6 Reasons Veiled Chameleon Puff Up: 6 Tips

Chameleons are well known for their ability to change color along with super long tongues and eyes that rotate. But these intriguing reptiles have another talent: they puff up! The veiled chameleon is an impressive lizard with a helmet-shaped structure on the top of its head.

This unique characteristic is present in both males and females and has the physical function of aiding water that falls on their heads arrive in their mouths. Greens, yellows, and browns that change and adjust decorate their bodies.

Why does a chameleon puff up? It’s generally your pet chameleon’s reaction to stress caused by some element in the immediate environment, however, the reasons for puffing may vary.

Why Does My Veiled Chameleon Puff Up

Veiled Chameleon Temperament

These lizards are highly aggressive to others of their species and they are extremely territorial. While they may be relatively gentle and docile with humans, nonetheless, they do appreciate being handled.

Veiled Chameleon lizards are much better admired than touched. They are not indicated as pets for children and should be in the care of expert lizard owners.

What Are the Reasons a Chameleon Puffs Up?

Stress or some form of stress will be the principal reason your Chameleon puffs up. Here are some situations and triggers that are commonly known to motivate a chameleon to puff up.

1. Fear

When animals are afraid, many of them will attempt to make themselves larger in size. Cats are notorious for this.

If your chameleon has been frightened by something, particularly if they perceive that something is a predator, they will puff up before fighting or fleeing the scene.

This is a typical response by reptiles and when puffed up, they do look considerably larger. So puffing up may be an instinctive response to a perceived threat.

2. Mating

If the mating season is on, male chameleons will puff themselves up if they meet a female.

If a male makes sexual advances that are not appreciated, a female chameleon may puff herself up to communicate to the male that she’s not interested.

This response is to be expected if the female chameleon is already pregnant.

3. Meeting Another Chameleon

If your chameleon meets another of the same species, it will typically puff up. This is often the situation between the males of the species.

Because these reptiles are so very territorial, they may even end up fighting, hence a male will puff up in an attempt to intimidate its rival.

4. Skin Shedding

When it’s the season for a chameleon to shed its skin, it can prove to be somewhat problematic for your pet. Often when attempting to shed skin, chameleons puff up to facilitate the process.

5. Stress

This is the most common reason. Something in your chameleon’s immediate environment just doesn’t sit right with your chameleon.

It might be its cage or the space its cage is located in. Perhaps there is too much traffic in and out of the room where its cage is placed, so your pet is not serene.

6. Territorial Protection

Chameleons are territorial animals. The veiled chameleon is especially so. If this reptile perceives what it considers to be a threat to its territory, either by you or another animal, your chameleon may puff up to defend itself from the perceived threat in an attempt to make itself appear larger.

See also: Why is My Veiled Chameleon Turning Black?

If My Pet Chameleon Puffs Up, What Should I Do?

First off, there’s no reason to worry or to panic. Puffing up is perfectly normal behavior and is to be expected. From a certain point of view, puffing up indicates that your pet is in good health, and behaves normally for its species.

The only concern you might have is if your chameleon is puffing up because of stress. Too much stress is unhealthy for any living being, human, plant, or animal.

So, the most important things to do in a case of puffing up is to understand if it is a reaction to stress, what is stressing your pet chameleon, and to remove the source of stress from your chameleon’s environment.

Tips for Dealing with a Puffing Up Pet Chameleon

If your chameleon begins puffing up in your presence, here are several things you can do, to help your pet.

Tips for Dealing with a Puffing Up Pet Chameleon

1.) Move out of the Immediate Area. 

If you approach your chameleon’s cage and it begins to puff up, stop and do not approach further.

Distance yourself from your reptile very slowly so as to not contribute further to its discomfort. This is especially important if your chameleon is positioned lower than your face or gaze.

2.) Never attempt to pick up your chameleon or hold it

This will only add to your chameleon’s discomfort and irritate it further. This type of action can result in your chameleon biting you.

3.) Examine the immediate environment

If you have distanced yourself slowly and your chameleon continues to puff up, something is provoking it. Examine the immediate space around your chameleon’s cage to identify what is bothering your pet.

Is there another person, child, or even a pet in the room? Is your chameleon’s cage near a window and your chameleon has seen something through it?

Clearly, something is frightening your pet, and the sooner you identify the cause, the quicker your chameleon will settle down.

4.) Ignore your pet

Ignore your pet. Continuing to stare at your pet may further antagonize it or contribute to further stress. Give your pet chameleon some space so that any stress source, including your presence, does not prolong its discomfort.

5.) Leave your chameleon alone

When a chameleon puffs up, it is a specific sign that it prefers to be left alone and in peace.

Should puffing up be your pet’s method for shedding its skin, while you may be tempted to intervene, it’s best not to.

Chameleons in the wild shed their skins perfectly well by themselves. Yours will as well.

Can I Prevent My Pet Chameleon from Puffing Up?

No, and you shouldn’t try. This is normal behavior for a chameleon, so you should not attempt to impede it. This would be a disservice to your pet.

Depending on the individual chameleon, it may be a part of its personality. You may have a grouchy or bad-tempered reptile that likes puffing.

Can I Prevent My Pet Chameleon from Puffing Up

If puffing is repetitive and pretty much a constant in your chameleon’s behavior, there are a few things you might try to minimize it so that your pet doesn’t feel the need to do it so often.

1.) Always move slowly

Try only moving slowly when you are in the same room as your chameleon. This will be particularly true when you are cleaning your pet’s cage, changing water, or feeding it. Always move slowly.

A veiled chameleon will puff up at just about anything in its vicinity, so avoid making any sudden kinds of movements to prevent disturbing it.

2.) Position Yourself Below Your Chameleon

Chameleons tend to feel safer from a higher perch. Height is reassuring for them. If your chameleon is puffing up at you from above, you will still be able to service the cage. When they are positioned above, they rarely do more than puff up.

3.) Avoid handling your chameleon

If your chameleon is puffing, avoid handling it at all costs. Leave it alone. If you absolutely must handle it, do so sparingly and certainly not as a daily action.

4.) Avoid standing over your chameleon and picking it up from above

Never pick up your chameleon from an above position as this is extremely frightening for this species. They prefer to be positioned above and feel safer.

5.) Avoid photographing your pet

Many chameleons may puff up if a camera is too close. Whether photographs or videos, a camera positioned too closely can be a bother.

Better you should use a zoom capability and keep your distance. Also avoid flashes, which may further disturb your pet’s tranquility.

6.) Provide a comfortable cage

If your chameleon is not happy in its cage, it may puff up to express this. Your pet’s cage must be set up correctly for its needs.

The Bottom Line 

Veiled chameleons are intriguing, exotic pets, and owning one means that you will want your pet to be comfortable and happy.

While puffing up is perfectly normal behavior, environmental stress can be a cause for continued or exaggerated puffing.

As your veiled chameleon is a cherished pet, attempt to remove any sources of stress from its immediate location for a healthier, happier reptile.

Susan R Elliston

I have over 11 years of experience as a vet working with a wonderful variety of species of innocent and lovely animals. Whilst I still work two days a week for a local practice, I realized that I could help more people by sharing my knowledge and experience with my readers.

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