Why Do Chameleons Hiss? 6 Reasons Why

Why Do Chameleon Hiss

Having a pet chameleon comes with many surprises. From time to time, you may notice they puff up and hiss. This will come as a surprise if it’s your first time seeing it. You may be wondering why your chameleon is hissing.

So, why do chameleons hiss? Chameleons may hiss if they are angry, scared, or stressed. The hissing is usually accompanied by changing color and puffing up. Hissing is a sign to tell other chameleons, people, or other pets in the house to stay away.

Why Do Chameleons Hiss?

Most of the time, chameleons are relaxed and will stay in one place. They tend to not be active until they need to eat or something is causing them fear.

Your chameleon may hiss for no reason, just like a dog that bark on occasion. The problem is when the hissing is excessive and something is near them.

What Causes a Chameleon To Hiss?

When they are scared of something and causing them fear, they will start to hiss. This is an early sign to tell others to not come any closer.

Chameleons are at the bottom of the food chain, and so they have a lot of predators. In the wild, they are always in hiding to prevent being eaten.

When chameleons are kept in captivity, their instinct is still the same. Anything that’s larger than them will be a threat. This means your other pets in the house such as cats, dogs, and even other reptiles.

Besides pets, if their cage is close to the window, they may be scared of the birds flying around or perching on a nearby tree branch.

6 Reasons Why Chameleons Hiss

Below are the 6 main reasons why your chameleon may hiss:

1. Stress

Chameleons tend to get stressed fairly easily. Also, this is the main cause of hissing as well. Your chameleon can be stressed by something in their environment or something that needs adjusting like the humidity and temperature in the cage.

2. Fear

Chameleons will start hissing when they sense danger. A pet or yourself could cause them to be frightened and hiss. This is just a way to tell you that they see you as a threat and not to come near. 

3. Pain

If your chameleon is suffering from an injury or has an illness, they will start to hiss. It’s usually just hissing and changing to a darker color, without puffing up.

4. Mating

During mating, the chameleon may start to hiss. This is usually the female that hisses during this time. The female may hiss at the male chameleon to tell him to back off if she doesn’t want to mate with him. The male also hisses during mating, but it’s less common.

5. Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the female chameleon may hiss often. This is to ward off male chameleons that want to mate. Also, hissing is a warning sign to other animals to stay away from.

6. Seeing Other Chameleon

Chameleons are creatures that are very territorial, both female and male. If they see another chameleon getting close to their territory, they will hiss constantly, along with puffing up and changing to bright colors. If the other chameleon still comes closer, both will start to fight each other.

What Species Of Chameleon Hiss?

Hissing occurs in all species of chameleon. This is their way of expressing their feeling that they are scared, anger, and stress.

However, some chameleons do hiss more than others. Veiled chameleons tend to hiss the most because they are very territorial.

Panther chameleons, on the other hand, tend to hiss the less since they are not very high tempered.

If you’re planning to get a veiled chameleon, expect to hear them hiss a lot. This is especially true when you first bring them home.

What To Do When Your Chameleon Hisses?

When you hear your chameleon hissing, the best thing to do is to remain calm. As long as there are no predators or in any danger, you shouldn’t worry. In fact, hissing from time to time is a good indication that they are healthy.

However, you should recognize when hissing is a problem. If they are hissing due to stress, you should try to minimize it as much as possible. Stress is bad for chameleons and could be fatal if they are exposed to it for a prolonged period of time.

Below are some things you can do to stop your chameleon from hissing:

  • Move away – If you approach the chameleon, and they start to hiss, this means they are scared of you. They either don’t recognize you or you pose a threat to them. Move back slowly from the cage to see if they calm down.
  • Check your glasses – Chameleons have a good memory, and they are able to recognize you. If you wear glasses and your chameleon never seen you wearing them, this may cause them to hiss. If they do, take off your glasses and see if they stop hissing.

  • Check the color of your clothing – Chameleons respond to colors. They see bright colors as a threat. If you wear bright color clothing and your chameleon is hissing, that may be the problem. Take off the clothing or wear dull color clothes and see if your chameleon stop hissing.

  • Don’t pick them up – Most species of chameleons don’t like to be handled. These creatures are solitary and prefer to live alone. When they are picked up, they make get scared and start to hiss. Gently place your chameleon back onto the tree.

  • Ignore them – After doing all the above and nothing seems to stop them from hissing, the last thing you can do is to simply ignore them. Chameleons tend to refrain from hissing once the threat is gone.

How To Prevent Chameleon From Hissing

Stopping your chameleon from hissing altogether isn’t possible. Hissing is part of their behavior, and it’s something they do to avoid danger.

While you can’t stop the hissing, you can minimize it though. Below are some things you can do:

  • Minimize handling – Chameleons don’t like to be held. When they are held they will feel scared. If you need to handle them, try to keep this to a minimum.
  • Stay below your chameleon – These creatures are arboreal which means they spend their entire lives up in the trees. When they are higher up, they have a wider range of view. This will make them feel safer.
  • Approach them slowly – Predators that hunt them are fast-moving. When you move around them too quickly, they may feel threaten and start to hiss. As you approach them, walk slowly.
  • Take photos far away – Most people enjoy taking pictures of their chameleon. Who doesn’t? These creatures are exotic and beautiful and most people will take pictures of them up close. This close encounter will cause them to be scared because they are not familiar with it. When taking pictures of your chameleon, stay far away from them and zoom in to take their pictures.


As you can see, hissing is a natural behavior of the chameleons. They hiss to warn off other chameleons and protect themselves from danger. Chameleons hissing from time to time is normal, but there are times when attention is needed. You need to find the reason. If not, hissing too frequently could lead to them becomes stressed.