spare bulbs next to the enclosure and write down vet’s phone number.
  • Prepare two feeding containers with a day’s worth of food in each. Leave carrot or sweet potato for hydration and collared greens for gutload.
  • Prepare two empty feeding containers for when feeding dishes need to be changed over. Leave carrot or sweet potato slices and collared greens in the fridge, and instruct your sitter to add them to the fresh containers on change over.

On the morning you leave:

  • Mist the enclosure thoroughly and fill the mister reservoir up to the top.
  • Put the two feeder bowls in, one in a different area from the other. Leave the preprepared empty ones next to the enclosure.
  • Make sure heater or air conditioning is set to turn on and off when required, as keeping your house an acceptable temperature is important for your chameleon’s well-being


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