If you own a chameleon or planning to own one. there are many fascinating things about them. Most of the time, since they are peaceful creatures, you’ll see them as quiet and calm. Sometimes, you may notice they are aggressive and start to hiss. You’ll probably wonder if it’s normal or something is wrong with them.
So why do chameleons hiss? Hissing is a sign that they are stressed, fearful, or angry. The hissing is a warning for others to back off, whether it be another chameleon, predators, or even yourself.
What Species Of Chameleon Hiss?
All chameleon species have the ability to hiss. This is their defense mechanism to ward of predators and anything else they don’t want near.
For chameleons that are kept in captivity, they will most likely not hiss since the presence of predators is minimal.
However, one species of chameleons that tend to hiss often is the veiled chameleons or Chamaeleo calyptratus. Owners of this species will hear hissing often even when no danger is present.
Why Do Chameleons Hiss?
Chameleon is usually quiet and calm creatures that don’t move around very much. Most of the time, you’ll see them this and this is normal for a chameleon.
However, there are times that you’ll see them being very aggressive when you or something else tries to get close to them. When they get aggressive, it’s best to stay back and avoid getting any closer.
When they hiss, there is usually something wrong with them. Depending on your pet chameleon, there will be many different reasons why they may get aggressive and start hissing. It could be aggression from other chameleons, feeling threatened, stressed, have pain or an illness, or they are pregnant.
Best hissing, you’ll also notice other signs they will exhibit as well. In addition to hissing, they will puff up their bodies and open their mouth. By making themselves appear larger, it will make the predators scared to get any closer.
Reasons Why Chameleons Hiss
Aggression is usually towards another male chameleon. By hissing at the other chameleon, it’s a way to show that they are aggravated and want the other chameleon to leave.
As the rival approaches, the male chameleon will start to curl their tail, puff out their body, sway back and forth, and hiss.
In addition, they will turn sideways and display vibrant colors of red, orange, and yellow.
By doing all of the above, the chameleon is sending a message for the rival to back away or they will attack.
When a chameleon feels threatened, they will start to puff up and hiss. This is their way to warn to back off or they will bite.
Anything that they perceive as a predator, they will feel threatened if it gets to close. In captivity, this can be birds flying outside the window, other pets you own, or guests in your house.
Chameleon gets stressed by many things. It could be that they’re sick, the cage is too small, the humidity and temperature level is too high or too low, or the environment is out of balance.
Sometimes, when they get stressed and to release some of the stress, they may hiss. Other times, they may just hiss to let you know something is stressing them out.
Pain and Illness
When the chameleon is injured or ill, they may hiss often.
Some of the most common injuries for captive chameleons are eye infections, injured foot and toes, and illness due to hydration and lack of vitamins and minerals supplements.
When they are in pain or have an illness, they will become very aggressive, which is accompanied by hissing.
Hissing is a sign that they are not happy and you should carefully pay attention to their health. If the hissing lasts for more than a couple of days, it’s best to take them to the veterinary for examination.
Hissing from a female chameleon is rare, but during pregnancy, you’ll notice they will hiss often. This hissing is to ward off male chameleon from getting closer.
Besides male chameleons, the pregnant chameleons will hiss at other female chameleons and other animals in the house too if they get too close.
As for humans, if they recognize you, they may or may not hiss. If you are trying to feed her or clean the cage and she hisses at you, it’s best to step away and leave her alone.
What To Do If Chameleon Is Hissing
When a chameleon starts hissing, it means something is not right. You’ll need to find out what is causing them to hiss.
In the wild, they will hiss because they feel threatened. Chameleons that are in captivity will feel the same way due to instinct. Therefore, it’s best to stay away from them and find out why before getting any closer to them.
Move Away– When your pet chameleon starts hissing when you get near them, it best to just move away from them. This is especially true if they have never seen that person before. Therefore, it’s best to move slowly away from them and see if the chameleon calms down.
