Chameleons have various weird behaviours that are difficult for the first time owner to gauge and decipher. They do not express their fear, hunger or discomfort by calling out like many other pet animals. So when you will keep a chameleon as a pet, you should know how it is expressing its various emotions and problems.
Mouth gaping is one gesture that is pretty common among different reptiles. Chameleons also gape or open their moth under certain conditions.
Why chameleons gape?
When chameleons get afraid, they try to make themselves look as bigger as possible. Basically, they feel threatened when they face some other creatures of the same category or different breeds. They are territorial to some extend so they do not prefer to live within the close proximity of another reptile creature. Also, there are several other reasons for their gaping or mouth opening.
It can happen when they see some other chameleon around themselves. If you place two chameleons in a single terrarium it can make them tensed. If one is dominant and the other one docile then the latter one will be stressed at the presence of another chameleon.
Also if you have some other pet at the house, and that can roam around the cage or terrarium of the chameleon, then it will threaten the reptile. The size and look of the cat, dog or rabbit can make the chameleon feeling worried and it will gape a few times when it is around.
How to make the chameleon stress free?
When the chameleon gapes it is actually scared that some other creature is invading its space. This is a normal situation as it may happen quite a few times in the life of a pet chameleon. When you are having other pets at your home and the chameleon is compelled to cohabit with the other pets, then it will result in stress and consequently gaping.
To calm down chameleon, you can change the place of the terrarium. This is an easy task, you can find a secluded room where you will go to feed it or provide necessary things, but the other pet will not be allowed to enter that room.
If you live in an apartment and do not have any other spare room to keep the chameleon’s terrarium, then think of having a higher platform. As chameleons are usually accustomed to living in tree branches, they feel safer when you keep them somewhere higher. So you can build a high platform and keep the terrarium of the reptile there.
Being high, this platform will not be accessible to the other pets, so there will be no chance of getting stressed for the chameleon and they will stop opening the mouth eventually.
If you have kept two chameleons in a single terrarium thinking this is a good idea, then do not make this mistake. Keep the chameleons separately and individually as that is the only way chameleons should be kept. Unless it is time for mating, chameleons should live individually and separately in different cages.
Due to the change in temperature
This is a typical habit of chameleons. They take time to get adjusted with temperature and usually they prefer hot and humid weather. But when they suddenly experience colder or warmer temperature then they sometimes show their discomfort by opening their mouth widely.
They do not stay in such a condition for long but keep opening and closing the mouth. When you see such behaviour in your pet chameleon, check the thermometer or the heat emitting bulb to see if this is working properly.
How to make the chameleon feeling relaxed in its cage?
If you realize that the temperature is not right in the cage of the chameleon and the pet is opening the mouth widely a few times in the day, then you can be sure that the temperature is causing discomfort to the pet. So you can use a thermostat which will keep the temperature of the cage at a moderate level even when the heat source will be switched off.
At night time most owners prefer to keep the heat source switched off, which is good for the sleep cycle of the chameleon. Also, it saves energy. But if there is no thermostat, then the temperature may drop at a certain point and that can cause the problem to the chameleon.
Also keeping a thermometer to gauge the temperature of the terrarium is necessary. Not only that, you should keep a check on the temperature regularly to make sure that the heat source is working fine and the chameleon is not suffering from cold or excessive heat. These situations can trigger the mouth opening habit in chameleon.
Placement of the terrarium
If there is any mirror anywhere near the terrarium or even the floor is shiny enough to see the reflection, then it can terrify the chameleon. As told above, chameleons do not prefer to live in close proximity of other creatures or even other chameleons. When they see their reflection in the mirror or in the floor they think of the presence of another chameleon.
This is a stressful condition for the chameleon and they may open the mouth to show their concern. You should keep the terrarium in a different place where no reflection can be produced. This will make the chameleon stress free.
Size of the terrarium
There are different varieties of chameleons. Some get large in size when they are matured, but other remains small. You should know about the size of the chameleon when it will be matured. If the chameleon is a small one and it is brought to a new large terrarium when it gets matured, the large wide space will make it tensed. The hollowness of the terrarium is not comforting to the chameleon and it can show its tension by opening the mouth.
This situation should not last for more than a week, as before that the chameleon will be comfortably settled in its new terrarium.
But if you see the chameleon opening the mouth even after it has spent a week in the new terrarium, then you need to change the terrarium or keep more accessories in the terrarium like hammock, toys and foliage to make it look fuller. This will be a nice way to make the terrarium look more homely and the chameleon will stop gaping.