Vertebrate Prey for Chameleons: Good or Bad?

Discussion in 'Chameleons' started by alfon76, Jun 18, 2011.

  1. alfon76

    alfon76 Reptile Veterinarian

    To pinkie or not to pinkie? That is the question...

    Lots of people on the internet claim that their chameleons really enjoy a pinkie 2-3 times a week and that they are healthier for it. Others claim that this is abnormal and unnatural and that it should never be done.

    So who’s right?

    Both are right to some degree and I will try to explain.

    Not all chameleons benefit from vertebrate prey and not all chameleons accept it for that matter, so the first step would be to determine what chameleons are known to consume vertebrate prey in nature as part of their diet.

    Oustalet’s, Panthers, Meller’s, Parson’s and Namaqua have all been documented ingesting vertebrate prey such as reptiles and birds.

    Based on their size and habitats, we could assume that Veileds and Verrucosus could fit in that group as well and maybe a few other species for that matter. These species all seek and consume some type of vertebrate prey when available and when needed. However, it isn’t a routine thing and it might be more of an oddity than the norm. Certainly, none of these species are able to consume rodent pinkies in the wild. Rodents are usually nocturnal and seek burrows of some sort to live and reproduce. Under normal conditions, a pinkie will not be out during the day, let alone out of the burrow for that matter. So a chameleon, being diurnal, will not be hunting for pinkies or rodents as part of their diet.

    Anoles are a readily available lizard that seems to be accepted by chameleons in captivity as a food item. Chameleons can obtain calcium, protein and many vitamins from such vertebrate prey, and it helps them keep up with their natural diet. But again, this would be an occasional treat for them, even in the wild.

    Excessive animal protein in a chameleon’s diet will likely lead to gout and/or kidney failure.

    Animal protein is to be avoided as much as possible and that’s where pinkies and anoles pose an issue. If you insist in feeding your chameleon a pinkie or anole 1-3 times per week, then make sure you are ready to deal with the potential consecuences and make sure you will be responsible and take care of it if, or when, a health issue develops. If you want to keep a healthy chameleon and still allow them to enjoy some animal protein in their diet, you can make sure to provide a well balanced and varied insect menu and once in a blue moon you can offer an anole as a treat. I do not think a pinkie is a great food item for chameleons regardless of how much they might seem to enjoy it, but with that said you use your best judgement as to what you want to do with your pet.

    Variety is key when offering food to our chameleons and I have to say vertebrate prey has its place with some chameleon species. If you do it very rarely and keep a well balanced insect diet, I think you will see only benefits.

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