A Guide to Caring for Pet Tortoises
Pet tortoises can be an excellent pet for people who enjoy the convenience of a pet that doesn’t seek cuddles and attention. It’s important that you do a bit of research about tortoises before committing yourself to caring for one. This guide is going to point out the most important aspects of caring for pet tortoises so that you can gain a better understanding about the responsibilities in store for you.
A common misconception that many people make is that caring for a tortoise is the same as caring for a turtle. Many pet tortoises have found themselves thrown into a watery environment when most species are in fact land animals. The first thing you need to understand about pet tortoises is that while they may have been bred to be a pet, they are still wild animals and are available in many different species—some of which have different requirements than others. Some tortoises stay quite small while other can grow to be massive and weigh as much as a bag of cement! The best way to prepare yourself for your responsibilities is to find out as much as you can about the species of tortoise you are going to get (particularly how large it will grow to be and what foods it favors).
The first thing to consider is the tortoise’s housing. Are you going to keep him in an aquarium or let him roam free in a fenced off outdoor setting? Smaller tortoises do well in an aquarium setting, so if you are hoping to keep him indoors, you may want to consider a smaller species of tortoise. Some medium species and all large species of tortoise do best outside where they have plenty of room to exercise and graze on grass. You may be wondering what kind of housing is best for your tortoise, what measures should be taken to maintain an adequate temperature, and what kind of bedding should be used. These are all very important matters to consider and are best answered by the breeder of the specific species of tortoise you want (or the pet shop associate). If you do provide an indoor enclosure for your tortoise, you will need to keep an eye on the state of it; you must clean out the feces and bedding on a regular basis.
For the most part, many species of tortoise are vegetarians. This means that your tortoise will likely consume a diet of flowers, grass, and vegetables. Imagine making a salad for yourself (without any meat)—this is what you would feed your tortoise. Lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, and other dark leafy greens (especially Brussels sprouts) are great choices for a tortoise. You can also throw in grapes, mushrooms, carrots, and even hay. A serving for a young tortoise is about a fist full of the mixture of grass, fruits, and vegetables. The serving amount and frequency for older or larger tortoises is something you will learn by observing the tortoise. If he seems sluggish or begins to lose weight, he probably needs to be fed. You will know if you are overfeeding him because you will find leftover food in his bowl. If the tortoise leaves any of the fresh food and it starts to discolor or smell, discard it and replace with a fresh serving. Your tortoise should also have round the clock access to fresh drinking water.
As you can see, raising a tortoise is, for the most part, no great challenge as long as you are equipped with the right knowledge to give him a good and comfortable life. You should bear in mind that a tortoise will be a long term commitment, as many live to be at least 50 years of age—some living past 100! In most cases, pet tortoises end up being passed down to a younger generation in the family, so be sure to prepare for this eventuality as well.