Guide How to Care For A Pet Tortoise

How to Care For A Pet Tortoise How to Care For A Pet Tortoise. Tortoises were for many years kept as children’s pets; holes were drilled into their shells to tether them and because few people knew how to care for them, most did not survive hibernation. Nowadays with advanced knowledge of how to care for these exotic pets this is no longer the case. The importation of wild tortoises is now banned and your pet tortoise will be a captive breed regulated by DEPFRA. It is a requirement that tortoises with an under measurement of over 100cm are micro chipped by a vet and the tortoise you buy will come with a certificate to prove it is captive breed. When it reaches the optimum size it is your responsibility to get it chipped. Your vet can also be a good source of information on the hibernation habits of your tortoise and should be consulted from the moment you acquire one.

Five Things to Consider Before Getting a Pet Tortoise

1. Can you provide an appropriate home for your tortoise?

A tortoise requires a larger area to live in than you may think. A basic tortoise house will need to be big enough for your pet to move around freely, burrow when it wants to hide away and it will also need to have heat and light source as tortoises are ectothermic (cold blooded) If your pet tortoise is 12 inches long for example it will need an enclosure of 9ft x 9ft! This is a considerable amount of space and will need careful consideration.

2. Which type of tortoise to get?

There are many different types of tortoise for you to choose from to have as a pet. However, you ill need to consider the specific habitat required for it. This means you need to do your homework! There are many tortoise species that would make perfect pets for your home such as a Pancake tortoise or Egyptian tortoise but you will have to do some research and see which type would suit you best. When Choosing a pet tortoise is important to understand what you are wanting from the experience and how well you can care for one?

3. What to feed your tortoise?

Your pets diet will be determined by the specific species you decide to keep. Most tortoises are herbivores and require green leafy vegetables and also some soft fruits to maintain their health. You can also buy commercially available tortoise pellets but you may want to supplement these with some vitamins. You can get these from your pet shop or vet.

4. Children and other pets

A pet tortoise may not be fluffy like a dog or cat and obviously will not require a daily walk but it still needs to have a lot of input from the owner. Children love to have tortoises but you will have to supervise the child when they are handling it. This is not just for the sake of the tortoise but also the health of your child. Salmonella is carried by some tortoises so it is important to have good hand hygiene and also to teach your child how to care for their pet.

If you have other pets in your home they may not appreciate you bringing in another pet. Although a tortoise has usually got a hard shell for protection they can still be harmed by an over exuberant dog or curious cat. If you have an outside enclosure for your tortoise you will have to make sure it is secure so that the dog or cat cannot get to it.

5. Pet tortoise, One, Two Three or More?

Keeping tortoises as we have seen requires a lot of planning but what if you want to keep a few different species of tortoises? Mixing tortoise species is not always a good idea as they can fight. The smaller species can be bullied by the larger tortoise and not allow the smaller one to eat any of the food. There is also the risk of cross infection. If you have an established tortoise enclosure and want to introduce a new one into it you will have to quarantine the new tortoise for a number of weeks to ensure it does not have any disease or is carrying any parasites.

In conclusion- keeping a pet tortoise can be a very rewarding hobby but you have to be aware you are taking care of a living creature that does require a lot of care and at times expenditure. They may not be fluffy and playful but they all have their own particular personality and can be your companion for many years! Tortoises often live for over 100 years if looked after properly so you may have to pass on your tortoise to your grandchildren!

How to Care For A Pet Tortoise?


How to care for your tortoise begins with its housing needs. It is beneficial to keep your tortoise outdoors as these reptiles need fresh air and natural light to be in the best of health. A secure large pen is the best option with a box for the tortoise to shelter from the sun or to retire to at night. As large a pen as you can manage is best planted with non-poisonous plants and a surround that is tortoise proof. They can climb very well and will burrow at alarming speed so bear this in mind. The idea of a slowcoach is a bit of a myth as tortoises can be quite speedy when they choose to be. Test your pen out on a hot day when your tortoise will be very active and see if it can escape. Free access to a covered area like a greenhouse or poly tunnel would be perfect but failing this, small dog kennel type housing would suffice containing hay bedding for comfort. During bad weather, particularly in winter, when sunlight is low a well-lit inside area is beneficial and a UVB light may be considered.


A fresh clean supply of water must always be available and the best time to feed your tortoise is at the hottest time of the day. They are a Mediterranean species that thrive in hot conditions so always bear this in mind. An assorted offering of wild flowers is perfect for the tortoise such as dandelion, white clover, chicory, heartease and sow thistle will be appreciated. You can buy wild flower seed mixtures to grow in your own garden so that you have homegrown feed for your tortoise when it matures. Care must be taken that no poisonous species are in your tortoise’s enclosure and remove anything you are not positive about. They are browsing animals and this is the most natural way to feed them although they will like a bit of salad food as a treat. All food must be very fresh and anything not eaten should be removed before it can become sour.

