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Tortoise - please tell me about having one

(15 Posts)
Katz Tue 28-Jul-09 17:07:09

the DD's would love a tortoise,

so what do we need to know are they hard/easy to keep?

bella21 Tue 28-Jul-09 17:11:22

I recently did some research on them and I found out that vivariums are no longer recommended - a tortoise table & heat lamp is what you need now.

Also, they can live 80 years so will outlive you & possibly dc's too.

That's what I was told but you should get some experienced tortoise people along later (they move very slowly) grin

LIZS Tue 28-Jul-09 17:18:56

Had tortoises as a child, long before any import regulations. Last one died 8 years ago, still sadly missed He was a real character and not at all slow ! They can be targets for theft though.

daisybaby Tue 28-Jul-09 17:33:10

We have had a tortoise in the family for over 30 years - he is about 40 years old now, we think.

They are harder to keep than people imagine. They are creatures of habit, and like to eat at certain times of the day, and it is important that someone is around to ensure that they have fresh food at those times. They have to achieve a certain body weight prior to hibernating, so the summer months are spent encouraging food into our tortoise - harder than it sounds since they don't eat in cool weather.

Ours lives in the garden, in a secure pen when there is no-one in, but with the run of the garden when people are at home.
I wouldn't advise leaving them unattended for long periods of time as they can be 'bothered' by cats/foxes etc, and are also prone to tipping upside down and usually need help getting themselves upright again.

Katz Tue 28-Jul-09 17:51:34

have been looking into tortoise tables, found some nice ones.

Reading up they have to be a certain size and in good gealth to hibernate, does that mean they don;t have to if they're kept warm?

surreylady Tue 28-Jul-09 18:28:45

We have a Tortoise - been with us 1 year and is just 2 years old now. She lives indoors currently in a very large guinea pig type run (so space would be good) she has a heat lamp and a UV lamp which are on during the day. She has not yet hibernated because as another poster stated they need to have a certain bodyweight to survive. She is a climber and explorer - we let her out when the children are around for an hour or so per day - she is quite sociable and will climb on the children she has no problems with being picked up or handled - we have a cat and she is not worried by this when out - if the cat is in her way she nudges it until it moves. When she is slightly older we are planning to have a secure sunken pen built in the garden. The centre we purchased from told us hibernation is optional but choosing not to will shorten their life spans by 10 to 15% - we intend to hibernate and will weigh her in the autumn but suspect she will be too light. The reptile centre we purchased from has a reptile holiday service - but we usually take her to parents as she is quite portable. We have found the reptile centre really good if we have questions etc and she seems to have been well bred. Anything specific please ask.

surreylady Tue 28-Jul-09 18:36:37

Sorry She is 3 years old was 2 when we got her.

fufflebum Tue 28-Jul-09 18:46:47

We thought about getting a tortoise having had fond memories of having one as a child.

However, I would echo what another poster said that they are hard to keep. I got a book out of the library and even looked care of tortoises on google and was suprised how complicated they are to look after properly.

I was really sad to hear that they can become malnourished and other horrible things if not cared for correctly so was put off having one.

My suggestion would be read around it first as having done so I would not have one. Although I am sure someone will come along now and contradict me!

lazydog Tue 28-Jul-09 19:27:16


I keep and breed tortoises and have been obsessed with them since the early 90s. Please, whatever you do, don't rush to buy one. If you do and end up getting one from a reptile store or online dealer (often falsely claiming to be breeders) you will end up with a whole host of problems down the line.

Being mega-lazy here, sorry, but can you please check out my replies in this previous thread, rather than re-typing it here:

Also, I think the following "best answer" I gave to a similar question on Yahoo Answers, recently, has a lot of relevant info:;_ylt=AoSNasc2yq5MOUcKxErBpS7ty6IX;_ylv=3?qid=20090709055557AAqxiqZ

Feel free to email me ( l a z y d o g a c r e , without spaces) if you have any specific questions.


lazydog Tue 28-Jul-09 19:42:58

Just spotted the 2nd message you posted, quoted below:

"have been looking into tortoise tables, found some nice ones.

Reading up they have to be a certain size and in good gealth to hibernate, does that mean they don;t have to if they're kept warm?"

First of all, don't buy a tortoise table. I have yet to see anywhere that sells anything that would be suitable for more than the first 12-18 months, assuming you got a brand new hatchling - they're all way too small. If you provide a link I can check out what you've found, specifically, but I'd be amazed if it is big enough. They're so simple and cheap to construct, too, that buying one is a waste of money. I think there was a link to some instructions in the YahooAnswers post that I linked to in my previous message.

The "a certain size/age to hibernate" thing is a total myth. Hatchlings that hatch mid summer can and should safely be hibernated at a few months old (assuming they're a hibernating species, of course) but you really do have to know what you're doing.

They need to be the right weight for their size (no matter how small they are - it is the "in proportion" bit that's important.)

The smaller the tortoise, the more critical it is that hibernation temperatures are perfect, as any weight loss will be far more detrimental to an already tiny tortoise. I use a fridge to keep the temps at 5degC, plus/minus a degree!

Also it is VITAL that they're healthy and totally parasite-free (unlikely if you buy from a store/dealer). sad

They should be hibernated with empty stomachs but full bladders, after an appropriate length "wind down" period for their size (where temps are gradually reduced and the tortoise is given a period of fasting, with regular warm soaks to maintain hydration.)

I know it sounds complicated but they really are amazing pets and well worth the effort!

beautifulgirls Tue 28-Jul-09 21:40:38

Take a look here

Lots of good information for owners about tortoise care. You should consider them a specialist pet really - care is not as simple as the Blue Peter care we used to believe from the tv as kids!!

Katz Tue 28-Jul-09 21:47:45

thanks will do lots of reading and have a long think

surreylady Wed 29-Jul-09 18:20:25

Katz - sounds sensible approach - you would do background reading for any pet that was new to you - but if you want one - don't be put off - just knowledgable - we love ours and she is health and happy and not too onerous.

BikeRunSki Wed 29-Jul-09 18:29:31

We have a family one - he is now living with his thrid generation of my family! Lives in a run in the garden in the summer, then buries himself in the autumn - usually under the shed - and comes out agian when he is ready. We used to box him up in straw and bring him in for the winter, but a few years ago he buried himself, so my uncle (current guardian) noe leaves him to it.

He has been stolen and recovered three times, and has run away countless times (they are not as slow as urban myth would have it).

He eats salad and cat food.

I love that I have know him all my life, and DS is likely to too.

His brother died in about 1985, so I made a soft toy tortoise out of a kit for him/grandad (guardian at the time).

lazydog Thu 30-Jul-09 00:46:03

Hi BikeRunSki,

I know your family have had the tortoise for a long time, but please get whoever is looking after him to read:

Feeding cat food to a tortoise will reduce its lifespan, totally guaranteed.

It may well mean that he/she "only" lives for 50-60 years, rather than a potential of well over 100 years, but that's still a drastically reduced lifespan that can easily be avoided.

If the tortoise was adult when they got it, then the effects will be less immediately evident. A hatchling that's fed cat food would grow up to be hideously deformed from too much protein (visible as "pyramiding") whereas in an adult, shell growth is already well established, so the damage is restricted to uric acid built up in the internal organs, kidney or liver failure, bladder stones and other "invisible" killers.


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