Wear Neutral Color Clothing – This might seem awkward, but the colors you wear could make them feel threatened. Bright color clothes tend to scare them because they see them as a threat. When I wear bright-colored clothing, my chameleon will start hissing and puffing up. As soon as I change into a neutral color like green or brown shirt, they stop hissing.
Avoid Picking The Chameleon Up – If you’ve picked them up and they start hissing, it’s best to put them back in the cage. It’s not a good idea to try to pick them up again as they feel threatened now and may bite you.
Leave The Chameleon Alone– Chameleons are not social creatures and prefer to be alone most of the time. If they are hissing every time you try getting close to their cage, it’s best to just leave them alone for a while. This will help reduce their stress level and will prevent them from hissing.
How to Prevent Chameleons From Hissing
Knowing the reasons is the best way to prevent them from hissing. There are many factors that cause them to hiss. Below are some of the most common reasons that cause them to hiss.
Most species of chameleon don’t like to be handled or even touched. They will look at everything as a predator, especially if it’s bigger than them.
When you touch them, they feel threatened by it and may hiss at you.
To prevent this from happening, it starts at a very young age. When the chameleon is handled frequently, the baby chameleon will likely tolerate being handled as an adult.
Additionally, being around your chameleon often can prevent them from hissing. The more you’re around them, the more trust they have in you. So when you’re ready to handle them, they will more likely go with it.
Plenty Of Sunlight
Like most other reptiles, chameleons will need an abundance of natural or artificial UV lights. Without it, you may notice they will become aggressive and agitated. When this happens, it may follow by hissing.
Chameleons need sunlight to stay healthy and happy. Without any sunlight or just a little of it, they could develop metabolic bone disease.
In the colder months, to help them get enough lights, you can use UV lights more often during the day and evening.
At night, it’s best to turn the lights off so they can sleep. Additionally, in their natural habitat, there are no lights at night so you want to mimic their environment as much as possible.
During the warmer months, if the cage is small enough, you can move the cage outside where they will get abundant natural sunlight. The best time to take them outside is in the morning and late in the day when it’s not too hot.
By providing the chameleon with plenty of sunlight or artificial lights each day, you can prevent them from hissing.
Provide A Safe Environment For The Chameleons
In the wild, chameleons will spend most of their time under the leaves of plants and trees. This provides them security and a safe place to hide from predators and other dangers.
In captivity, you’ll want to mimic their environment as much as possible. If there are no leaves or other decorations for them to hide under, they will feel unsafe. This will cause them to feel insecure and they may hiss.
Therefore, no matter how small the cage is, you should have at least one tree or plant in the cage. Besides those two items, you can use other decorations such as artificial branches and vines.
This will give them a place to hide under and provide them security. When the environment they are in makes them feel safe, they will not likely hiss.
Keep Chameleon Hydrated
Water is the most source of chameleons. Without water, they will become hydrated and aggressive. All of this will lead to them becoming ill and could cause them to start hissing.
Therefore, it’s best to mist the cage throughout the day. During the warmer season, you may need to mist more often due to the temperature. As it gets warmer, the chameleon will be more hydrated and the water in the cage will evaporate more quickly.
On the other hand, during the colder season, less misting is needed due to less evaporation and less activity from the chameleon.
Keeping the cage mist often is time-consuming for most people. Therefore, you should invest in a mister that will do the job for you. There’s plenty of automatic misting systems available and they are fairly priced.
Your pet chameleon is usually calm and quiet, but if they start hissing, it means something is wrong. It’s best to back off and see what the issues are before you get any closer to them. Hissing is a warning sign to stay back and if you still move closer to them, they will have no choice but to bite you. Hopefully, this article has been very helpful to you learning about why chameleons hiss and what you can do to prevent it from happening.
Dan got started with his first reptile, which was a green iguana, at the age of 10. From there, he has raised many different species of reptiles. Besides caring for reptiles, he enjoys woodworking, playing basketball, and spending free time with my 4 wonderful kids.