Health Care

Good health is an important aspect of learning to care for your tortoise but maintaining the reptile in optimum condition is not complicated. Tortoises enjoy a nice warm bath but always supervise bath times. Do not allow them to over eat as they will become sluggish and their digestive system will suffer. It is important to set up a regular worming schedule with your vet and check with him about supplements, especially calcium, which your pet may need.


There are conflicting views as to whether or not to control hibernation and certainly for the first year this is a good practice. After that your vet should be consulted as to whether your tortoise is fit enough to be hibernated or not and his advice will be invaluable in terms of the best way to effect this.

Caring For an Outdoor Tortoise

Creating a Home for Your Tortoise in an Outside Enclosure

Even if you keep your pet in an inside enclosure most of the time it will appreciate some time spent outdoors (depending on the climate). If you live in a climate similar to the natural habitat of your tortoise you will be able to keep your it outside all year round providing you have a secure enclosure.

Outdoor Enclosure

As with an indoor home the size you need to provide will depend on the species of tortoise and how big it is, or will be. A 12 inch specimen will require a 3 square yard enclosure, approximately 9ft x 9ft.

Construction of an Outside Enclosure

If you choose a wooden structure firstly dig a trench at least 6 inches deep and 6 inches wide. The height of the walls should be at least twice the length of the tortoise. There should be a base of chicken wire fixed to the bottom of the structure and then buried. If you do not fix some form of base your pet will eventually burrow and may dig under the wooden walls and escape! Some keepers use concrete for the walls but you will still need to fix an escape proof bottom.

Don’t build your enclosure using only chicken wire or your tortoise will be constantly trying to escape. Always provide a cover for the enclosure as protection from predators such as your dog or cat.

A Tortoise House

Your tortoise will need a house to live in inside the enclosure. This could be a wooden box elevated from the ground slightly. A good choice is to use a plastic doghouse as they don’t leak or rot and they do hold the heat relatively well. Make sure the doorway does not have too pronounced a ‘lip’ or this may hamper him from entering and exiting. It may take some time for your tortoise to get used to being put into this new house. Keep placing him back inside and at night place inside and block the exit as there is more chance of predators at night. Your pet will soon learn to go into his new house voluntarily. Remember to unblock the door in the morning or he may overheat.


Again you have a choice of materials to choose from for this job but remember you will have to clean it out regularly so choose one you feel happy buying or changing regularly. Bark is a very good substrate for outside enclosures as it is a natural product and is easy to clean and replace.


Supplemental heat for the outside enclosure is important if you live in a climate that is not similar to the tortoise’s natural habitat. Place an incandescent light with a red bulb (for heat not light) over the top of the tortoise house.

Other Elements to Include

  1. Water: All tortoises require water but make sure it is in a shallow dish that will not cause him to tip over.
  2. Hiding places: You will need to provide places for your tortoise to hide away so that it does not become too stressed. Plant pots on their side (cleaned with no residue of fertilizer) Safe non-toxic plants and flowers will also provide some food as well as shade.
  3. Rocks/Logs: Your tortoise will like to climb so place some rocks and logs inside the enclosure but make sure they are not too close to the enclosure walls as the tortoise may be able to gain escape if they are! Don’t place anything made of plastic such as dogs chew toys or children’s toys as the tortoise will bite on them and may become ill.
  4. Burrowing: Provide something for your tortoise to dig and burrow into. He will be less likely to try to dig his way out under the walls if he has some material in which to dig. You will have to provide some soft sandy soil for your females to lay their eggs if you want to breed your tortoise?
  5. Cleaning the Enclosure: You must keep your outside enclosure clean to prevent disease and parasites. Clean the waste food and excrement daily. Rake out the bark that may have been carried into the tortoise house. Provide clean water daily.

Read: The Different Kinds of Turtles That Inhabit Our World

Above all if you are planning to care for an outdoor tortoise you should ensure the home you provide will be the best possible and safe environment for your pet. If you live in an area of the world conducive to your particular species living outside then this is all to the good. You still need to think very carefully about what sort of enclosure to build but if you do it properly you will have a very happy tortoise!

Now you know how to care for a pet tortoise. It’s important you understand the knowledge about how to care for a pet tortoise. Because this animal requires all the attention and intricate detail so that it can survive long and healthy. The commitment you make in caring for your tortoise could span 50 to 100 years if you provide a healthy diet and environment.

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